One of the great headaches for pastors in The United Methodist Church is "Charge Conference." It is a necessary meeting: it serves as the Corporation Annual Meeting, for state corporate law purposes, is a time when church officers can be elected, a time when the pastor's salary for the coming year is set, and when the activities of the church can be reviewed. The headache is getting all of the materials ready for that meeting!
Our Charge Conference was early this year, but I'm glad it's out of the way. It showed that, while we are "not out of the financial woods" quite yet, we are moving in a very positive direction. We have found a way to keep to the "Council of 12" Church Council concept, but to separate functions and provide for those to meet on the Parish Board of Trustees.
However, beyond the Charge Conference, there is the issue of doing what is necessary for the English language ministry of Orangethorpe UMC to continue. I heard a rumor about myself that both surprised and shocked me. The rumor was that I came here to close the English language ministry. Such is absolutely not true. I don't close churches—I'll do everything I can to keep a church/congregation going. I run solvent churches—and I am never happy when budgets are upside down. I also know that given how most of our members are "of a certain age," we seriously need to start a new, third congregation that will grow so it can replace our present congregation when we are no longer able to do the job.
Our focus for the next two months will be on how we can become more faithful stewards of what God has made possible for us, as we seek to get Orangethorpe UMC on a better financial footing. Beyond that, we need to take a serious look at how to reach out to a new congregation while maintaining the congregation that we have. That means doing a lot of demographic work; thinking through to whom we want to reach out (and its corollary, those to whom we will NOT reach out); and how we can start that ministry on an entirely different basis than that which has been precious to our present congregation.
This is a steep order—but Orangethorpe UMC's English language congregation has coped with tougher issues, before. I am confident that if we work together, we can move in this new direction our English language congregation voted to do, 16 months ago. It won't be easy–but if we refocus our mindset to seeing our present programs geared to our present congregation, and coming up with an entirely new way of "being church" for the third congregation of Orangethorpe UMC, we will be continuing to do God's work from this site, as we have done for 55 years.
See you in worship!
Tom Griffith, Lead Pastor