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September 13, 2011

2

Maybe It is Time to Change…

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

One day soon, my oncologist is going to hit me.

Hard.

No matter how many times she’s “instructed” me that my throat cancer treatment is hurting my voice and could be scarred permanently, and that the best way to prevent this from happening is not to talk much, I find myself continuously yapping. My throat feels like it has constant rug burn, making my voice sound horrifically hoarse. Yet I still talk. Even tonight at our regularly scheduled first Voters’ Meeting of the “regular” church year, I talked way more than I should during and after the meeting. But that is what we do at our meetings: We talk. Our last meeting in June was relatively uneventful and we talked about many things that Saint Matthew’s should view and consider.

And that was just like our May meeting.

And our April meeting.

And our…well, I hope you get my point.

We tend to talk a lot about issues and ideas as a church, and we talk so much about them, we fall into this complacency of not getting much done. How many years did we talk about repairing the roof on the church? What about the parking lot? How about opening the church for outside groups to use in the evenings? What about moving ahead on some needed items like air conditioning and upgrading our church website and changing various education programs at the church?

Molasses moves faster than action at church. And it is not only Saint Matthew’s, it is nearly every other Lutheran Church that has been around for decades. Established members sit on the boards and the council and control the outcome of issues and ideas. At nearly every one of these long-established churches, everything grinds to a halt.

We talk about evangelism and mercy ministry ideas, but what happens is complacency.

Last weekend, after so many years we finally organized and cleaned out a number of rooms and closets, making everyone happy. But getting to that point took a long time. It took one of the leaders at Saint Matthew’s to stand up and say, “That’s enough!” She led the fight to clean out the church and by-golly, we should all thank her for showing the leadership.

Maybe it was just the overall tenor of tonight’s meeting, but I think I have had enough.

I have had enough of the endless talk about issues. I’ve grown tired of the back-biting and the inability of some to let go of the past. I am tired of the “last minute” items added to the agenda – and I am so guilty of this, even tonight with the copier proposal – that no one realistically has time to review.

It is time to change.

Our Elders came up with a magnificent program that builds off an idea I implemented months ago. Initially called “Loaves and Fishes,” it is a program that collects food and various toiletries for our local food pantry. So far, it has been a blessing — many members have brought in food and diapers and various items that we’ve donated to food pantries in Bergen County. The Elders have proposed expanding the idea at Saint Matthew’s by establishing a food pantry that would be, at first, open to members of our church and then, as we collect food items, it will be opened up to the community. As part of a new mercy ministry called “Caring Hands,” this is a wonderful program that I believe we need to begin.

And we will.

Right now.

I don’t want to wait for “approval” from the Voters’ Body. We are starting the program now. Tonight. After I finish typing this blog entry, I am going into my pantry here at the house and picking out some items to start the pantry at the church. And if anyone gets upset that this hasn’t received Voters’ approval, then come talk and explain to me why a house of Christ must wait to show mercy to the hungry and needy.

I am also going to make a proposal to the Vision Team, our evangelism group: From now on, all monies they raise in events they sponsor, the money stays with them. The general church account doesn’t get a dime of it. Instead, this money is going to be used to further the building up of Christ’s kingdom right here in New Milford. We’re going to discuss ideas for outreach to the lost and the spiritually hungry. From now on, the Vision of Saint Matthew’s and telling the Good News of Jesus Christ is going to be paramount in everything we do here — from worship to committee focus to how we live our lives outside the walls of Saint Matthew’s. And if anyone gets upset that this hasn’t received Voters’ approval, then come explain to me why this has to wait?

Additionally, I am going to make a proposal to the Voters’ Body — all reports, proposals, minutes, and any item that is to be discussed is to be handed in one week prior to the scheduled meeting date. Copies will be made available for every Voter a week prior to the meeting, giving everyone an opportunity to review and think of questions. When we wait until the meeting to give information, we end up pushing ideas off and then forgetting about them. But most of all, when issues get raised this way and information is lacking, it puts the idea in a form of limbo. By having ideas and reports presented a week in advance, Voters can contact the presenter and ask questions to get the information BEFORE the meeting. In fact, this weekend in Saint Matthew’s Matters, I am going to make this point. This will be a priority of mine. I will start posting my monthly report right here on the church website.

I am also not going to take kindly to politics and unChristian behavior at these meetings any more. We have no choice but to act like those redeemed by the blood of Christ. There is a time when bygones must be bygones. And if people have a problem letting go, then they need to talk to me. I am tired of sitting at meetings where three year old history is rehashed like it  happened last week. Someone did something wrong and they asked for forgiveness — and the last time I checked, we did forgive. That means the issue is dead, gone forever. For people to sit at the table and have a terrible attitude towards this person because of what happened three years ago, it is bordering on the nonsensical. The time is now to let it go.

And “letting go” is not just for meetings; it is what we Christians do. When someone asks for forgiveness — repenting to us for a wrong they committed — and when we forgive, it is forgiven. We do not keep rehashing the issue. That is wrong. We don’t treat that person like an outcast. That is not what Christians do.  For that is what our Father in heaven does for us. When we repent of our sins and He forgives us, our Father doesn’t come to us months and years later saying, “Oh, you want forgiveness for that? Remember back in 1996 when you slept in on Sunday morning instead of going to church?” No, when He forgives, He forgives completely.

This weekend, I am also going to make it a point to begin a congregational discussion that we discussed in our Elders’ Meeting last week on whether or not to permanently move our Sunday worship service time to 9:30am. If approved by the congregation, it will not happen until the new year. But maybe it is time to restructure our worship and Christian education life on Sunday morning to provide more time for worshipping and learning about our Lord Jesus Christ.

Established churches are hesitant to change.

Time has come to change that attitude at Saint Matthew’s.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Debbie Bigbee
    Sep 14 2011

    I am so excited about opening up St.Matthew’s and starting a food pantry. What a wonderful way to reach out to those in need. I agree… we ALL need to be open to change at St. Matthew’s and have no doubt that while working together and respecting each other this is possible.

    Reply
  2. Antoinette McKay
    Sep 14 2011

    I agree with Debbie… these are exciting ways to reach out. I’m so excited i’m here for the ride.

    Reply

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