I remember my first Sunday at Church In Bethesda.
I didn’t take a count of the people in the room for fear of what the number would be, but it was easy to see that the few who were gathered were eager to worship together and to dream about what we could become together.
Two years later, our sanctuary is filling up, vibrant, warm, and alive. I’d like to be able to take all of the credit for that, but, in truth, the credit belongs to you.
Some of you are new, some of you have been here for a long time, but you’ve made it a habit to keep coming back and participating in our life together, allowing God to work in your lives in such deep ways that the people in your lives are seeing it.
Now, those people are showing up and doing the same.
This is all part of God’s plan. It is the nature of healthy things to grow.
I am so grateful to be a part of this season of growth alongside you.
I had a professor in college who taught a course called, “Ministry and Finance.”
As we were getting ready to graduate, he made a statement in one of our final classes that has always stuck with me.
“The one thing you’ll become quickly aware of when you leave this campus and begin pastoring is that The Gospel is free. It always has been and always will be free. But getting The Gospel to people costs thousands and thousands of dollars.”
And he was right. From my very first day as a pastor, I saw this to be true.
Every idea, every program, every venture of good work, charity, and compassion was birthed out of a desire to share the love of God with people, but I quickly realized that these were impossible to execute without answering one crucial question.
The question? “How are we going to pay for it?”
At CiB, everything we do has a purpose— to share the love of God with others. How do we do that? In a million different ways.
A few of those ways are:
feeding the poor and working poor, Monday through Friday, 52 weeks a year, in our daily lunch program;
staffing our daycare, Bethesda Cooperative Nursery School, allowing us to offer quality childcare for lower income families;
maintaining the upkeep of our facilities to host classes, groups, and causes from in and around our community throughout the week;
providing Sunday worship services where we gather to love God and each other;
staffing our church with people of character, wisdom, and skill;
serving our neighbors at The National Institutes of Health, Children’s Inn by providing the children with gifts and celebrations;
serving our neighbors at Sunrise Assisted Living;
serving our neighbors at The Seasons Hospice with personal visits to provide support and relief to the clients’ families;
collecting household goods for newly released women prisoners;
collecting school supplies for the United Nations program for immigrant children;
and providing legal support for members in our congregation who are seeking to begin the path to citizenship in the United States.
I’m sure that you can think of other ways that our church is doing good work in our community.
Through careful strategy and the wise stewardship of our campus, we have narrowed our monthly operational deficit. We are now generating enough revenue to maintain our building and grounds.
However, as it pertains to ministry to people, though our congregation has grown in attendance, our offerings haven’t grown proportionately.
The reality is, that for every candle that we light in prayer, every meal that we give away, every child that is cared for, every class that meets, every group that gathers, every member of our team that comes to work, there is a price tag attached to it.
In other words, we are where we need to be in taking care of our campus, but not where we need to be when it comes to caring for our community.
This is understandable. It’s easy to forget the basics of charitable, not-for-profit work. Organizations like ours can do what we do in the world because of the freewill gifts of those who are a part of it.
You’ll often hear us say each week during The Eucharist, that, “All are invited to our table.”
The table, of course, is not just the table at the center of the sanctuary but also a metaphor for our community as a whole.
A table is a place of nourishment, dialogue, connection, and belonging. And all are invited into those things at CiB, regardless of their faith background, race, socio-economic status, orientation, or any other thing that tries to divide people from one another.
This is something that we deeply believe. And as our community has grown, we require more room at our table.
I am deeply grateful for our past. I am overjoyed about our present. I am also eager for us to make room for what is yet to come— ways that we can bless one another and our city in even greater measure.
In 2017-2018, we decided to make a major investment in our beautiful home by upgrading bathrooms, electrical system, roof, plumbing, and sanctuary renovations. We were able to make these upgrades by selling one of our properties.
Now, we plan to make another significant investment in our staff, programs, and outreach.
Beginning on September 15, we invite you to embark on a journey with us called, “Room At The Table,” where we will be asking for your help to raise $150,000.
This is not for bricks and mortar but for ministry. It is about being ready for those who will be joining us in the days to come. We want our church-home to be ready to care for our growing community, and to provide even more opportunities for those who are arriving to share their gifts and to follow their own spiritual path.
Some of the ways that we will do this is by:
adding a second worship service that meets earlier on Sundays at 9AM, allowing us to open our doors to those for whom an 11AM service is inconvenient;
building a revolving fund for those in our community who are seeking a path to citizenship in the U.S. but are unable to afford the legal costs;
expanding our presence online and in the media;
doing our part in caring for the planet by exploring the opportunity to power our facilities with solar power;
rebranding and reorganizing our church as an organization that not only offers “church” and all that it entails, but also as a “Spiritual And Educational Center” that is even more accessible and available to our neighborhood and our city;
and staffing our church with people of character and excellence to help care for our growing community.
We’re asking those of you who are already a part of our community to prayerfully consider what role you can play in this venture.
The three ways that we are asking you to consider depend on your current giving.
If you are not already supporting CiB financially on a regular basis, we are asking you to begin. It is so much easier for us to make plans when we know what to expect in donations.
If you are already supporting CiB on a regular basis, we are asking you to consider supporting CiB at a larger amount.
Lastly, we are asking those who are able, to give a one-time, extravagant gift, above and beyond your regular giving, to bring us to our goal of $150,000.
We are so excited to be a part of this next phase of the journey with you! Thank you for being a part of the bright future ahead for our community.
"ROOM AT THE TABLE," WEEK 1/4
Join us for the opening Sunday of “Room At The Table” where we’ll hear stories from a few people in our community about why they chose CiB and what they hope for the future, along with a special sermon about our work together from Pastor Ryan.
OPEN Q&A WITH PASTOR RYAN
Join us in the chapel at CiB to ask any and all questions that you might have about “Room At The Table.” Light refreshments will be served.
"ROOM AT THE TABLE," WEEK 2/4
Join us for the second Sunday of “Room At The Table” where we’ll hear more stories from a few people in our community about why they chose CiB and what they hope for the future, along with a special sermon about our work together from Pastor Ryan.
Have dinner on us!
Have dinner with a member of our leadership council (The Servants Group) to get to know them better and/or ask any questions that you have about “Room At The Table.”
RSVP required. Please email us, specifying which night is best for you.
"ROOM AT THE TABLE," WEEK 3/4
Join us for the third Sunday of “Room At The Table” where we’ll hear more stories from a few people in our community about why they chose CiB and what they hope for the future, along with a special sermon about our work together from Pastor Ryan.
"DREAM WALK” WITH PASTOR RYAN
Rarely do we ever get the chance to be out of our cars, getting to know and enjoy our neighborhood. Join Pastor Ryan for a casual walk around downtown Bethesda where we’ll dream about what God would like to do in our neighborhood.
"ROOM AT THE TABLE," WEEK 4/4
Join us for the final Sunday of “Room At The Table” where we’ll hear stories from a few people in our community about why they chose CiB and what they hope for the future, along with a special sermon about our work together from Pastor Ryan.
"ROOM AT THE TABLE," CELEBRATION!
Join us for the culmination of “Room At The Table” as we enjoy food, drinks, music, games, and as we submit the pledges that we feel led in our hearts to contribute to our “Room At The Table” campaign.
Dressy clothing is encouraged but not required. A prize will be awarded to the best dressed person or couple.
Read a timeline of Church In Bethesda’s History by Gary Kunz.