Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Happy New Year. Can I have a raise of hands for those who made it up to ring in the New Year? If you did, your Pastor had about three hours of sleep already. It was 12:00 somewhere. Seriously, wishing you all a great 2021.
Wondering if anyone makes New Year’s resolutions? Some of you might pick a word that you concentrate on for the year. Would you like to share your practices for the New Year? Please send them to me using the email or phone number below. I will keep them anonymous. I think it would be a good way to see what members of our congregation are doing and it may spark ideas in others. I will pray over them each week and I hope you will do the same.
Our winter coat drive is over. Thank you for all those who donated coats, mittens, hats, gloves and even snow pants. Thank you. I wish I could give you a final number. Your generosity was so great that we lost count a few weeks ago. Thank you. Spend a moment right now and picture a child warm because of what you offered. What a blessing.
I want to offer two items for you to consider:
1) The first deals with our continued mission to help our community. Below you will see part of this mission. We have opened our basement to store gently used furniture. Last Saturday, because of the generosity of our members, we were able to give a couch, a recliner, and a bed to someone in need. We have already given a bed to a high schooler, and various items of furniture to the young family we are currently helping. A washer and dryer are heading out early January to a family in Ohio, IL that St. Matthew’s of Princeton is helping. They reached out to us because Pastor Scott is my mentor and he heard what St John’s is doing. What a great use for our basement that has been empty since I came here. If you have anything to donate, give me a call. We can pick it up if you can’t bring it to church. Items in need are end tables, lamps, dressers, etc. I really want to stress – gently used items.
We also have seen a greater need for help in living expenses. At the beginning of this health crisis, I mentioned in a previous letter that we experienced an uptick in request for HyVee gas/food cards. If you recall, we used to give ten-dollar cards and then we increased it to twenty. In our budget, in the Mission Fund, there is a line item for the Good Samaritan Fund. In the last two months or so, not only is there greater need for gift cards but for larger ticket items, such heating oil, electricity, car insurance, monthly phone payment, and rent. We have blown through the money that was allotted to the Good Samaritan Fund, but because of donations from members of your church, we are still trying to meet the needs of those requesting help.
Your church is working with PADS and Tri-County Opportunities. They have far greater resources that we can ever supply. But here is the problem. The people we help are living in crisis mode on a daily basis. Some have lost their jobs due to the fallout of COVID. Each one of them has a story and I always praise God that it is NOT my story. If we are going to help them, we lead them to PADS (which works with the homeless) and Tri-Counties (which works with renters or homeowners). However, even though they have greater resources, they are slow in providing them. When I ask those in need how soon they need help, their usual response is yesterday. It is not that the electricity is going to get turned off, it has been turned off.
I am working with a group of people who help me in dealing with these responses. What we do is try to supply their immediate need and then make it a condition if they want further help they have go through PADS or Tri-Counties. We also have contacts with these two organizations to help us verify that they are working in their system.
I am trying to be totally transparent. You should know what we are doing at St. John’s. Yes, we are fixing the plumbing and the air conditioning, but we are also serving the needs of our community. For all who donate money to the church, you are part of this.
The need is not going away. It is hard to believe that it will probably get worse. Your continued generosity, your open-handedness since the beginning of this pandemic, has been outstanding. I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for our church building and the mission of this church. I know some of you are tapped out, giving the most you can. I thank you. Your church thanks you. But for others who can give more, this is what I propose:
For the next three months, besides giving what you normally give to the
Church, you add a given amount more and designate it to the Good Samaritan
Fund. This designation will continue to meet the needs of our community.
I ask that you pray about this. No amount is too great or too small. Some of you have received a blessing in your bank account just recently (stimulus check). Would you consider using part of that blessing? Please, if you have any questions or comments, direct them to me.
2) I promise to make this one shorter. January 24th is our Congregational Meeting. The agenda, the budget, and information for those who are running for council, will be given to you in the next couple of weeks. We are allowed to run our meeting on-line through Zoom. The Church Council wants all of you to have the opportunity to take part in this. The two ways a member can do this is by either phoning in or using the internet. We will have our first practice session this week.
a) For those who are calling in using your phone, we will do this Wednesday, January 6th at 11:30. It will take about 10 minutes. Once we are logged in, I will pray for all of you and then you can go on with your day. This is what you need to do:
i. Call this number: 1-312-626-6799, then listen to the prompts.
ii. It will ask you for your Meeting I.D. Using your keypad type in
815-223-1144# (do not forget #)
iii. It will then ask you for the participant I.D. Using your keypad type in
0# (do not forget #)
iv. Finally, it will ask you for your password. Using your keypad type in
1144# (do not forget #)
Your phone number will appear on my screen. I will ask you, “who you are,” so we have record of your attendance. This is not a big deal now but for your vote to count in our Congregational Meeting, you must attend the meeting. If there is more than one person using the phone, I will need to hear from all of you. For instance: If Patty and I call in on her phone, someone will ask who is speaking. They must hear Patty’s voice and Tom’s voice.
b) If you are using the internet, we will have a practice session on Wednesday night (6th) at 7:00 pm. Eloide will send everyone the internet address to log in on (You do not have to have Zoom) . Kelly McCurry will be standing by on her phone to help with any problems. Her phone number is 224-723-8976. Get logged on and I will pray over the group at about 7:10. It is the same day as our Rabbit Trail Group, and you are always welcome to join our discussion.
Sorry about the length. I promise to cut my sermon short next week (Greg, I am kidding!) If you need anything, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am very aware for some the holidays are not joyous. Let’s talk.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always. Always!