Pastor Mark’s eNote – Every Number Tells a Story

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Every Number Tells a Story


     We Methodists, being methodical, keep up with numbers.  Every year we look at membership, attendance, spending, and lots of other numbers, too.  I know that numbers are hardly exciting, and numbers are certainly not the only way to measure effective ministry, but as I’ve looked over numbers from 2016, I’ve noticed something:
     We have some good numbers.
     What makes them good is that they are mostly positive, very few negative signs among them.  And what makes them even better is that those numbers are attached to people.
     For instance, this year we received 189 new members.  That’s a good number, and what makes 189 downright beautiful as numbers go, is that every one of those numbers has a face, a personality, gifts and possibilities.  Every one of those 189 new members has a story, and their stories are now a part of the story of Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church (and HMUMC, by the way, is part of a story that began millennia ago). Our church just got 189 people stronger and our story 189 people more beautiful.
     Of those 189 people, 84 joined by profession of faith.  They stood before the congregation and said, for all to hear, “yes”–yes to God’s Yes in Jesus Christ, yes to God’s gift of salvation, yes to the call of discipleship. Stories don’t get much better than that.  There are 84 new Christians among us.  That is the stuff of heavenly celebrations.
     Unfortunately, some people left our church this year, too.  Fourteen transferred to other churches; three withdrew their membership; and seven members of our church were removed from the rolls by death.  We should linger over that last number–seven.  Seven brothers and sisters in Christ entered the Communion of Saints.  They are gone from us, but their stories are still a part of who we are.  Not even death can sever what God has woven, and what God has woven is us–the great “us” of the ages, the “us” that knows no boundaries of nation or race, the “us” that is a story always unfolding, ancient and forever new.

 

     During 2016, an average of 1,163 of us gathered in worship every Sunday.  Every Sunday we joined our voices in praise of God; every Sunday we opened the holy story and, turning over the words, found ourselves; every Sunday we remembered together who we are together.
     Over the course of those worship services, we paused to baptize 45 children, students, and adults.  We remembered our own baptisms, and we pledged to care for our 700 children and students as they grow in wisdom and faith.  We will share with them the story of salvation that the story might become their own.
     This year we expended 2,673,000 dollars to support the ministry of our church both locally and around the world.  The 750 people touched by our Vacation Bible School, the 305 children in our preschool and MMO, the 1,626 people who participated in one of our spiritual formation groups, and the 19,000 people touched by our community missions can testify to the benefits of those dollars.
     Numbers?  We’ve got numbers
     There was another important part of the story, of course, that I haven’t mentioned.  We moved into our new worship center in 2016, a wonderful moment that will open to countless other moments of grace and power.  But that story, we need to remember, also has a number–250,000.  That is how many dollars we will add annually to our spending to tend to the mortgage that made the building possible.  After all those other numbers, that’s not quite as exciting, is it?  But it is important.  If our ministries are to continue to touch lives with grace and hope, it’s a number we’ll have to attend to.  And we will.
     You know how I know that?  Because we are many, and we are one in Christ.
     And one, it turns out, is a big number indeed.
                                                                               In Christ,
                                                                               Mark Westmoreland
Author: Mark Westmoreland

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