Autumn is the time when school starts, when the church program year starts, and when we
have a few very important items in the life of our church. I hope you will allow me the indulgence
of talking about these.
Pledging: As part of our response to the immense grace of God, we give of ourselves—of our time, our talents, our treasure—to the ministry of the church, the body of Christ, and the work of God in the world. Your church does have expenses to pay, but this is about more than just meeting expenses. When we give, we give of ourselves, out of what God has entrusted to us. All things belong to God, after all, we are simply stewards of the resources of creation. Giving is a spiritual discipline. We give to show our gratitude to God, to feel our dependence on God, and as an antidote to greed. But, practically speaking, our giving does far more than simply pay expenses. It helps to support the campus ministry at UAlbany; it helps to support the theological seminaries which educate Reformed Church ministers; it helps to support missionaries in the United States and around the world that spread the Gospel in word and deed. Your gifts support Schenectady Community Ministries and the Capital City Rescue Mission who work with those in our cities who are experiencing hard times. As a church, we have committed to giving ten percent of our income to benevolence and mission purposes. And so as giving goes up, so does the amount that goes to these vital ministries and so many more. Pledging helps us with this process as we try to plan a budget. But even beyond this, pledging is a commitment between you and God for your stewardship. Please prayerfully consider your giving in proportion to that with which God has entrusted you.
Suggesting Elders and Deacons: Also coming soon, you will be given the opportunity to suggest people to the nominating committee for the offices of elder and deacon. Often overlooked, this is so very essential to the life and ministry of the church. For the Reformed, the church is not governed and overseen by the pastor alone, but always by the consistory, which consists of the pastor, elders, and deacons. Currently, we have eleven members of consistory: the pastor, five elders, and five deacons.
So what are elders and deacons? Elders are the main spiritual leaders of the congregation. Elders are charged with the care and guidance of the congregation. They make sure that what the pastor (that’s me) preaches and teaches is in accordance with the Scriptures (this ensures that churches are not misled by their pastors). Elders assist with the pastoral care of the congregation and give the pastor counsel. The elders also try to work for the health of our church family and serve with advice, consolation, and encouragement. Deacons are charged with ministries of mercy, service, and outreach. Deacons receive the offerings of the people and distribute them with care and discretion, always being aware of the needs not only in the congregation but also in the community. As the elders give particular attention to the spiritual needs of the congregation, deacons give particular attention to the physical needs of the congregation and greater community. As the government of the Reformed Church reads, “The deacons shall minister to the sick, the poor, the hurt, and the helpless, shall aid the victims of the world’s abuse, and shall express the social concerns of the church. They shall oversee and carry out their work as those concerned with the redemption of humankind.”
Elders and deacons are not just board members, they are the spiritual leaders of your church. Information will be coming regarding the suggestion process, but please prayerfully consider who you might suggest for the needed offices. And, prayerfully consider being open to being nominated should the committee ask. It is a commitment, that is sure, and with a ministry in the church comes additional responsibility. And, these offices are essential to a church (and without them, we wouldn’t be a church, truthfully), and it is a joyful responsibility to Christ and Christ’s church.
Congregational Meeting: On November 18, after worship, we will be having our annual congregational meeting with lunch. I understand that a meeting is never the most exciting thing, and we all have all sorts of things that we could otherwise be doing, but please consider coming. At this meeting, we will have the opportunity to talk about our budget, which, truly, shows the commitments of the congregation. But even more importantly, it is a time that we can elect elders and deacons, and it is a time when I will share some words about our church and its mission and ministry, looking back on the past year, and looking forward. This is also an excellent time to ask questions of committees of staff, or of me about the ministry of our church. I do try to make this a worthwhile time for us, so please plan to attend.
With deep and abiding love,
The Rev. Matthew J. van Maastricht
Pastor and Teacher