Council Priority Shared by Council President Meredith Hurt
When I was 22 years old, I did something that was completely foolish. I had this great job in mid-town NYC as an editorial assistant for Harlequin Enterprises (yes, Harlequin Romance Books). And I was presented with the opportunity to live close to where I worked, in the Murray Hill area. There was this very nice little old lady, whose son and daughter were willing to rent the top apartment in their building for significantly less rent than it an apartment would go for in that area, as long as that person would look in on their mother, who occupied the apartment below. It was quite the bargain! And I took it. The foolish part, you might be wondering? Well that bargain rent was still 80% of my monthly salary. Before taxes. Yes, you can live off bagels and butter for a few years –at least you can in your early 20s.
This is all to say I had very little in terms of “extra” money. So when it came to going to church, I rarely, if ever, put any money into the collection plate (this was pre-simple giving days, so it was very obvious when someone didn’t put anything in the plate.) I just didn’t have it to spare. It was a little embarrassing. And I felt badly.
And then my pastor at the time did something that changed my perspective. She held an “alternative” giving ceremony. We’d call it pledging our time and talents. She had us all write on a piece of paper something we were willing to do for the church that did not involve giving money. We could sing with the choir, teach Sunday School, volunteer to put meals together, help out at Vacation Bible School….you get the idea. On this paper we wrote our name, phone number, and anything we thought we might be able to offer in terms of talent. Anything at all.
I realized I may not have much money but I did have time to donate. (Talent is subjective—I think I lent my talent for keeping young kids in line!) So that is what I did—I donated my time and gave the church a way to carry out many of their missions. I got to interact with the surrounding community in ways I would not have otherwise. And I found that I had a closer relationship with my fellow congregants than I ever would have expected. I met neighbors who gave me blessings, who gave me interesting books to read, who provided insights into big life questions and little life questions. It made a big difference to me in how I viewed God’s word and how even those who have little to give in one way make a huge impact by giving in other ways. And I’m speaking more about the impact they had on me then necessarily the other way around.
Now that I’m older, and not going against all economic sense, I’m able to give monetarily to the church in a more consistent way; which is great and is needed to keep our Congregation healthy. But I also never forgot the way that donating my time and talent not only helped me grow spiritually but also helped the church grow as well. I’ve been able to see the great growth of our Sunday School thanks to the dedicated time people are willing to give to be Sunday School teachers; our altar every week to be prepared by the altar guild; our sanctuary beautified by the work of the flower committee; the dedication of our council members to grow our church while keeping a strong foundation.
This is why Sharing our Time and Talents is one of the main goals the Church Council has been working on these past two years. Denis Gray, Nancy Smith, Janis Keating and I have been working on ways to better help you identify ways you can let us know how you want to share your time and talent with us. We have a new online form that is easy to use and will better connect volunteers to the head of each committee or group organizing activities. We also have paper copies for those that find it easier to share in that way.
I say this each time I share with you a personal story, but I will say it again: this is just the beginning of this journey. If you have ideas for new ways to share our time and talent, we want to hear it. I expect we have more to learn and I am excited to see how much more we grow together.