Notes from Jan

Thoughts on Surplus and the Heart of the Church

February 1, 2016

Loaded the Prius with blankets, sheets and warm clothes for Syrian refugees.  Seemed like the least I could do, dig into my surplus and share. And it was. The least I could do.  Besides this act supported one of my goals for the year: Simplify. How different from my memories of a humble woman in my daddy’s church in DeKalb, Illinois.  She was a hardworking, live-simply, farmer’s wife. The dresses she wore to church, worn but not worn-out.  No one looked to her as a fashion trendsetter but everyone could follow her example of generous living.  When she brought clothes to the church to be sent to the missionaries, they came with tags. Price tags.   New not recycled, seldom or unused clothes, stored in  boxes under beds or  stashed in backs of closets like most of us cough up for clothes drives.

This reminder of sacrificial generosity left no room for pride as I pulled up into the church parking lot to unload trash bags filled with clean but used clothing, blankets and such. Just the name trash bags said more than I wished.

This was the night of the annual meeting for Christ Church. As a non-member, I’d never attended but felt a last minute lure by the call to bring items to be shipped to a refugee camp within Syria.  We’d joined with another church to fill the container. What else would be contained in that large metal box?

Many years ago, George Wingate, artist and teacher at Gordon College, did an exhibit on containers. One item on display was an address book.  It contained friends. I prayed that these clothes, blankets, shoes and such also contained  Christ’s love, warmth and friendship delivered with hope.  That’s asking a lot since the only sacrifice on my part was some time.  And even that’s a gift from God.

The other hook that drew me back to church last night was even less altruistic.  Potluck.  I felt a little like Charles Schultz’s Snoopy, ready to belt out, Suppertime!  Growing up Baptist, we knew how to do a potluck supper.  I wasn’t so sure about Episcopalians.  Wrong, again.  They can cook, bake, chop and toss with flair.

It did me good to meet the serving heart of Christ Church. When it came time to start the annual meeting, I turned my chair, then my mind to “dread.” As a preacher’s kid I’d lived through church meetings that had they followed potlucks, would’ve served indigestion as the final course.  Not so this night.  No wonder the Parish hall was full of folks.  They’d come to celebrate, not fight.

Time after time Patrick, our Rector, called up folks: musicians, gardeners, teachers, ushers, cleaners, floral arrangers, nursery workers, shovelers, committee workers, Stephen ministers, food servers and more to come forward.  They were prayed over, affirmed by the rest of us, blessed and sprinkled with holy water.  This all following a short time of committee reports, budgets and other must-do parts of an annual meeting. But even that was applauded, full of good news, a budget exceeded.  Surplus.

Best of all, Naomi Gray, our pastor’s spouse was honored. The choir sang a song they’d written for her. So much gratitude for the quiet work she does leading the Christian education of our children with a strong team of teachers. Our grands, Maggie and Kate, lovers of Sunday School would’ve waved both hands to vote.  No one beamed more than her husband, Patrick.

Good news following good food is a winning combo.   The Church should be a place where both flow freely back and forth.  Hungry? Come to church for Good News  and good food, sometimes served with Holy water.   A place where, hopefully, we enter with need and leave with more than enough to faith the week ahead.  Generous surplus. The kind that comes from God with price tags. All costs covered by Jesus. New….just for the love of us and the rest of the world and some Syrian refugees who may feel forgotten but aren’t because of the heart of The Church.

And maybe a little guilt and desire to simplify on the part of one.

Does honesty count?

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  • Reply Dale Lefever February 1, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Well, if you are an existentialist, the righteous desire to simplify would serve as an ample substitute for actually doing it – per Dr. Arthur Holmes my Wheaton philosophy prof. I am still trying to decide if giving away stuff I never liked is, at least, a start.



  • Reply Dr. Chuck Cadle February 2, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Well, well Jan. June was kind enough to forward me your thoughtful conversation. Your subtle discussion about servant leadership is a great reminder of the role our Church leaders take on. Maxwell speaks to leadership as influential and your influential leadership literally jumps out of your blog post. June says you are doing well, which I am so glad to learn. I miss our interaction. Elaine and I are doing well and I am still commuting from GA to NJ to carry on my career endeavor of ensuring that students K-20 obtain the soft skills they will need to become our future pioneers, innovators and leaders.

    Blessings young lady.


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