The Centrality of Christ

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Pentecost 17/Proper 19
SCRIPTURE: James 3: 1-12 and Mark 8: 27-38
But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Mark 8: 29 (NIV)

JESUS IS THE CHRIST

Like last week, this week’s message is intended to prepare us for the very important congregational meeting that is scheduled for next Sunday after worship. At that meeting, we will be discussing two important proposals. We talked about one of them last week. It is the proposed shared ministry agreement with Wheatley United Church in which they would purchase 10% of my time from Cottam which would allow them to hire a part-time lay worship leader who will then provide them with the consistent worship leadership that they think they need. My role would be very specific. I would be responsible for sacraments, weddings and administration which is the same thing that I’m doing there now as their supervisor.

Just to give you an update on that proposal; last Sunday it was brought to a congregational meeting at Wheatley United Church and was passed unanimously. So they really want to proceed with that proposal but we have to pass it here next week as well. If you weren’t here last week you can pick up a copy of the proposal at the back of the church or you can download it from our website. But please have a look at it before the meeting so you can make an informed decision.

Today, we are going to look at the second proposal which is to consider hiring a second part-time minister whom we will call the Family Minister. But before we do that, let’s, once again, ground ourselves in Scripture. Read Mark 8:27-30 (NIV).

In this passage, Jesus asks the disciples who the other people – not the disciples – think he is. And they tell him what they have heard. Some think that he was John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the other prophets. But then Jesus asks a more personal question: “But what about you? Who do you think I am?”

And Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” Or as Peter says in Matthew’s version of this same story, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The amazing thing about this answer is that it points to the fact that Peter and the other disciples finally get it. They finally understand who Jesus is. He is more than a prophet, more than a healing and more than a preacher. He is the long awaited Christ of whom the prophets foretold. He is the one who will reconcile the nations back to God and bring them together as one in kingdom where peace reigns and justice rolls like a mighty river. And because of that, he has to be central to everything that they do. His message and his actions have to be the ultimate and highest authority in their lives.

The same thing holds true for us. If we say that we are followers of Jesus, then he must be central to everything that we do and say, not only as individuals but as a church as well.

That’s an important message for us to hear today because it means that everything that we do must give glory to Jesus Christ. The proposal that I’m going to share with you now is intended to build the kingdom in this place and give glory to God. And whether we end up accepting it or not next week, all of us must keep in mind that we need to keep Jesus Christ at the centre of our decision making. All that we do must proclaim Jesus as the Christ.

POSITION SUMMARY

That being said, let’s look at the proposal that we will be considering at next week’s congregational meeting. So let’s start with a bit of background. We began to consider hiring a second person about a year and a half ago. One of the goals that we set out in the 2017 Annual Report was to look at hiring a second person. Specifially it said this: “One of the main tasks would be to provide leadership and resources in Christian Education, particularly with children and youth.” So the focus was to be on Christian Education for children and youth. That task was not completed in 2017 and so, at the 2018 Annual Meeting, the congregation requested that the congregation make a decision about this in 2018. The Hiring Task Group completed its work and made a report to the Church Board. That report was discussed in detail and approved to bring to the congregation for its consideration. It would have been nice to do that in the spring but the timing just didn’t work and that is why it is coming to us next week.

The proposal in a nutshell is this: that we create a part-time ministry position called a Family Minister. This position will be ¾ time or thirty hours a week and will be classified as a Congregational Designated Minister. Here are the four main points to the position:

  • The primary focus of this ministry will be to develop the current children’s ministry with the view of creating a comprehensive child and youth ministry from junior kindergarten to grade 12. This includes encouraging the development of a family ministry within the congregation and extending this ministry into the community.
  • The Family Minister will work in partnership with the Lead Minister and the leadership of the congregation.
  • This position is accountable to the Church Board through the Ministry and Personnel Committee. Presbytery or its successor is the primary court of oversight and discipline. Ongoing direction will be provided by the Lead Minister.
  • The Family Minister will work directly with the Children’s Education Committee and the Youth and Adult Education Committee. The Family Minister will also work with other committees as required.

Now let’s look at what that means.

  • The primary focus of this ministry will be to develop the current children’s ministry with the view of creating a comprehensive child and youth ministry from junior kindergarten to grade 12. This includes encouraging the development of a family ministry within the congregation and extending this ministry into the community.

The idea here is that there are two things that we hope to accomplish. One is to support the current children’s ministry at Cottam United Church. Basically, what that means is that we want someone who will help us to develop our Sunday School.

Here’s the reality that we face. We find ourselves at a crossroads in this congregation. We have a lot of children. In fact, we’re the envy of most churches because of the number of children that we have in this congregation. And we want to minister to them, help them to grow in faith and teach them about Jesus. But the volunteers that do this ministry have been doing it for a very long time and they are tired. Many of them no longer have children of their own in the Sunday School but they keep on doing it because they see the importance of this ministry. There are also fewer of them. Some of our key people have had to step back because of illness or other family issues which means that fewer volunteers are now doing the more of the work. What we don’t want to do is burn them out but that’s what could happen if things stay as they are.

We see an important part of the Family Minister’s job as supporting the volunteers so that their burdens will be lighter. We see this person as a coordinator and supporter who will assist our volunteers to be more effective in what they do.

So really, we need to make a decision. We know that what we are currently doing is not sustainable. And so we have one of two options. Either more volunteers step forward to help out or we hire someone to oversee our ministry to families. As far as we know, those are only two options. And here’s the larger problem. If we don’t do either of them, then I really have no idea where we go from here because what we’re doing now is not sustainable even for another year. So we either hire someone or we have to find more volunteers.

That’s the first thing that we hope to accomplish. The second thing is to reach out to the community to bring more people into the church. It’s no secret that the demographics of Cottam are changing. Many of the homes in town are changing hands as an older generation moves away or downsizes. Many of those homes are now being filled with families with children. It’s part of the life cycle of our community. We want to reach out to the families and their children and share with them love of Christ. But right now, we don’t seem to have the knowledge or the ability to do that. And so the Family Minister will be responsible for looking at ways that this can be accomplished. What needs to be done? How do we do it and what resources will it required. So, the Family Minister is not just a Sunday School superintendent. It is someone who will help us to develop a children and youth ministry from junior kindergarten to grade 12. What this means is that this is outreach oriented. It is intended to reach out into the community with the love of Christ in such a way that it will give him glory in all things.

  • The Family Minister will work in partnership with the Lead Minister and the leadership of the congregation.

That simply sets out some guidelines as to how the Family Minister functions within the congregation. And, if you recall from last week, the Lead Minister refers to me.

  • This position is accountable to the Church Board through the Ministry and Personnel Committee. Presbytery or its successor is the primary court of oversight and discipline. Ongoing direction will be provided by the Lead Minister.

This talks about process. This position comes under that category of a Congregational Designated Minister which means that while Essex Presbytery has to approve the position, it does not have to approve the hiring. If Essex Presbytery give us the go ahead to create the position, we can hire anyone we want without having to go back to Presbytery for its approval. That’s why the person is accountable to the Church Board through the Ministry and Personnel Committee. The only reason to go back to Presbytery is if we want to make a significant change to the position, say if we wanted to go from part-time to full-time. And finally, I would provide direction to the Family Minister on an ongoing daily basis just to make sure that everything is being coordinated properly.

  • The Family Minister will work directly with the Children’s Education Committee and the Youth and Adult Education Committee. The Family Minister will also work with other committees as required.

Again, this is just how we see this position operating; most directly with the Children’s Education Committee and the Youth and Adult Education Committee but also with other committees – for example, the Worship Committee as required.

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES

That’s the Position Summary. We also outlined what we thought would be the primary responsibilities of the Family Minister. Here they are:

  • Coordinate the Sunday School programme and support the volunteers.
  • Recruit, develop and coordinate volunteers.
  • Prepare for and instruct the grade 5 to 8 Sunday School class.
  • Oversee the development of a youth programme when the need arises.
  • Provide leadership for a Summer VBS programme
  • Develop a parent and tot programme.
  • Develop partnerships with established children and youth programmes in the community including with other churches and schools.
  • Lead, on a regular basis, the children’s time during worship.
  • Provide pastoral and spiritual care for parents and family groups.
  • Other duties as required.

Those are the details of what we hope this person will do in the thirty hours a week in which we would employ him or her. The reason why we choose these responsibilities is because they are the things that you folks told us you wanted. We also looked at other churches who have similar positions as a way of seeing what others have done.

I just want to point out one more thing about the terms of employment that caused a fair bit of discussion at the Church Board meeting. It had to do with vacation. The proposal says a minimum of four weeks. Some folks were a bit surprised by that. Why wasn’t it one or two weeks to start? The reason is two-fold. First of all, it’s industry standard. When checking around with other churches that have similar positions, that’s what they offer. It’s also standard for ministry people within the United Church. The other reason for offering four weeks is that we aren’t offering a high rate of pay, so to offset that, we are offering four weeks of vacation to make the position more attractive to potential applicants.

So, that’s the Family Minister position in a nutshell. There are certainly other details in the proposal including expected time estimates, required skills and terms of employment. But I’m not going to read those to you. Rather, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the proposal at the back of the church on your way out and read it through before next week.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

Now that that is out there, I want to talk about the other important aspect of this proposal. What’s it going to cost and how do we finance it? Those are great questions, especially in light of John’s financial plea earlier in the worship.

So, what’s it going to cost? The proposal calls for a hourly pay rate of $17 to $21 per hour. What we want to show you is an estimate of what each of the outer edges might cost for thirty hours per week.

                                                        $17 / hr                          $21 / hr

Salary                                    $25,500                          $31,500

CPP                                           1,120                             1,430

EI                                                560                                750

Pension                                     4,250                             5,000

Con Ed                                      1,400                              1,400         

Total                                      $32,830                          $40,080

So we are somewhere between $32,000 and $40,000 per year. What that means is that somehow, if we want to hire this person, we have to come up with that much extra funding every year because if we can’t do that, then it’s just not going to happen. We are very aware that the numbers have to work out. We also want to make a commitment to this ministry for three years because our hope is that this position will result in more programming which we hope will attract more people to our church who, hopefully, will result in higher givings which will pay make this ministry self supporting. But ultimately, after three years, we expect that this position will pay for itself.

The first obvious question that arises is this: Did John just tell us that our current finances are in the red? Yes he did and that’s a problem we need to address. But the other thing to keep in mind is that even if we approve this position next week, it still has to get through Presbytery and then we have to apply for the grants that available. Realistically, even if we get all of our ducks in a row as soon as possible, we won’t really be in a position to hire anyone until at least the new year which gives us a chance to get our financial house in order.

So how do we plan to fund this ministry? What I’m going to outline is a three year plan for funding this ministry which is both realistic and affordable. It includes five key items:

1. grants from National Church;

2. grants for the Essex Presbytery Development Fund;

3. income from the shared ministry agreement with Wheatley United Church;

4. profits from the turkey supper; and

5. potential savings if my position changes to ¾ time.

Here is what that might look like. And remember that this funding model assumes that the person is paid at the highest pay rate of $21 per hour, or $40,000 per year, because we want to show you what the most expensive option would look like. But keep in mind that it could be up to $8,000 less:

Funding                                              Year 1                    Year 2                    Year 3

Grant from National Church               $8,000                            0                            0

Grants from EPDP                              15,000                    10,000                     5,000

Shared Ministry with Wheatley UC       7,000                      7,000                     7,000

Profits from turkey supper                  10,000                    10,000                    10,000

Pastor Kim moving to ¾ time                      0                    10,000                    17,000

Total                                               $40,000                  $37,000                  $39,000

Will all of those things fall into line? We don’t know. We do know that we should qualify for the grant from the national church. Essex United Church applied for similar funding and they received $13,000. Our $8,000 is a conservative estimate. The Essex Presbytery Development Fund is set up to support ministries just like this. What we hope to do is propose that we receive annual grants totaling $30,000 but on a declining basis so that the grants run out after three years. The Windsor Youth Centre received similar funding a few years ago when it started up. If we enter into the shared ministry agreement with Wheatley, those funds are certain and are basically found money. We’ve never allocated funds from the turkey supper before but there is no reason why we can’t. The issue, of course, is that if our current financial situation doesn’t improve, those funds may be needed to cover our operating expenses. Last week, I talked about the possibility of my going to ¾ time when my current appointment ends in May 2020. Those would be ongoing savings. Year 2, of course, is only $10,000 because I’d be full-time until May.

So those are the possibilities for the first three years. Do we believe it’s doable? Yes. Do we believe it will roll out exactly as we plan it to? No, it never does. But here is the bottom line that you have to keep in mind. Accepting this proposal at next week’s congregational meeting does not mean that we are committing ourselves to hiring anyone. What it means is that we can move forward with our funding proposal. But if we can’t get our financial house in order and if we don’t get the grants that we need, then we won’t be hiring anyone. All next week’s meeting does in move us forward one more step. It does not represent a non-negotiable commitment to hire a Family Minister. I just want to ensure that you understand that. Before we actually hired anyone, we’d have to come back to the congregation with all of our ducks in a row to seek your approval.

So there you have it. There are more details in the proposal and again, I would encourage you to take a copy home or download it so that you can be fully informed for next week.

CLOSING

There are just one more thing that I want to add. I’ve been asked about who can vote on these proposals. I wasn’t really sure so I contacted the London Conference Office for some guidance. What I was told is that to vote on the shared ministry agreement with Wheatley, you have to be a member because it’s my position as an ordained minister and only members can vote on a change to an ordained minister’s position.

I also was told that when it comes to the Family Minister position, everyone, both members and adherents, can vote on it because it does not affect the position of an ordained minister. This is Congregational Designated Minister position and is treated very differently from an ordained position. So, in a nutshell, only members can vote on the shared ministry agreement with Wheatley but everyone who is part of the church, both members and adherents can vote on the Family Minister position.

This is a key proposal and we are going to vote on it next week. What I would ask is that no matter the vote goes, let’s keep Christ at the centre of all of our discussion and do things in such a way that the glory goes to God.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Gracious God, your love spreads out over the heavens. Your Spirit breathes over the face of the earth bringing life and hope and promise. Bless us in all of our days. Enable us to live in the fullness of Christ, to walk in your way and to be your people.

We give thanks for all those who reach out to the poor, the destitute and the dying. Their dedication is an inspiration to us all. Forgive us, God, when we complain that we do not have enough. Forgive us when we are critical of those who send money overseas saying that we have enough need in Canada. Compared to the rest of the world, we do not know the meaning of poverty. Encourage us to reach out beyond ourselves to support ministries to the poorest of the poor. The world is full of uncertainty.

We lift up the political leaders of our nation as they seek to find viable and fair solutions to very important and complex issues. We pray for understanding and the ability to see beyond our own needs to the legitimate needs of others. Once again, we remember the Canadian Forces personnel in various parts of the world. Bless them in their roles as peace makers and justice seekers.

Bless us Lord as we approach next week’s congregational meeting. Keep us open to your spirit as it moves among us. And help us to make the right decision that will give you glory and spread your word.

We prayer for those who have experience loss this week. Be especially with the family and friends of David Steadman as they mourn his death. Thank you that, for him, death is past and pain is ended. Thank you, especially, that through faith in Christ, he now walks with you and we will see him again in the fullness of time. Bless those who miss him with peace and sense of your healing presence.

We lift up in prayer for the sick of our congregation and community, remembering especially John, Sharon, Lyle and Louise as they undergo treatments or recover. Touch them and all of those who are ill with your Healing Spirit that we may have life in your sight. Grant us peace and patience.

Our prayers, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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