By Peter Wall
Happy New (Big Red Church) Year! At our annual meeting last month, we elected a new church council. As part of that process, you elected me to serve as the “Chief Financial Officer” (or “CFO”) for our church. And one of the things I hope and plan to do for this year is to write a monthly column for the Grape Vine (the one that goes out in the mail) about money matters here at church.
This is the first of those monthly columns, so I will start by introducing myself. My wife Mary and I first came to the Big Red Church about five years ago. Like many of you, we were pulled in by the music and the inclusive atmosphere. We wanted to be where people “draw the circle wide” because “no one stands alone,” as our song for the children’s Time for Discovery goes. So we did not waste much time getting involved. What else? I am a lawyer by profession. I work for the County of Fresno (which is not the same thing as the City of Fresno, by the way), in the Office of the County Counsel. Yes, that means I am both a lawyer and a government employee, so I get to be doubly unpopular. Most Sunday mornings these days, you can see me in the choir. I am up in the back row singing tenor (which is the best part, of course). My undergraduate degree is in music, with an emphasis in piano performance. I am opinionated, often argumentative, and sometimes impatient. For the last, I apologize in advance.
Speaking of being opinionated and argumentative, I should tell you up front that I resist the title of “CFO” because I dislike the church’s appropriation of jargon from the business world. Although we have “business” to “transact,” as Article IX, Section 3, of our Bylaws recites, the church is not primarily a business. In my opinion, we ought to think of the church more like a family. That does not mean we ignore money issues. Families have to think about money, too. That is why the title of this column is “Our Family Finances.”
What are my official duties? They are described in Article X, Section 7, of our Bylaws, in language that is delightfully old-timey. Primarily, I am to “receive and keep all monies contributed for the support of the Church and its benevolences.” That includes keeping records and making monthly reports to the council and annual reports to the congregation. You should know that a lot of the nitty-gritty work is done by our accountant Penny Peterson, who volunteers her time. But if you have questions or concerns about money matters this year, I encourage you to contact me first. Just know that I might need to talk to Penny in order to answer your questions.
I know that money is an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people. But we need to talk about it. The work of the church is to “draw the circle wide,” and to “draw it wider still.” This is not just a metaphor: we really do need to have a safe and peaceful place where “no one stands alone,” and where “the Church and its benevolences” can be prayed and enacted into being. The church is the body of Christ and, like all bodies, it needs food to eat, and it needs room to grow and play and live and rest. And in a world where everything is measured in money, the only way to make that room, and draw that circle in a real way, is with money. This uncomfortable reality is our challenge. And I submit to you that we cannot expect ourselves to be propped up from outside: we are responsible in our own generosity to draw that circle together, as widely as possible. So I am going to talk about money this year.
You can write to me at [email protected] or talk to me at church or wherever you happen to find me. My phone number is in the church directory.