The island of Iona in western Scotland is top of the list as one of my most holy places. It is noteworthy as being a 45 minute boat ride south of Fingal’s Cave, whose natural acoustics inspired Felix Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture. But the island is most known for the Iona Community, an intentional Christian community dedicated to acts of worship, justice, peace, and community building. John Bell is a minister in the Church of Scotland, and he works with the Iona Community. He is a prolific speaker and hymn writer, with one of my favorites being his hymn: Will You Come and Follow Me? It also goes by the name of The Summons, and the first four verses are Christ’s voice, asking His followers if they will follow Jesus wherever he leads, leaving behind all that they have known. The fifth verse is the singer’s response to the summons. It is a beautiful hymn.
The song is fitting for the point in which we find ourselves here at Covenant. Over the last year, the Session has been trying to find the best ways for us to follow Christ’s call as a church community. At our recent meeting at the end of January, after much prayer and intentional conversation, we approved several measures that will be put forth to the congregation at our Congregational Meeting on Sunday February 17.
The first two changes are a change in our structure as a Session. For the last year, we have been functioning with 6 elders instead of 9. The Session agreed to a trial year to see if this change would allow us to carry out our tasks faithfully, and if so, ask the congregation to approve our manual of operations to implement this change. We also decided to formally make space for a Youth Elder to serve each year, allowing us to have a Session of up to 6 adults and 1 youth. Additionally, in light of Nominating Committees having difficult times securing elders to serve a 3 year term, the Session approved 1 year terms for elders, beginning this year (2019). The Book of Order, part of our church constitution, allows for elders to serve no more than 6 consecutive years. We are asking the congregation to approve that elders serve no more than 3 consecutive years. This may result in some elders serving for one year, and some for three. We feel this gives us greater flexibility to identify those God is calling to serve.
The second change deals with the Committees of the Session. Having a smaller body, we have organized the committees under four different headings: Administration (Finance, Stewardship, and Personnel); Nurture (Koinonia, Worship, and Christian Education); Outreach (Evangelism, Witness and Service); and House and Grounds (Property and Maintenance). Elders will help facilitate these various teams, and we hope that congregation members will continue to serve in various ways in each area.
Lastly, we approved our budget for this coming year. While we closed out 2018 in a good position, our giving has been declining for a number of years. We were fortunate to end 2018 with a slight deficit, but due to a surplus from 2017 – largely due to a six month pastoral vacancy – we were able to cover all expenses. The budget for 2019 is less than in previous years, to reflect the decrease in giving. Sadly, one area in which we needed to make changes was in the church office. Alex Muller will now be working 3 days a week, beginning this month.
In some ways, these changes are exciting. In others, they are cause for concern, yet hope. We believe hope, grace, and love always have the final say. The first verse of The Summons sings:
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown; will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
As we move into 2019, let us turn and follow Christ wherever he leads, and never be the same. I give thanks to God for you and for the ways in which He has given us His Spirit, always faithful to us.
Thanks be to God.
(M) Indicated Military