If December is about shopping lists, January is about thank you lists. Beautiful gratitude overwhelm us – gratitude for gifts lovingly chosen, gratitude for generosities sacrificially shared, gratitude for relationships tenderly nourished.
As a pastor, I feel these things intensely as we close our financial books and turn the calendar’s page. Someone quipped that if you want to understand a person’s values, study her checkbook. The same is true of churches. Our 2016 budget tells the story of our congregation’s character and commitments, and I want to thank you for it.
In 2016, at Community Crossroads (our second campus), we provided food for thousands, clothing for hundreds of families, dental care for an unprecedented number of clients, and we averaged one hundred attendees for our midweek worship and fellowship experience called Worship on Wednesday. In 2016, we committed enormous resources to the Presbyterian Night Shelter’s Women and Children’s Building. Now, moms and kids have a lovely respite from the streets. We also contributed over $130,000 to the Presbyterian Night Shelter, a gift that provided a place to sleep and a caseworker for people who find themselves without a home. (2016 numbers aren’t in, but in 2015 the Night Shelter moved over a thousand people from the streets into dignified housing; 2016 will have seen even more.) In 2016, we shared with the James L. West Presbyterian Alzheimer’s Center for the renovation of that facility, updating it to be a state-of-the-art environment for the care of dementia patients. In 2016 we partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build our 80th house. I say that it’s our 80th, but truth told, no one is exactly sure many Habitat homes we’ve helped build. We’ve lost count. In 2016, we helped to scholarship a ministerial candidate at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and contributed the lion’s share of pay for two PCUSA mission coworkers, one in Haiti and the other in Central Asia. In 2016, together with Presbyterian Women, we purchased a drill truck that is right now digging fresh water wells in Haiti. In 2016, we covenanted with a family of Syrian refugees easing their way into American life. In 2016, we dedicated our new columbarium, memorial garden, and labyrinth, offering a permanent burial option to First Pres members.
Now, throw in the Penn Street ministries which are so much more visible – Sunday worship services; baptisms, weddings, memorial services, and funerals; Sunday Schools; all church brunches; the Early Education Center; choirs and musical ensembles; Presbyterian Women; men’s groups – etc. etc. etc. – and you can see quickly that God’s winsome spirit and compassionate energy are swirling around this place and in our lives.
It takes money, frankly, for all of this to happen, and you are God’s generosity motivators. As your pastor, let’s not stray too far into 2017 before I celebrate your commitment to our ministries.
Happy New Year, and thank you!