Treating All People Well

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Pentecost 16/Proper 18
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 146 and James 2: 1-10
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. James
James 2: 8-9 (NIV)

UPCOMING PROPOSALS

We have an important congregational meeting coming up on September 23 right after worship. At that meeting two very important proposals that will be brought forward that could have a significant impact on the way that we do ministry here at Cottam United Church. So today, I am going to begin the process of letting you know what those proposals are so that you can all be fulling informed when it comes time to vote on the proposals.

I want to begin this morning by reminding us of how we got to this place. At our last Annual Congregational Meeting that was held on February 11, the congregation agreed as one of our goals for 2018 to continue to assess the need to hire additional staff and to looking into what it might mean to enter into a shared ministry agreement with Wheatley United Church and Hillman United Church.

After the annual meeting, the Church Board set up two task groups to look into these issues and both of those task groups presented reports to the Church Board which contained their recommendations. The Church Board reviewed these recommendations in great detail and agreed to bring them to the congregation. We have called a meeting of the congregation for September 23 to do just that. So that’s how we got to where we are now.

There is a lot to be discussed and I don’t think we can do it all justice by trying to jam it all into one week so I’m going to spend this week and next sharing all of this information with you. Today, I want to talk about the shared ministry proposal and next Sunday we will look at the additional hire which is now being called a Family Minister.

So let’s start with the shared ministry proposal… But we do any of that let’s ground ourselves in Scripture. Read James 2:1-10.

James, in these verses, talks about the need to treat each other equally, to show no favourites. That’s especially true when it comes to wealth and power. Just because someone has more money that does not mean that they get special privileges in the church. Just because someone may have more power or higher social standing does not mean that they get special treatment.

Why is that? It’s because, in the eyes of God, we are all equal. Before Christ we were all equally sinners. After receiving him, we are all equally righteous. We may come into the church with different abilities and different levels of wealth and power in society but, when we become part of the church, those differences in status disappear and we become one in the body of Christ. In the eyes of God, we are all the same, equal partners in the ministry of Christ Jesus.

That’s why James sums it up in James 2:8-9 (NIV) with these words: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” It comes back to what Jesus said, that one of the most important commandments is to love our neighbours as ourselves. You can’t do that if you show favouritism. But when we are loving others as ourselves, we are doing what God wants us to do.

SHARED MINISTRY

With that in mind, let’s move to the issue at hand. Back in late 2017, Essex Presbytery asked us to show our neighbours some love by entering into conversations with them about how we might do ministry together. Those churches were Wheatley United and Hillman United. The reason why Cottam was asked is because neither of those churches has a minister right now and churches without ministers require a supervisor and can you guess who the supervisor is? That would be me so we already have a relationship with them. We entered into conversations with both of those churches. What quickly became apparent was that Hillman United really was not interested in entering into any shared ministry agreement with us. On the other hand, there seemed to be quite a few synergies between Wheatley and Cottam that seemed worth exploration so that is where we concentrated our energies.

Because Wheatley is without a minister that have been existing on weekly pulpit supply. John Cats has been doing about half of it; many of you know John because he has led worship here as well when I’m away. The other half has been led by some other people you know, including Phil Hernandez.

What the people at Wheatley would like to do, however, is hire John Cats to provide consistent weekly worship leadership. That’s the goal. The challenge is navigating through all of the rules and regulations of the United Church to make that possible. The problem is that John is a lay person and lay people cannot normally be hired by a congregation for worship leadership unless the congregation already someone like an ordained minister on staff.

So, if Wheatley wants to hire John for their worship pastor they first have to find themselves an ordered minister. Since I am the supervisor of Wheatley we began to wonder if there was some way that I could become the minister of both Cottam and Wheatley. That would allow Wheatley to hire its own worship leader which would provide them with a measure of the stability that they think they need.

What we discovered is that it is possible. There are few ways that it can be done but what we ended up with in our discussions was a shared ministry agreement between our two churches. Basically, what this proposal says is that Wheatley United Church will purchase 10% of my time from Cottam United Church which is the equivalent of about four hours a week or two days a month. That means that I effectively will become the minister of record for Wheatley United Church and Wheatley will reimburse Cottam for 10% of my employment expenses which comes to between $7,000 and $8,000 per year. Please note that I don’t get the money. You do.

When I say that, the first question that people at Cottam ask is, “What 10% of my time are we talking about and how will that affect us and our ministry at Cottam?” Those are good questions. The answer is that the difference that you will see will be minimal if anything at all. That’s because the proposal is very specific in terms of my roles at Wheatley. I will be responsible for sacraments, weddings and administration. That’s it. And guess what? Those are the exact same things that I’m currently responsible for as the supervisor at Wheatley so I’m already doing them. I will have no extra duties at Wheatley. The only big difference is that I used to do them for free but if the shared ministry proposal is approved, Cottam will get reimbursed for my time.

The other difference is that when I am in Wheatley doing sacraments – which will be four or five times a year – John Cats will be leading worship in Cottam. When he does that, we won’t pay him for pulpit supply. We will simply switch pulpits for the day; he will be here and I will be there. That happened once back in the spring and it’s going to happen again in October when I will be officiating at a couple of baptisms in Wheatley.

OTHER DETAILS

I hope that’s clear. But I just want to say a couple of other things. First, I want to be clear about some of the terms we used in the proposal because we really struggled with what to call some things. When you read the proposal, you will see the term Lead Minister. That always refers to me. I will become the Lead Minister at both Cottam and Wheatley. There is also reference to the lay ministry staff at Wheatley. That refers to the role that John Cats will take. The details of that are not spelled out here because that’s a conversation that will be happening at Wheatley. But none of that can happen unless the shared ministry agreement is approved.

If we agree to this shared ministry proposal, we also thought it necessary to have some way of monitoring the implementation and progress. To that end, we thought it wise to set up what we have called the Shared Ministry Coordinating Team. This group will be made up of representatives of both congregations and will meet at least twice a year to see how things are going and to deal with any concerns that may arise.

Another good question that was asked was how this impacts the Ministry and Personnel Committees in each church. What the proposal says is that they will continue to function independently but the option for them to meet together is there if they want to.

The other thing you need to know is that there is also an out-clause in the agreement. Section 12 says that the agreement can be terminated by either congregation on 90 days notice. So, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, if we find unforeseen problems or if the situation changes, we are not stuck with it until the second coming.

This same proposal, by the way, also has to pass at the Wheatley congregational meeting which is going to happen later today so I’ll be heading there right after worship. If both congregations agree, then it will go before the October meeting of Presbytery and if Presbytery agrees, then we can begin to implement the agreement on November 1, 2018.

The other thing that I want to say about this is that, while this sounds like a one way street, it really isn’t. Yes, Cottam has a great deal to offer Wheatley in terms of moving its ministry forward. We can help them to update their worship style and way they operate. We could even do some events together which could be fun. But there are also things that they can teach us. Specifically, they are very good at community outreach and they may be able to show us how to do that better. For example, they put on a community dinner once a month, something that we’ve considered. It’s very successful and maybe they could teach us how to do it. They also have a prayer shawl ministry much like our Threads of Love. But their numbers are quite staggering. In the past three years they’ve given out something like 300 prayer shawls to people who need a pick me up and to know that someone is thinking of them and praying for them. That’s about two shawls a week which is really amazing in a community that size. This is far from a one way street.

I hope that’s clear. There are copies of the proposal at the back of the church for you to pick up and take home. We’ll also be putting it up on our website later this week so you can get it there too. The whole idea of today is to, as much as possible, give everyone the same information at the same time so that you can make an informed decision at the Congregational Meeting in two weeks. And if you have any questions between now and then, please ask.

I should also note one other thing. A couple of people asked me about proxy and mail in votes. The simple answer to that is that the Manual is very clear. Section B 5.6 says that someone has to be at the meeting to vote because it is important to take part in the discussion in order to be fully informed.

TIME COMMITMENTS

I also want to take a few minutes this morning to discuss another separate but related issue that could have an impact on both the shared ministry proposal with Wheatley and the additional staff hire that we will be discussing next week. Some people know about this already. It’s been discussed at the Church Board and with the Ministry and Personnel Committee but it’s probably time that we included everyone in the conversation. What I’m talking about is my status as the minister of Cottam United Church. No, I don’t plan to go anywhere anytime soon unless the Spirit leads me in that direction but there are some potential changes coming anyway. That’s because at some point, I will actually stop working and really retire. And we need to start preparing for that eventuality.

Here’s where we stand right now. I am sixty-three years old. In May, I’ll be sixty-four. I know that’s hard for you to believe. It’s even harder for me to believe. I am currently employed by Cottam United Church on a five year appointment that comes to an end in May 2020. That’s a little more than a year and a half away.

The current intention is that, if all are in agreement, we will renew that appointment for another five years. But we may not do in on a full time basis. In my mind, I would like to consider looking at a three-quarter time appointment. That gives me a bit more time off to do some traveling and enjoying life before I get too old and crotchety. When I turned sixty, a wise elder said to me, “Kim, you have about fifteen years to do any travelling you want to do. So be aware of that as you live this part of your life.” I think those words were wise.

I don’t know exactly what three-quarter time ministry looks like. I know that Andrew, our son, is a working three-quarter time at Charing Cross and the way they arrange it is that Andrew is off one Sunday a month. Jim Hatt works half-time at Essex United Church. He tries to work twenty hours a week. There are different ways of working part-time ministry and we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I just want you to know that it is a real possibility.

But that leads to another good question: If the shared ministry agreement is accepted and if I go three-quarter time in a year and a half, whose time gets cut; Wheatley’s or Cottam’s. My response to that is this. I don’t count hours. I never have. Ministry is not a nine to five job. I do what I need to do to accomplish the ministry that Jesus gives us to do. If I do go three-quarter time in May 2020, then we would have to talk about how that works and do our very best to stick to it to ensure that everything and everyone gets treated fairly.

Which leads to me one final point. I think most of you know that I’m running for a seat on Kingsville Town Council. It’s about time that we talked about that because people have asked me about it and I think it’s a fair question.

First of all, I didn’t just decide to run for council on a whim. I talked about it with Church Board members and I discussed it with the Ministry and Personnel Committee. Those conversations were unofficial so you may not find them in minutes anywhere but they certainly happened. I only submitted my application to run for Town Council after those discussions.

That being said, what happens to my time at Cottam United Church if I actually get elected? Is that going to take me away from the ministry of Cottam United Church? Again the answer is no. If I win, then that is something that I do on my own time. It’s like when I was still with the Army Reserve. The last position that I had with the army took quite a bit of time. Did that ever have a negative effect on my ministry here? I don’t think so. That’s because my top priority is the ministry of Jesus Christ. And when it came to a conflict between the two jobs – military and civilian – the church always won.

If I get elected then, yes, we might have to re-arrange some church committee meetings from time to time. And yes, I will be busy on the second and fourth Mondays for Town Council meetings. But if there is ever a conflict between church and council, the church wins because the ministry of Jesus Christ is my highest priority. And if I ever come to the point that I can’t do both, I’ll resign from town council. The bottom line is this. I want you to know that you are my first priority. Everything, employment wise, comes after you.

I hope that what was presented to you this morning is clear. Please take home a copy of the proposal or get it later this week off the church website. If you have questions, then ask them. But don’t ask me right after worship because I have to run off the Wheatley. They are having their congregational meeting this morning to talk about this proposal as well and given that I’m still their supervisor, I need to be there. Please consider this proposal carefully. To the Church Board it felt like a win-win for everyone. I hope that you feel that way too.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of Creation, we come before you in thanksgiving and wonder. You have blessed us in abundant ways. You have given us a smooth path to walk and offered your guidance in the Holy Spirit.

The signs of autumn are beginning to emerge. Days are warm but evenings cooler. Geese are honking in the sky as they make their way south. Crops are ripening in the fields. All this, O God, is part of your plan for creation, your wonderful and amazing creation which is the work of your hand. Help us to appreciate all that you have made and help us to do our part to be good stewards of the earth.

We give thanks for the wedding yesterday of Ashely Mayea and Cole Speelman. Bless them as they begin their new relationship as husband and wife. May their love for each other grow as they discover what it means to be husband and wife.

We offer our prayers for those who mourn this day, especially for the family and friends of Pam Ribble. Thank you for her life and bless those who loved her that they may come to that place of peace that only you can provide.

We pray, also, for the children, teachers and others staff who returned to school this week. We are aware that there are still educational issues that must be worked out and would ask for your wisdom, patience and justice in these situations.

We pray your blessing, O God, upon those who are sick or recovering this day. We think especially of Sharon, John, Lyle and David. Touch them with your Healing Spirit that they may be well in your sight.

Help us, O God, to honestly evaluate our lives: our words, decisions, and actions, or lack thereof. Do our lights shine brightly? Can others truly see you in our words and actions? Help us to receive into our hearts the honest answer to those questions. May our lives illustrate your character and way of living in all that we do, in every word, every interaction with other people, so that we may clearly point others to the light of your grace. Amen.

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