Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

My Remarks at Dinner: Capital Campaign Celebration, All-Church Dinner

Building the Beloved Community

Associate Minister’s Remarks  at the Capital Giving Campaign All-Church Dinner 11/2/2012

UU Society of Sacramento, CA

Isn’t this a beautiful event!  Isn’t this a beautiful space!  [A synagogue’s event hall down the street from the church.]

Well, you know, we’re going to make a beautiful space down the street, at UUSS.  A renovated, updated, enlarged, earth-friendly campus to support our congregation, serve the community, and welcome new generations of open-hearted seekers for the next half century.

I’d like to thank those of you on our Capital Campaign Leadership Team, and the 200 volunteers you have recruited, not only for tonight’s dinner, but for the hard work you’ve been doing since last spring.   The weekly meetings, hours of conversation, flurries of email, last minute scurrying, nights of lost sleep, and your own generosity to the campaign.

I know you would not have done it all if you did not have deep faith in the generosity and potential of our members and friends to rise to the occasion.   I’d like to thank Bud Swank [our consultant} for showing us what we are capable of doing, and for backing that up with real numbers based on surveys and over 60 face-to-face interviews.   I’d like to thank the Rev. Doug Kraft, Jeff Gold [our architect] and especially our Master Planning Facilitators for your gifts of listening, imagining, and envisioning what our future can look like at 2425 Sierra Blvd.  Your creativity has been an inspiration to all this generosity.

I’d like to thank our staff members, including administrative, custodial, child care, music, sign language interpretation, educational, and all the others who work here… for a few hours a week or all week long.  Thank you for helping the congregation get optimal use of the campus that we do have.

As you’ve heard, initial gifts and commitments for the next two years have now reached the $1 million mark!  I understand the charge I was given for tonight, I’m supposed to nail down the second million dollars of commitments … before we leave this place.

I’ll try. But first I want to tell you what happened early this morning.   I was in the lobby of the YMCA in town.  I had already exercised and cleaned up.  I was sitting at the table, drinking coffee, reading the Sacramento Bee, chatting with Y members passing through.

A friend of mine was staffing the front desk.  He asked, “Roger do you have a busy weekend planned?”

Oh yeah!”  I told him about this dinner and the capital campaign.

“What’s your goal?”  I explained the Victory Goal is 1.1 million, the Stretch Goal is 1.5 million, and the Miracle figure is 2.2 million.

A woman across the room overheard me. “Where’s that? What’s that for?” she asked.

“My congregation,” I said.  “Which one?”  I said our name and our location.

Sitting across my table with his own cup of coffee was a big burly man.  He’s cheerful and loud. He talks a lot every time he’s there, even if I try to ignore him by reading the paper.  He tries to get me to talk about politics, but I seldom take the bait.

Now he was asking about my congregation.  “Are you a Bible-based church?”

“Not very much,” I said.  Then I gave a little background on Unitarian Universalism.

“What are your doctrines?”

Oh, boy.  Here we go.  I knew that other people were now listening.   I did my best to give a clear and inviting summary of what our tradition teaches about human beings, ethics, the inter-connectedness of life, and the everlasting love of the divine.

He asked:  “Heaven and hell?”  I talked about our Universalist heritage.  “Many of us think that this is the only life we can be sure of.   Not knowing what comes next, for us what matters is what we leave behind.”   He told me a few of his own thoughts—much more conservative.

I asked: “Do you have a congregation?” “Yes, ___ Church,” he said.  This is a Christian evangelical mega-church.  12,000 people!  You know what they call their capital campaign?  The Sunday morning offering.

This gentleman took out his cell phone to show me pictures.  He said, “I’m in the spa and hot tub business.”  And he explained that his church had asked him to bring some extra large hot tubs to the parking lot for baptism rituals.

He showed me pictures of Jacuzzis waiting for the faithful.  “I even rented a 20-foot swimming spa.”  That’s the kind of pool with constantly moving water, so you can feel like you’re swimming laps without going anywhere.

I said, “You mean they do multiple baptisms at once?  A whole group gets dunked at the same time?”  Yes, he saidwhole families at once, groups of friends, ministry-circle groups.

Then he showed a video on his phone:  crowds of casually dressed folks stood around while a Christian rock band sang in the background. The blue-green water gleamed in the baptismal spas.

“Do you do baptisms?” he asked.

 “Not usually,” I said. I said I would if somebody asked for one.  (I’d probably just take them down to the American River.)  I told him what our child dedication ritual looks like.  I did say that I had been baptized as a teenager in the Midwest, in a built-in baptismal pool that was too cold to be mistaken for a hot tub.

Pretty confused now, he got up to show his video to someone else.  I made my exit.  As I neared home, I thought about our capital campaign.

You know that our Master Plan includes an outdoor amphitheater and a labyrinth on the grounds.   But I want to raise with you the idea of a baptismal pool instead.

This is my idea of how we’ll get the next million dollars of our campaign.  Bear with me here.  See this purple envelope?  If you’d like us to do this, put your additional gift or extra Commitment Form in this envelope.   It’s for your YES votes.

Now for those of you who think this is an outrageous idea, this is the red envelope.  This is for your NO votes.  Please put your extra gift or commitment in this envelope.

We’ll pass these out as you leave tonight. On Sunday we’ll count the money.  If people give more in the purple envelope, for the baptismal spa, that’s what we’ll build.  But if we get more money in the red envelopes, then we won’t go down the path of Jacuzzi spirituality.

The only catch is, you have to be willing to accept how the monetary vote comes out.  No refunds.  Now, I know what’s on our campaign chair’s mind:  Why didn’t she think of this first!

Seriously, though.  Doug Kraft has remarked that autumn is a time when wild animals get ready for the winter, ready for their future.  It’s when squirrels finish gathering acorns to last through the coming months.  Gathering acorns, saving up.

Many human beings, if we are fortunate, also try to save up for the future, to store away some of our resources, gather a pile of acorns.  And as we enter the future, if we are lucky, opportunities arise for us to put a portion of our acorns to good use.

This Giving Campaign is an opportunity to share some of our acorns.  Judging by the ongoing success of our campaign, seeing that the generosity continues, I assume that—for many of us—we do not feel diminished by sharing from our acorns, we feel enlarged and hopeful.  We feel good.

A friend of mine was a college professor before entering theological seminary to go into the ministry.  Teaching and ministry are both about giving… giving of yourself, he said.  Just like parenting, customer service work, health services work and many other ways that many of you spend your time:  giving of yourself.  But we also should remember that we need balance.  Giving and receiving—they are a balancing act.

He said, “When I was teaching, in some semesters I would leave a class and feel that I had cheated my students.  I had enjoyed it, I had gotten so much more out of teaching the class than I had given to them.  They are the ones who are supposed to be enriched by the class, not me,” he said.

“But you know,” he went on, “those were the classes in which I got the most positive student evaluations!”

He had thought he was not giving as much as he was receiving, but he learned the opposite.

He said:  “It is possible to feel that you are receiving more than you are giving.  And perhaps, that is because you are doing your best giving.”

Perhaps, when we feel that we are receiving more than we are giving, it is a sign that we are doing our best giving.  Does this ring true for you?

However you are deciding the ways that you will participate in this capital campaign, I hope you can find moments when you feel that you receive more than you give.

And I hope you can stop and think:  “Maybe I am doing my best giving right now, because I feel so good about what I receive.”

As we participate in Building the Beloved Community, we may receive thanks and we may feel delight, pride, and accomplishment.  We give and receive a gift to one another, and from one another.

Yet let us not forget, we are giving to those who come after us.   We are giving to people we may never know.  We are giving more than we know.

It feels good.  It feels wonderful to me.

I hope it feels good to you.  Thank you for all you give, and for all you do.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you for being you.

Amen, and blessed be.  Namaste.

1 Comment so far
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People have responded to what I thought was a joke. I’ve received three envelopes with donations totaling $130 as of Sunday. I won’t say how much is for the hot tub/baptismal pool and how much is for the current plan of a labyrinth and amphitheater, so if you have a preference, be assured that additional donation votes are still being accepted!

Comment by Pastor Cranky

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