As we continue to live into the ordinary time on the calendar of the Church Year, which we refer to as time after Epiphany, we “look twice” at the life of the congregation. We “look twice” in order to see what we do not notice when we look only once. In the midst of routine meetings and ordinary work, we hope to discover much more than we first notice.[pullquote_right width=”53%”]This month, as we glance back over our shoulder at the stewardship of 2013, we look not only once, but also “twice.”[/pullquote_right]

Each year in January, as committees begin their work again and as the church office tries to finish its work from the previous year, so it can focus solely on the work to come, we glance back over our shoulder briefly in order to discuss the stewardship of the church. The stewardship committee meets, the deacons hear the financial report, and the congregation discusses it at its business meeting in January. All of which involve spreadsheets and summaries that are a priority, but not exciting.

This month, as we glance back over our shoulder at the stewardship of 2013, we look not only once, but also “twice.” We see more than simple numbers organized in columns on spreadsheets, or just the difficult language of bookkeepers and accountants. We recognize these numbers as the generosity and commitment of the congregation. They are meaningful gifts, born out of faith and hope, sustaining the ministries of the church. As we look at these numbers “twice,” we give thanks.

On the last day of 2013 when the church accounted for every gift and expense, the church ended the year in the positive, exceeding its expenses by $29,109.41. This surplus over expenses was then applied to a deficit, which was carried over into 2013 at the end of 2012, which was a negative $69,617.78. This means that the church begins 2014 with a deficit of $40,508.37. We are grateful to reduce the deficit by such a generous amount, which is a signal of health and a positive step in a good direction. In addition, the church pledged a total of $444,405 towards the general budget of 2014, which is a significant increase compared to 2013, when $383,000 was pledged. Historically, the church also receives generous, regular giving, which is not pledged.

We look at these numbers on a spreadsheet “twice” because they represent the commitment and the resolve of the congregation, offering generous gifts for the work of the church. We can celebrate each gift to the church as an act of stewardship, for which we say, “Thanks be to God.” We give for the sake of our faith, for how the church shapes our lives, for the benefit of one another, and for the ministry of the kingdom of God. For all those reasons, we see the spreadsheets of the church in a different light. We look at them and see generosity, community, hope, and compassion. We are thankful for the leadership of the congregation, deacons, and stewardship committee. We glance over our shoulders and say to one another as the church, “We are grateful.”