Have you looked at your pensions account lately? I have, and I didn't enjoy it.
Our nation is going through a historic crisis in the financial markets, and the collapse in the value of investments has affected many people personally. Anxiety is running very high.
I do not want to underestimate anything, but I do believe that people of faith should have a perspective that keeps us from giving in to our worst fears. Our faith in God reminds us that there is more to life than our material possessions. " We look not to what can be seen but at what cannot be seen,' wrote the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 4:18). Faith conditions us to ask for our daily bread, but warns us against expecting our daily cake. When we are facing a loss of security, our faith in God is the source of the courage and hope we need to persevere in making adjustments or seeking employment.
When I think about the impact of hard times on our conference, my first thought is of the families where the adults are losing their jobs. Many of our members work in the construction industry or in businesses related to real estate. In these sectors, we have had a severe recession for many months. These families need the support of the church during these times. Churches help by providing a place for people to share their concerns, praying for them, and giving as much support as possible in job placement and helping with food or bills.
I also think about the impact of hard times on local churches' budgets and on connectional giving.
Our connectional giving this year has been stable so far. We all are concerned about how giving will be at the end of the year when we receive most of our contributions to support the life and ministry of the church. At the end of September we had received 54.04% of our total conference budget compared to 51.38% in 2007. You may remember that we did reduce the conference budget for this year by about $1,100,000, and we were able to negotiate a general reduction in property and casualty insurance by 21% generally. I am grateful for the faithfulness of all the members of our churches to their local church budgets and to our connectional giving.
Out of every situation can come some good. I suspect that every one of us will be going through some serious reassessment of our values and practices. As persons, as churches, and as a country we can learn some lessons that could serve us well in the long term.
I want to thank all of you are doing what you can to show the love of Christ to our members and the people in your community who are being affected the most by the present financial crisis. May the Spirit of God bless you as you are a blessing to others.
(This week I shall be at the meeting of the Council of Bishops at Epworth-by-the-Sea. We shall begin our planning for the new quadrennium. Your intercession for the Council is appreciated.)