Testimony – Build. Gather. Grow. Campaign

During worship on Sun., April 16, our Senior Minister Rev. Molly offered the testimony below about the commitment her family decided to make to the Build. Gather. Grow. Capital Campaign.  Rev. Kelly & Rev. Sheryl Johnson offered their testimony last Sunday, and Capital Campaign Chair Sara Woods will share hers this Sunday!

“I didn’t grow up knowing how to give. I’ve mentioned before that life with my mother meant poverty: welfare and food stamps, eviction and changing schools constantly, thrifted clothes and not in the cool way. Life with my father had a bit more economic stability, but my working-class dad was the grasshopper not the ant of Aesop’s fable, and money was a source of constant tension.

When I was in grad school, going deeper into student loan debt, I met my first real money mentor. Pastor Ruth was my field ed supervisor at the church we both served in the poorest neighborhood in New Haven. She didn’t make much more than her parishioners, but taught me in a very straightforward way about tithing 10% of her salary back to the church, and she took this hungry seminarian out to lunch every week for our supervision time. I began to see that it was possible to be generous no matter how much or little I had. I began to give.

My husband Peter (who would be standing next to me today, but our daughter woke up with a bad asthma attack) was my second money mentor. We started dating our third year in seminary. He lived very modestly himself but was generous with others—quick to tip profligately, quietly gifting those in need, always bringing a spirit of abundance to every gathering, even though he’d grown up with money troubles too. We functionally merged our money very early in our relationship, so I was along for the ride of his generous spirit.

We spent the next couple of decades working—me in churches, he primarily in university settings, paying for day care, paying off student loans, working our way up to a tithe in our churches, and saving as much as we could, determined to be ants and not grasshoppers. Then we moved to California, and he took a job in the private sector, where he’s been working for the last six years. That meant we could give even more than 10% away. Giving still feels good. In fact, it feels better than ever.

Because I grew up housing insecure myself, it is fundamentally important to me that everybody have a safe place to live. It’s why I’m such a fierce advocate for affordable housing.

But people need more than a physical home. They also need a spiritual home. A third space where they can be free to be themselves. To gather for challenge and comfort, for growth and learning, to experience participatory transcendence. We have a spiritual home already in this beautiful sanctuary and the beautiful people who inhabit it, but we are not complete. There would be so much more we could do if we had full functionality: including a working kitchen, which is the hearth and home of a healthy church.

That’s why, even though we are staring down the barrel of two college tuitions next year, Peter and I want to support the Build. Gather. Grow. Campaign at the highest level we can manage. We are committing $50,000 toward our new community building. We need more than the basic permitted building. We need that dang kitchen!

So many churches I know have witnessed the end of their institutional lives. That little urban church in New Haven closed, and Pastor Ruth became a high school guidance counselor. Even the large suburban church north of Boston where I served in my first call is closing next year.

Our church is far from dying. But we can do better than that. We can really live. We can build something. I want to build something enduring and beautiful and helpful. I hope you will join me with your most generous gift to this church that has been a hearth and home for you, so we can keep building.”