Letter from Pr. Emily Beckering, St. Paul, Reading demonstrating how we are stronger and better together
The following letter was sent to your pastor and council on October 12, 2017. We think the story is so compelling you'd want to read it too!
-The SOS Stewardship Team
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is the hope of every congregation to serve Christ faithfully; it is the dread of every congregation—whether it be subconscious or at the forefront of everyone’s mind—to close. I pray that you never face that heartache, but if you do, know that you are not alone. God has power to deliver us from all our fears; I know this because God has delivered me, and the people whom I serve, from ours.
In August of 2015, after the first week serving St. Paul Lutheran Church in Reading, in my very first call, the council discovered an ominous problem: we had not paid our withholding taxes for our employees to the IRS or to the State of Ohio in eleven quarters. We had not paid property taxes on the parsonage in three years. Our coverage with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had lapsed. Questions swirled in our heads: What do we do now? What do we do first? How did this happen? How will we pay for this? What if this is the end?
Without the help of Bishop Dillahunt and the Synod staff, we might still be wrestling with those questions. Pastor Jeff Wick connected us with Joy Hacker, the Synod CPA, who became our Power of Attorney and communicated with the IRS and State of Ohio on our behalf. She poured over our records and gave us guidance as to how to proceed. The Handbook for Treasurers from the ELCA website enabled our Council and Finance Committee to put a system of financial controls into place to get us back on track. By sheer grace, the Holy Spirit brought us through this catastrophe. God provided us with the support and wisdom of the Bishop and Synod staff. God raised up leaders in our congregation uniquely suited to sort out our finances. God poured out generosity from members of St. Paul and from our sisters and brothers at Atonement Lutheran Church, Springdale, who graciously gave us $6,800 when they closed. Because of this generosity, we were able to pay over $65,000 to the IRS, State of Ohio, and Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and no longer have any tax debt.
It is evident that we could not have done this without the support of the Bishop and the Synod staff, the resources of the ELCA, or our sisters and brothers in Christ at Atonement Springdale. We benefitted greatly from and rejoice to be part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in the Southern Ohio Synod.
In 2015, we did not give any mission support to the synod. Out of gratitude for God’s rescue and provision, we began giving again to the Southern Ohio Synod in 2016, increased our mission support in 2017, and will do so again this year. It has never been clearer to us that we are “better and stronger together, joining Jesus in the restoration of the world.” Even if we continue as a congregation for 100 more years, we cannot do this alone; we need the greater church in Southern Ohio.
It is difficult when times are tight and when your council agonizes over how to pay the electricity and gas bills—let alone the staff salaries—to fathom giving mission support to the Synod. Yet, the God who emptied himself and humbled himself to the point of death on a cross asks us to move beyond ourselves to give of ourselves for the sake of Christ’s mission. The people of Atonement in Springdale gave us a tangible experience of this; in their dying, they gave of themselves, and God brought us new life. Please prayerfully consider your mission support in 2018 so that all of us here in the Southern Ohio Mission Territory might continue to have the benefit of our Bishop’s and Synod staff’s leadership, the resources and support which they provide, and the unity and blessing of sisters and brothers in other ELCA congregations throughout our region with whom we learn, grow, and serve.
You might be thinking, “Easy for you to say.” True today, but it wasn’t true 18 months ago; I say it because of what God has done for us. I do not know what you are facing right now, but I do know that the same God who rescued us is the One at work for you. Christ is with you and the future of your congregation and your people are in his hands.
Thank you for the ministry that you do, for the sacrifices that you make so that God’s love might be experienced and Christ might be known, and for your partnership in the Gospel. Thank you for considering increasing your mission support to the Southern Ohio Synod of the ELCA so that life-changing ministry in your congregation and in others might continue.
God is with you.
Pastor Emily E. Beckering
St. Paul Lutheran Church
106 Maple Street
Reading, OH 45215
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Contact Rev. Katie Kerrigan, Director of Evangelical Mission. firstname.lastname@example.org 614.464.3532