Stewardship News, as reported in Church Council, and Cougars

This is a public acknowledgment and heartfelt thank you to the members of the Stewardship Committee who spent many hours planning the stewardship campaign, brainstorming about our vision of ministry, mapping plans for the next few years, and inviting members of the congregation to speak in Temple Talks about their experiences of giving and about the life of our St. Paul congregation. Stewardship Chairman George Scharfe, Council President John Bjorlie, Ms. Deb Coull, Vice President Chris Larson, and Treasurer Dick Babson all spoke in church over the last five weeks. Mr. Babson composed a series of inspiring stewardship letters that reflect our congregation’s desire to broaden our ministry, and reach out more to our neighbors. In the last mailing, we sent 107 invitations with pledge cards to come to Stewardship Sunday on December 4th. 81 people attended worship on Stewardship Sunday, despite a snowy morning.

As of today, Tuesday, December 6th, we’ve received the first responses from the Stewardship Campaign. This evening, the Assistant Financial Secretary reported at the Church Council meeting that 42 pledge cards had been received. The 42 pledges total approximatelly 66,000 dollars, less than half of our current budget. In the three years that I have been serving here, I have learned that usually pledges will continue to come in through December. So, in a reminder reminiscent of public television, if you haven’t pledged yet, please consider doing so; you may fill out a card, and drop it by the church office if you wish, or send it in the mail, or even telephone the Financial Secretary, Peter Foster, or Assistant Financial Secretary, Joanne Peterson at the chruch: 978-283-6550. If you did not receive our stewardship mailings or a pledge card, and you wish to make a financial commitment to the life and ministry of St. Paul Lutheran Church, please let us know by calling in or emailing us. The Stewardship Committee are hoping for a large increase in giving this year, as we work toward building a strong future for our church. If you have never attended one of our services, please drop in on a Sunday morning. We are always happy to welcome new friends.

If you would like to make contact with the Pastor, or hear more about us, please email or call the church office: saintpaul@gis.net, or 978-283-6550. Office hours are Monday thru Thursdays from 9:00 a.m to 1:00 p. m. I am usually available in the office in the mornings for pastoral conversations or telephone calls, or by appointment at other times. In the afternoons, generally speaking, I am out on calls and visits.

Cougars:

On my recent visit to California, I was able to take a number of hikes in the foothills of Mt. Diablo, near Walnut Creek. Walnut Creek, Concord, Berkeley, and the East Bay area all have been proactive in protecting large areas of open space, which serve as habitat corridors for wild animals. Cattle often range freely in the open spaces of Walnut Creek, and when you hike the trails, occasionally you must pass through cattle gates. The first time I encountered one of these gates, I saw a sign posted with a series of warnings about encounters with wild creatures, including not so benign ones, like rattle snakes and black widow spiders. “Be careful where you put your hands,” the sign suggested. My favorite one of these warnings instructs the hiker to beware of mountain lions. If you encounter a mountain lion in the wild, do not turn your back; instead make yourself as large as possible, raising your hands over your head, and yelling as loudly as you can. If attacked by a cougar, instead of playing dead (which you do when sighting a bear) you must fight back. If you play dead the cougar will kill you. The first time I read one of these warnings, I think the hair on the back of my neck actually stood up on end. But how nicely frightening it was to walk alone in the hills with a little frisson of fear, to hike in areas where I might actually be tracked by a cougar. As it turns out, they track you for miles, my daughter says, before they attack, and then you don’t even know they’re on you, until they’re on you. One afternoon, coming down Mt. Diablo in the sunset through a thicket of pungent bay laurels (they smell like frankincense) I heard a pack of coyotes making a huge racket not far below. Later, one came trotting up the road, looking completely wrung out, tail drooping, tongue lolling. Either he had been chasing cars up the mountain, or chasing the mule deer. What this has to do with stewardship, I don’t know. But it does have to do with coming into contact with something wild and unpredictable. I thought about what sort of signs I should really put out regarding encounters with God, or the Holy Spirit, or with Jesus Christ, or with what Rudolf Otto called the mysterium tremendum, that holy, nearly awe-ful mystery that makes one tremble. (“Fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul. Matt. 10:28). When meeting with God, does one make oneself as large as possible, and wave one’s hands around, yelling? Or perhaps the warning would have to do with being tracked by a patient and generous spirit, who, once it grasps hold of you, entrances you completely. But I have to tell you, I don’t want to domesticate the Trinity. God’s as wild as a mountain lion–not to be trifled with, and yet there are always those holy wings encircling, eagle’s wings, to be sure, and just as wild as they are gentle. It’s another windy evening, here at the eastern end of the country: mountain lions are wandering in their western savannahs, and here by edge of the sea, cold granite is getting colder, ice is forming, and the ducks have taken to the coves for shelter.
Blessings on this blustery Advent evening, Pastor Anne Deneen

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