Love and Spreadsheets
If I’ve said it once, people have heard me say it 100 times, “Sometimes love looks like a well managed spreadsheet.” Well, friends, on Sunday I did my best to make that so. As some of you know, I keep track of the way I spend my time ministering to this community. By doing this I feel I can present a clear picture of the ways our shared ministry together in the world works in harmony. I started this practice on my very first day as an intern minister right after divinity school. It’s stayed with me ever since. It’s a habit now.
The world’s faiths are full of wisdom about the power of habits. “Actions become habits. Habits become values. Values become destiny.” The great justice maker and teacher Gandhi is credited with this version. The original saying might date back as far as the Dao Te Ching by Lao Tsu. And though I have no idea what destiny may be in store from this habit, I agree that habit reflects values. I don’t necessarily mean the dollar value of the funds we are seeing in the basket. And I don’t mean the growing number values of attendees. I don’t even mean the values of the percentages of how I spend my time. It’s more than that.
One of the most important qualities of any institution or group is the dedication it has to its own stated values. New people and visitors will always compare what they see in a group’s actions or habits with the values stated in anything it holds out as a guiding document, like the 8 Principles. And in a sense, by sharing the results of our actions of record keeping, number crunching, and time management, we see habits of this organism we are co-creating together every day, every week, every year: our church. You can take a look at the report I compiled here if you’re curious or would like a review: 2019 Minister’s Report.
Personally, I was struck most by the growth in the shared-plate offerings. The sharp increase in funding this faithful decision tells us all a lot about this church. We want to help groups around us continue the work they are doing to improve the lives of our neighbors, our loved ones. The relationships the church is making through this habit is also strengthening the connective fabric between our community and those who are doing work in so many corners of this island. And the evident enthusiasm this habit has evoked tells us clearly how much we value these connections.
None of us can say with certainty what destiny holds for our community. But what is certain is that we are seeing more and more people coming to be with us on an island whose population is in decline. And what is certain is that in the span of two years we are now receiving more than we were from plate collections while also sharing an equal amount with a local group. And I know if we can keep the practice of these habits and deepen further the values they hold, our destiny together will certainly be to grow compassion, justice, and joy.
And may it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.