Less often than the yearly blooming of the daffodils, but more often than the appearance of Halley's Comet, a question comes up at Sum-mit: on balance, is the building serving our mission or has our mis-sion become serving the building? Should we consider ministry else-where? We last looked at this question a few years ago at leadership retreats and congregational potlucks. The discussions were lively and opinions varied, but the congregation decided to stay in the building and restore it. The success of the capital campaign reflected Summit's commitment to both responsible stewardship and to mission on this corner of Westview and Greene.
So the question would seem settled, at least for the next decade. But it came up again at Session this past month in response to developments of the past year. The tower repair was more expensive than anticipated, due to unexpected and rapid deterioration of the tower after the initial bids. The Trustees are still awaiting a proposal for the last stage of the repair (and will get a second opinion) but the final cost is likely to be $200,000 more than originally planned. We also did not receive an anticipated $65,000 from Part-ners for Sacred Places, when they suspended their grant program because of the recession. Finally, care for the building has required much time and energy from the congregation. Do we need to re-assess?
We shared this conversation with the Trustees and were told that, when all capi-tal campaign pledges are received, we should have enough (pending the final proposal) to finish the tower, replace the sanctuary roof and do the priority pointing. This is good news. We will have addressed the urgent needs of the sanctuary with this capital cam-paign. Work remains to be done in the future on the entire plant, but the added expenses have not put us in an emergency situation.
So the Session will wait for the final proposal on the tower, and then enter into prayerful discernment. It may be that we'll continue in our current mission and ministry, with no further discussion of the building for the time being. It may be we'll consider a new direction while staying put, such as a congregation-wide focus on evangelism. Or we may want to explore other options. Please be assured that no new direction will be ex-plored, much less decided on, without extended prayer, conversation and discern-ment with the entire congregation. The only decision that's been made is to discuss our future openly and with as much honesty and courage as we can muster. I'm confident that the Spirit will help us discern God's call, and that - wherever it leads - it will be a call to exciting and joyful ministry.
In the meantime, the Session is grateful for the extraordinary work of the Trus-tees and the Renewal Campaign Committee. Addressing the building needs has allowed us to remain a vital and healthy congregation, with strong ministry in Mt. Airy. The Ses-sion also encourages everyone to stay current (or pay ahead) their capital campaign pledge, and to approach any of us with thoughts or questions. I remain thankful to be pastor of this wonderful congregation, and I ask your prayers: for this particular church and for the church universal, that we may witness faithfully to the gospel and proclaim God's love for all.
Grace and Peace,