This is our second Minute for Mission related to the Stewardship Drive. I’d like to spend a little time talking about Summit’s mission and how it is tied to this building.
A few weeks ago there was an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about First Presbyterian Church in Germantown and the decisions they are making about the needs in their neighborhood and the concerns they have about overdrawing on their $5 million endowment.
I thought ‘Wow! I wish we had a $5 million endowment to worry about and then I thought, why don’t we? In fact, why doesn’t Summit have any endowment? So I talked with a few people and read some of Mercer Tate’s Mission on the Hill, and this is part of what I found:
Summit Church has always been on mission in one way or another and they have given everything to this mission. When they first started meeting as a Sunday school and decided to become a church, individual donations from the congregation built what is now Fellowship Hall. The congregation grew and they decided to add another building – our sanctuary. At the same time they raised the money for the building, they were spending 50% of their general budget on benevolence, mostly at that time to foreign missionaries. The church went on doing this for many years, even while adding the parish hall and the manse. Summit really gave of itself completely over the years up through the 50’s – half to foreign missions and half to the buildings to minister locally.
Harder times followed as times changed and church membership declined (as it did all over the country), but Summit has never stopped being on mission, although it looks different. Now, our official benevolence budget is 10% of our general funds and it is directed locally. For example, one of the groups we support with money, food, and time is the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry, which right now is looking for special Thanksgiving donations which you will see in your bulletin, and they need to be in by November 22.
Our unofficial benevolence budget consists of all we have done to take care of and to open to the wider community these buildings which were scrimped and saved for and carefully built by so many people who came before us. Although we don’t need beautiful stone buildings to come together with a caring pastor and staff to create a Christian community of worship, praise, prayer, learning, and service, because Summit is here today 100 children can be cared for five days a week, and 200 children from neighboring communities can also come to take dancing lessons five days a week. Because Summit is here, 50-60 teenagers can come for basketball, food, and friendship every other Friday night, and there are hopes to make it every Friday night. Because Summit is here, 25 neighborhood elders can have a hot lunch every Tuesday.
Because Summit is here, a small Jewish congregation can meet together two days a week, Mt. Airy Learning Tree can have nine of their classes here, and Girl Scouts, Weavers Way, West Mt. Airy Neighbors, and other community groups can meet. On our third floor, seven non-profit businesses, which serve hundreds of people, can have their offices here. And in addition to all this, each week at least 15 other groups use different spaces here – sometimes there can be 3 different groups using the parlor on one day, and some nights there are 6 things going on between 4:30 and 9 PM.
Because Summit is here, 58 people have full or part-time jobs, 600-700 adults and children are in and out of the building each week, and some of these people are serving hundreds of other people all across the state and the country.
I have come to realize that these buildings are the endowment left to us by those who came earlier. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give us a yearly return of an extra 5% to spend; in fact we underwrite the expenses of many of the groups who use our buildings, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to be here. I feel good that in the long tradition of Summit Church we have used this endowment to give freely to many in our community, even or especially to some of those who would never think of going to church. We have given quietly and often in such a manner that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. I hope you will treasure this long ministry and prayerfully consider how you can continue to contribute to it.
By Peggy MacGregor