Feb. 12, 2021
“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” ~ Galatians 6:9
Dear members and friends of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church,
I had a lot of plans for March 15, 2020. Some of them were normal plans for a Sunday: wake up early, head to church, lead worship for the Third Sunday in Lent. We had a theme – Wilderness – and the sanctuary was set for the next phase in building toward Easter. After church I had some silly plans. My dog, Valkyrie, and I were going to meet her siblings to celebrate their first birthday with a good run at the dog park and a “pup crawl” for refreshments at a nearby dog-friendly establishment.
Instead, on Sunday morning we found ourselves hastily adapting worship to Zoom and Facebook Live, preaching and playing music to a computer perched on a music stand instead of a congregation of living bodies. Most of the dogs’ owners pulled out of park time as it sunk in that this virus was serious. Val and I grabbed some takeout just before all the restaurants and bars closed on the governor’s orders. Our fast-moving society suddenly ground to a halt, and we’ve been in slow motion ever since. Most things are happening in half-measures – online, in abbreviated versions, in hurried encounters outdoors – or not at all.
The church has been operating so differently than usual that it would be easy to assume that we, too, have just stopped during this time. We haven’t met in the building for almost a year. We haven’t passed the peace – the signature MAPC move! – in almost a year. And yet, the church has not stopped being the church. Every time I get discouraged or begin to think that we’ve lost momentum this year, all I have to do is look at how much we have accomplished in our Investing in a Just Future initiative alone.
Just when you might have expected progress to grind to a halt, exactly the opposite has happened:
- We invested in justice within our congregation and the wider Church by completing our search for a Pastoral Resident, and hired Rebekah Nolt in October. This is an incredibly difficult time to begin a new ministry position, and Rebekah hasn’t even met most of the congregation except over a screen, but they are adjusting phenomenally and have rapidly become an important addition to the pastoral team and the church as a whole.
- We invested in justice in our community through our partnership with Cincinnati Scholar House, which opened and began to house parents and children during a time when it could not have been more needed. Despite the limitations of the pandemic, MAPC members have found ways to contribute resources, time, and skills to the residents of Cincinnati Scholar House, and we’ve begun to build the foundation of a long and lively partnership.
- We invested in justice for creation by making sustainable improvements to our building, taking advantage of the emptier facility to install highly efficient windows and a heat pump in our education and office wing, to accompany the solar panels that were installed previously as a separate effort.
While plans of all kinds went awry, while businesses closed and reopened and closed again, while church events have been limited to online, while all of us have struggled in a variety of ways with our new realities, we have still continued to invest our energy, our time, and our money in pursuing justice. We’ve been able to do this because all of you have participated in the Investing in a Just Future initiative with your contributions of energy, time, and money. In a wearying time, you have not grown weary of doing what is right.
It would have been so easy to allow ourselves to grind to a halt this year, to wait and pick up the work of justice when we can see each other again and encourage each other with enthusiastic hugs of peace. But even while that has not been possible, we have not given up. We have continued to sow the seeds and tend the fields of justice. It has been a hard time, but I think we will look back and think upon this as an exciting time as well, a time when something was growing while the world paused. I am so delighted and proud to be your pastor during this season, and I cannot wait to see the harvest that will be reaped from the work that has occurred during this time.
Grace and peace in Christ,
Rev. Stacey Midge
Earth Care Update
On June 26, Session approved proceeding immediately with the IJF Earth Care Projects, namely, replacing the windows in the office wing and replacing the heating and cooling systems in the office and education wings. In addition, Session also approved borrowing the funds for a solar installation that will provide about 60% of the church’s annual electrical usage. This loan will be serviced by the savings in utility bills. Loan will be from the Presbyterian Investment Loan Program.
Pastoral Residency Update
Session appointed a group consisting of the Personnel Committee, the Clerk of Session, and two other members of Session to research similar programs and create a job description for the Pastoral Residency. That group has been meeting and will present a proposed job description to Session for preliminary approval soon. The proposal also will need approval from the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry (COM), because we will be seeking to make this an ordainable position. Following the approvals of Session and the COM, we will begin advertising the position and a search committee will review applicants in a process similar to a Pastoral Nominating Committee – but somewhat shorter because this is a designated time position rather than a permanent call. The process may take a while, especially for our first Resident, but we are trying to do this right, which means it will not necessarily be fast!
Cincinnati Scholar House Update
A meeting is scheduled for July 15 to begin working on the financial terms of our relationship with Cincinnati Union Bethel, the nonprofit organization that manages Cincinnati Scholar House. Construction of CSH is well underway on McMillan Street between Gilbert and Park.
Thank You to everyone for making payments on your Investing in a Just Future pledges. Please use the IJF envelopes in the pews and write a separate check. Do not use the IJF envelopes for your Estimate of Giving payments; use regular pew envelopes. IJF and EOG payments go into different accounts, so please make it easier for your staff and Treasurer by writing two checks.
From prayer rocks to prayer flags, the creative duo of Judy Lindblad and Valerie Bernardino (pictured below) were the impetus behind Investing in a Just Future’s playful and spiritual focus to support our ambitious undertaking. Prayer is both personal and purposeful. To personalize and focus our prayers tactically, names were written on small flat rocks, exchanged with others… helping us remember to pray for each other on the journey toward a Just Future. Displaying our written and drawn prayers on over 100 flags visualized our deepest hopes, dreams, and concerns as we venture forward for the Church, the Community and the Earth.
Investing in a Just Future is Mt. Auburn’s three-year initiative to transform our earth, our community and our church, including our denomination. We celebrate that our fundraising goal of $750,000 is 91% fulfilled. Additional gifts and pledges to be paid over the next three years are welcome. Planning is underway for the Pastoral Residency and Carbon Footprint Reduction projects. Later this year, volunteer opportunities will be available to interact with our community project – Cincinnati Scholar House in Walnut Hills. Check out the bulletin board in the social hall for more information or talk with Pastor Stacey about how you can get involved.
Prayer was an important part of the journey of discernment as we planned our Investing in a Just Future initiative. Please continue to pray creatively for Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church, the three projects, our staff and volunteers, and individual members and friends of our community. Prayer rocks are available in a basket in the narthex. You can continue to exchange rocks weekly or periodically or add your name to a rock if you don’t have one.
Thank you, Valerie and Judy, for inspiring us to pray with imagination and love. To learn more about prayer and how it can rock your world, check out these resources:
February 24 is our Commitment Sunday! We invite all of you to bring your commitment cards if you haven’t already mailed them in, as we join together in Investing in a Just Future. As of last Sunday, we already have 24 early pledges turned in for a total of $412,160 – that’s over halfway to our full goal of $750,000! Our church leadership has really gotten excited about a future in which we expand our justice seeking capacity in church, community, and creation. How will you support this important initiative?
Read more about how we’re Investing in a Just Future in our second newsletter: IJF Newsletter 2
We know you have questions about the Investing in a Just Future initiative. We’ve answered some of them here in our Frequently Asked Questions document.
Investing in a Just Future FAQ
For many months, a group of church members commissioned by Session has been exploring what’s next in our congregational life. Where can we devote our time, talent, and treasure to expand our work of love and justice? We’ve been talking about this initiative for quite some time now, but we’re delighted to present to you our first official communication about our plan for Investing in a Just Future at MAPC. Read all about it now, and look for even more information in the new year!
Investing in a Just Future Newsletter