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Minister's Corner - March 2024

My Parents got divorced when I was about 6 or 7, and during those two years roughly from around 1973 to 1975, I can determine the origin of a pop song by the melancholy way it makes me feel.


Likewise, every canvass year, no matter what church I am in, has a similar emotional power over me. But it is not what you think. It’s not melancholy. At the start of every pledge drive, I get this feeling of defensiveness towards you, something that makes me and the church an enemy that you, the good people of the church need defending from. I suspect it is similar to how a mother bear coming out of hibernation feels.


“DON’T ASK THEM FOR MONEY” is basically the instinct. Phrases like…“they need it”

“they're good people”, “most of them do volunteer things for the church”, and “you should be paying them.” This is my internal pledge voice, which is a funny feeling given I am the one person in the room most dependent on your pledge.


I think this feeling comes from both a respect I have for those who make up the church, but I think it also comes from living in a world so comfortable with the silent smiling greed it has for your resources. So part of my weirdness about talking about money, especially from the pulpit, is, I think, a healthy and even righteous reaction to the experience of living in a world where we so frequently and so persistently have our attentions and emotions manipulated. Manipulated in the pursuit of money in a way that I believe our morality and trust issues are constantly violated.


From the experience of having the real cost of a deal so often hidden in small print and service fees, to the ceaseless advertising that is, almost by definition, designed to do nothing more than alter our path from who we are or morally want to be from your money. I chide at the idea that anything I or we as a church ever do is like that.


I want to live in a world where all economic exchanges are simple, transparent, and in service to your needs and conscience. I know I am a dreamer.


Whenever I need evidence that I am a little more frugal and generous than greedy, and maybe even a little immature about money, I watch a video made on the morning of my college graduation.


If I knew how to project a VHS cassette, we would be watching this instead of me describing it, but basically it is a very short clip of me on my college graduation day in 1989. I am standing about 10 feet in front of the camera, in desperate need of a haircut, while my Dad, who is filming, says to the kid he just paid to go to college, a bit playfully, “Now it is time to make the big money.” To which I say very sheepishly, “Well, maybe not the big money.”


It was a poignant and uncomfortable moment for me, captured for posterity. Whatever therapy I might need about my relationship with money aside, the good news for me, as we move to the second persistent theme of every pledge sermon, is that your pledge is not my choice to make. It is as you know, yours.


And that decision always reminds me for some reason of the moment when I first meet with a couple I might marry. Before we dig into the planning of the service, I force myself to play the role of gatekeeper to the very institution of marriage.


because just like I have to decide if I am willing to marry the couple before me, you have to decide if, and how much, you want to support this church. You should take it on as a real question. After all the pledge is the best litmus test for how well the church is doing, right? Is this a place where you can marry your soul and your values to your influence and resources in the world?


Have you, or can you find a place to feel like you found your tribe, your moral and social community, a place to claim as your second home, a place that better expresses and speaks your values, a place that both comforts, challenges, and entertains you more than First Parish for what you think you might give. If you can you should support them.


Let me ask that again, slowly so you can really reflect on it. We are here, obliged by our principles, to aid you in your own responsible search for truth and meaning.


For what you think you might, or can, afford to pledge IS THERE A PLACE THAT YOU CAN

GET MORE SOCIAL of your social needs met, a BETTER PLACE THAT SPEAKS TO YOUR

VALUES, a better place to identify with as yours, a better place to be with people who challenge and support you. THAT’S A REAL QUESTION because that more or less is what a church is called to do.


See, this is where I usually turn the corner towards a new level of comfort. It is about here that it gets easy for me to talk about money because I believe in us and we use money wisely.


I believe we are worth it, and I believe you know that. Because we are working hard to be the community we are, and at the same time we are working to be a community more open to others.


In truth, the whole church runs pretty tight. I can’t think of one significant way that we waste

our, your, my pledge money.


It is, of course, odd to say that when you are the one person who puts the largest dent in the debit column, but I’m not only your Minister, I’m also a donor. Not one of the elite, but maybe that next tier down.


So, if we are NOT really wasting any money, and there are NOT a lot of people who could

afford to contribute much more than they do, that means that we, all of us, give what we can.


See you in church!

Rev. Steve


Drawing of the First Meetinghouse, small building with thatched roof, 1659
Drawing of the First Meetinghouse 1659

Traditional New England Church w/ steeple
First Parish Church, 2024

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