Well, we’ve kicked off the program year with more gusto than we might have imagined not too long ago. Rally Day morphed into Rally Week, thanks in part to the accommodating tent rental folks. Was the week everything we might have wanted? No, but the benefits of getting Third Church members together even in this limited way was really worth the time and effort. A shout out to the staff and volunteers who got it organized; and to all of you who showed up! We’re off and running!

I mentioned in my Z-Notes a few weeks ago, and in worship on September 20, that we’ve attached a theme to this interesting year: Renewing Church for a New World. On the one hand, this defines a church during interim times. On the other hand, it is what we always do. As a congregation in the Reformed tradition, one of our mottoes states that the Reformed Church is always to be reforming. The process dates all the way back to Pentecost and early Christian times. Just like everything else in life, the Church of Jesus Christ resides in a realm of constant transformation. We may like and embrace change less in the church; but the churches that absolutely refuse to change? They ain’t no more! We should not only begrudgingly embrace change, but we should enthusiastically welcome it. That doesn’t mean we do so without concern and reflection. Just the opposite—with intense scrutiny and much deliberation. In other words, decently and in order.

So we shift into a higher gear over the next few months. While most church activities remain virtual, we are looking ahead and planning for the time when the new normal will be established. The desire to understand who we are and what is to become of us as a church motivates us in this part of the process. I have written previously about a mission study team which I have assembled with suggestions from others for this part of the journey. Members are Dianna Daunton, Kevin Dolohanty, Andrew Elder, Hope Herting, and Linc Spaulding, although we may add a member or two depending on needs and workload. The team hopes to accomplish this vital review and visioning task by December 1. You all will be invited to share your twenty-five cents (or more) worth of thoughts to the endeavor. I expect that you will be given an initial opportunity to contribute somewhere around the time you read this article.

Fall also finds your Generosity and Gratitude Committee directing our campaign to solidify support for our ministry and mission in 2021. We will kick off that effort on Sunday, October 11, concluding with Generosity Sunday on November 15. Relax, you will not hear six stewardship sermons. Really, only one. Some of your fellow Third Church members will share short stories about their own motivation to support this vital work. We will also be sending snail mail and email reminders about the absolute importance of the resources you provide and giving you an opportunity to make a tangible commitment to this effort.

Let me reiterate the importance of your financial promises this year. Church folks often expect that pledges will go down during interim times. You will hear me say (until you are tired of it) that 2021 is not the year to slack off or let up. Why? Let me provide two timely reasons: 1) Every church says they want to grow!! I also know that you can’t cut your way to growth. Maintaining current ministries ought to be our bottom line goal for 2021. 2) Your vital and vigorous support for YOUR ministry stands as one of the most important points of attraction for pastoral candidates. Pastors will be combing the records of Third Church as the first half of the year unfolds. How you are supporting the ministry NOW attracts their attention in a big way. If they see that you are continuing your life-transforming efforts in a year of transition, I guarantee that good candidates will notice. Conversely, they will pay attention to the fact that a church cut its budget significantly in the recent past. Top candidates want to know how committed a church is to their work before that candidate accepts a call to ministry among you. A successful generosity campaign communicates that seriousness; and candidates will surely notice.

Enough for now. I have to reserve a little material for my sermons during the month. In the last issue, I noted how I was looking forward to autumn in a place (unlike Florida) where autumn really occurs. I’ve already had to dig into my long-closed box of cold-weather clothing to haul out my running hats and gloves. I’m a cool-weather runner, so it’s been OK so far. I wear my shorts down to thirty-five degrees. I’ll let you know how I feel once the snow starts to fly!

Blessings,

Pastor Z