Stewardship Resource

Debt Free in 3

Happening  Happening

Romans 12: 3-8
Holy Cross House had a vision.  The congregation wanted to remove their $360,000 debt so they could support the ministries at their congregation, community and the world.  The congregation supported and accomplished this goal.  These letters and sermon note a great insight into the congregation.


Petersburg is known as "Little Norway."  Norwegian fishermen founded the fishing village in 1898.  Our church was established in 1913.  Our major purpose in eliminating our debt on the beautiful Holy Cross House that was to free up $56,000 in our general budget to be re-directed into "people ministry" rather than paying the bank.  This congregation now has some "heavy" praying to do. 



October 23, 2007

Dear Friend in Christ,

You had a vision.  And under the leadership of Pastor Marohl the vision was realized...the building of the Holy Cross House dedicated to God in November of 1998.  As interim pastor, I moved in and learned about the congregation, I listened to people with another vision: "Let's pay off the mortgage and be free of debt."  Hearing this, I began to probe the elected leadership with this vision.  Green lights were lit.  In January the congregation in its annual meeting unanimously said, "Let's do it!"

So here we are...doing it!  I believe it's good to ask WHY...why are we doing it?  My answer to that takes me to the annual budget where we find that $55,416 is budgeted this year for mortgage payments.  By eliminating our debt, we can then put to better use that budget line item.  I don't get real excited about paying interest.  The simple answer to the WHY question is: eliminate interest/principal  payments, the sum of which can be re-directed into programmatic ministries in our congregation, in our community, and in our world.

What a wonderfully built building and what a wonderfully used building it is!  It's been a real blessing to us as a congregation and to the community.  I consider it the finest building of its kind in Petersburg.  Our willingness to unselfishly share this facility is recognized by the community creating a positive witness of what we're about...being a servant church.  Non-profits in our community use our buildings as our guests.  Nominal fees are charged to groups like the Forest Service and numerous other groups who are finding Petersburg a good place to hold conferences.  Two such conferences were held this summer and another is scheduled for February. 

When I arrived here in October of '06, our debt was about $360,000.  Just prior to my coming we received a sizable gift through a will of one of our members.  Since I came we have received another sizable gift through another bequeath.  Additional gifts to retire the debt have been made October '06 through October '07 lowering our debt level at the beginning of this campaign to about $300,000.  I can report to you that with this campaign hardly off the ground, we are experiencing tremendous support. Together we ARE going to be "Debt Free In 3!"

Which...brings me to this.  This is a three (3) year campaign.  Of the initial pledges already in, some have been able to give their entire pledge in one lump (using the mentality that the sooner we can pay it off the less interest we'll be paying).  Others are not able to "give it all at one" and simply need to spread their gift over a three year period.  Either way works!  Some may want to use the option of giving their gift in the form of stocks or bonds.  For some, there may be a tax advantage in so doing.

It must also be said that "robbing Peter to pay Paul" is not what this "Debt Free In 3" campaign is all about.  We are trusting that your pledge to this campaign will be "new money."  The general budget of our church will need your continued faithful and generous support.  "Debt Free In 3" money has simply got to be "over and above" your general budget contributions.

I mentioned above that by retiring our debt we will be freeing up $55,416 for re-directed ministries. 

One area of our ministry which needs serious improvement is our "pastoral package."  It is anticipated that our budget needs to be increased about $35,000 to bring our pastor's salary up to guidelines provided by the Alaska Synod.  We would also like to allocate portions of the remaining $20,000 to support "in-house" ministries (youth/elderly/?), community ministries, and Synod/global ministries.

Isn't it great to think that we'll be able to do all of this because we will no longer have to provide for mortgage payments!  Wow!

A few days ago you received the "Debt Free In 3" brochure put together by a team of gifted people in our congregation.  For your information, there are twelve teams working on "Debt Free In 3" involving about 45 people.  On Sunday morning at the close of worship we have marveled and laughed at the wonderful presentations of the Publicity Team.  TOGETHER...we are working!  TOGETHER...we are going to achieve our goal of retiring our debt!

For members of our church who have already headed for their winter's "wintering grounds," we have already conducted our presentation to them.  There were eight "giving units" involved.  Their response was very positive.  Our next presentation will be Sunday evening, October 28 for those people who will be leaving the Island before the official beginning of the Campaign on November 4.

On Sunday and Monday, November 4th and 5th, everyone will be invited to attend Bible Study number 1 named in memory of Joy Jannsen: the JOY study, Jesus Outgives You.  These studies will be held at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day.  The RUBY study (Riches Unveiled By Yahweh) in memory of Ruby Martens will be conducted the following week, the 11th and 12th at the same times.  It is our hope that you will find one of these times to attend these studies workable.  We will have a great time I'm sure!

At the conclusion of the RUBY study, you will be given a "paper of intent."  You will then have four days in which to pray about how you want to be involved in this debt reduction process.  At that time you will be asked to indicate whether you want to return your commitment to the church office on your own or if you want a team of two to call upon you to further discuss this effort.  We are asking that all commitments be collected before Sunday, the 18th so that a tabulation of pledges can be made, and the results announced at the Celebration Banquet on Sunday the 18th.  

Our financial records reveal that we currently have 137 active giving units in our congregation.  For those, who for whatever reason (and we hope they are few) are not able to attend any of the Bible Studies, it is our desire to visit them in their homes to discuss this effort and to invite them to the Celebration Banquet. 

"Debt Free In 3" is a TOGETHER event!  Our congregation is made up of a cross-section of people...from the young to the elderly...from some who have little to those who have much.  "Debt Free In 3" is a TOGETHER event!  No gift is too large; no gift is too small.  Each of us TOGETHER is asked to prayerfully consider our role. 

As your interim pastor, it is a real joy to help lead you in this effort.  From my pulse of the congregation, I would not be surprised at all if we not only meet our goal but surpass it.  Wouldn't it be fun to announce at our Celebration Banquet that we have met our goal and even exceeded it.  What a Thanksgiving 2007 would be if we were to give a special thank offering (the excess) to some worthy cause to support a ministry in need.

As your interim pastor, I want to thank you for your kindness and generosity toward us this past year.  You are a marvelous and beautiful people of God.  Your next pastor will be one of the luckiest pastors in the ELCA if you treat him/her just half as good as you've treated us!

To God be the glory!

Sincerely in Christ,


Alan L. Solmonson, Pastor



Monday, November 19, 2007
     
Dear Friends,

Hi.  This letter is going to be about us..Petersburg Lutheran Church. 

Last night we had a Celebration Banquet to culminate a program we have called "Debt Free In 3."  The evening started with an absolutely wonderful dinner..a lasagna orchestrated by one of our men, Rob Swanson.  He had about ten women "crafting it" Saturday morning.  Mary Ann was one of the crew.
She came home all excited that she had really learned something about lasagna-making under Rob's tutelage.  Our lasagna (at home) will never again be the same thanks to Rob. 

A "Seattle Caesar Salad" was also a menu item.  Get this:  To the romaine lettuce, avocado, green onion, crumbled bacon, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh pepper, mint, and crushed oregano were added.  Don't ever call Petersburgians backwards when it comes to culinary arts.  That just
ain't so!  Breads of many kinds and a brownie topped with whipped cream and a raspberry.  It was pretty and also pretty good to eat!

And then there was the program that followed to the hilarious delight of the 160 in attendance.  Our mistress of ceremony, Sue, was wild and crazy (her trademark).  She presented herself in a black furry coat and a hat out of the 50's.  Two "Very Professional Waitresses" were at her beckon call, and they themselves brought laughter and delight.  You could feel something going on in the room.  God's Spirit was present.  Anyone who couldn't feel God's presence had to be walking in their sleep.

With apologies to Robert Benchley, Sue then proceeded to "The Treasurer's Report."  She found more ways to corrupt that report than I could have ever dreamed...on both the credit and debit sides of her ledger.   She was laying the groundwork for the "real" report later in the program.

Sue then introduced "The Spanish Lutherans" who performed under the printed program's caption: "Whose House Is This?"  Tamara and Sue made their entrance holding a long stemmed rose in their mouth which they flung over their shoulders to us spectators.  Lila at the piano tickled the keys as they sang and danced an original song written for the occasion...all the time clicking their "clickers" which I've only seen done by belly dancers.  It was a marvelous display of creativity and the gifts of the people in this congregation.

And now it was time for group participation as we sang an original composition entitled "Onward Lutheran Savers" the words of which follow:

"Onward Lutheran savers, just a little more.  Brothers we are giving, where they gave before.  Loosen up the check books, it's up to you and me.  What a celebration, when this house will be debt free!  (Chorus)  Check for money under the mattress, every dime you can see.  Help the Holy Cross House be
debt free in three!"  Even those who say they can't sing were reported to be moving their lips.

Things were moving at a clip, and anticipation was building as we knew there was only one more item on the program before Larry "Moneybags" Peterson (the chair of Debt Free In 3" would rise to the  podium.  But first, a marvelous, computer driven slide show compiled by Dave.  I sat with merging tears under my nose as the Saints, who were instruments of God in the building of this ministry, appeared in frame after frame before us.  What a privilege, I thought, to now be a part of this history.  This blessing is beyond measure!

And now it was "Moneybags'" turn.  He makes his entrance, prancing to the podium as Carnac the Magnificent...even re-creating Johnny Carson's trade-mark stumble.  Moneybags' brother, John from Denver turned Catholic, was here for the event.  John was on the computer triggering sound effects as a build-up to Larry's opening of Carnac's envelopes.  One of his answers was: Pastor Al, Bev Siercks, and his own name, Larry Peterson.  He then tore open the envelope and read the question: Name a preacher, a teacher, and a leecher.  The chairs rumbled in laughter.

With further fanfare from his brother on the computer, Larry then gave another answer: "Zero."  Calmly he ripped open the envelope to reveal the question:  "What will be our debt as we begin 2008?"  At first there was a stillness that surprises often times create.  And then reality struck, and spontaneous clapping lifted the rafters.  Unreal!  Unbelievable!  God's Spirit had been turned loose.  God's Spirit flooded the Holy Cross House!

"Debt Free In 3 (years)" was never going to happen.  It was now just:  "Debt Free!"

A year ago our indebtedness stood at $350,000.  As I visited "around" in my first two months here, I heard a lot of unrest regarding the debt.  One thing led to another that led to another that led to last night.  Our treasurer just handed me an update:  as of this moment we are $20,134 in debt.  Come January 1 (for tax purposes) we will be debt free.  Our treasurer also just told me that we have over-pledged to the amount of $170,000, and she projects that with some pledges still "out there", we will exceed our goal of $300,000 by $200,000!  

What can I say to all of this?  I started by erroneously stating that this letter was going to be about us, Petersburg Lutheran Church.  That was wrong.  This letter's been about God our Father who created us.  This letter's been about God the Son, Jesus our Lord, who has redeemed us.  This letter's been about God the Holy Spirit who dwells amongst us encouraging us to be His servants.

Nope..it's not about us.  It's about God!


Petersburg "Debt Free In 3" Sermon

Romans 12: 3-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be for You, O Christ.

READ TEXT (Romans 12: 3-8)

FOR BY THE GRACE GIVEN TO ME I BID EVERY ONE AMONG YOU NOT TO THINK OF HIMSELF/HERSELF MORE HIGHLY THAN HE/SHE OUGHT TO THINK, BUT TO THINK WITH SOBER JUDGMENT, EACH ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE OF FAITH WHICH GOD HAS ASSIGNED.

FOR AS IN ONE BODY WE HAVE MANY MEMBERS, AND ALL THE MEMBERS DO NOT HAVE THE SAME FUNCTION, SO WE, THOUGH MANY, ARE ONE BODY IN CHRIST, AND INDIVIDUALLY MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER.

HAVING GIFTS THAT DIFFER ACCORDING TO THE GRACE GIVEN TO US, LET US USE THEM: IF PROPHECY, IN PROPORTION TO OUR FAITH; IF SERVICE, IN OUR SERVING; WHOEVER TEACHES, IN HIS/HER TEACHING; WHOEVER EXHORTS, IN HIS/HER EXHORTATION; WHOEVER CONTRIBUTES, IN LIBERALITY; WHOEVER GIVES AID, WITH ZEAL; WHOEVER DOES ACTS OF MERCY, WITH CHEERFULNESS.

As rich and pride-filled tradition that this is...
It behooves us...
TO NOT THINK MORE HIGHLY OF OURSELVES...
THAN WE OUGHT TO THINK...
BUT TO THINK WITH SOBER JUDGMENT...
ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE OF FAITH THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US

Yet...when I talk with friends about Petersburg Lutheran...
It is with a great sense of pride that I do so.

The 225 recipients of emails that I periodically write...
Are repeatedly told  about  what a wonderful place...
Petersburg and Petersburg Lutheran church is.

I boast of this place to my friends in WA, OR, SD, MN, IA, Wisconsin...and beyond.

But I do in the spirit of the Apostle Paul who borrowed the phrase from the prophet Jeremiah...
LET ANYONE WHO BOASTS...
BOAST OF THE LORD.

Bottom line...
We have a lot for which we can be proud...
We have much for which we can be thankful...
Thankful for...
The founding fathers and mothers of this church...
And their children...

And now...many of you...their children...
Joined by some of the "outsiders" who have discovered Petersburg.
We have so much of which we can be proud...
And for which to be thankful...

We can boast...
We are allowed to be proud...
That God's Spirit moved our forefathers and foremothers......
And continues...
To move...
And touch our hearts and minds in wonderful ways...
To make Petersburg Lutheran a meaningful, inspirational spiritual home.

Like our forerunners...
We are called and gathered together by God's Holy Spirit...
To keep this place vibrant in its ministry.

We didn't make this happen...
We didn't put all this together...
We were not the initiators...
The prime mover...
But God's Holy Spirit...
Called and gathered the forerunners...
Even as God's Holy Spirit continues to call and gather us.

And now we find ourselves...
Just a few steps away from being 100 years old.

God has kept his promise...
That wherever two or more are gathered in His name...
That He'd sit also...
To encourage and to be a part of that.

Beyond any doubt...
There were times when our forerunners questioned...
And perhaps even doubted...
When times were hard...
When the catch was poor...
And the price low...
And the winters long and hard.

Yet...
These people of God persisted...
Mixing concrete...
Pouring footings in the muskeg...
Raising walls...
And securing them with the steel rods above us...still visible.
To step inside of this building...
Is to step into a breathing history.

The shadows and the ghosts of those early Norwegian men and women...
Who plied the storms with sail and oar...
Who felled the majestic Sitka spruce...
Can be felt in the hallowed, candle-lit, Christmas Eve worship

Men made of steel...
And women not unlike their men...
Yet of tender and loving hearts...

It took people of all kinds to build this...our inheritance.

FOR AS IN ONE BODY WE HAVE MANY MEMBERS...
ALL THE MEMBERS DO NOT HAVE THE SAME FUNCTION.

Arms do not run...
Legs do not lift...
Eyes do not hear...
Ears do not see.

SO WE...THOUGH MANY...ARE ONE BODY IN CHRIST...
AND INDIVIDUALLY MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER.

That's why we sometimes call each other "brothers" and "sisters"...
That's why we sometimes laugh together and sometimes cry together...
That's why we call ourselves "a family."

Yet...
While joined as one body...
The Church of Jesus Christ...
We're not all alike.

Some of us are arms...
Some of us are legs...
Some of us are eyes...
Some of us are ears.

HAVING GIFTS THAT DIFFER ACCORDING TO THE GRACE GIVEN TO US...
LET US USE THEM.

If prophecy...
In speaking openly and boldly...
Of and for...
Our Lord.

If serving...
In doing acts of random kindness...
Caring, loving, giving.

If teaching...
Telling the story we love to hear over and over again...
The story of Jesus and His love.

If exhortation...
Speaking forthrightly but in a spirit of gentleness...
Rebuking if necessary...
But always encouraging.

If contributing...
With generosity with no strings attached.

If giving aid...
Doing so with endless energy and enthusiasm...
Showing mercy instead of judgment...
Cheerfully accepting instead of rejecting.

If I were looking for a church home...
And stumbled into this place...


Do you think it's going to happen...
To be "Debt Free in 3?"

Are some of us are arms...
And some of us are legs...
And some of us are eyes...
And some of us are ears.

That some of us are prophets...
Some of us are servants...
Some of us are teachers...
Some of us are exhorters...
Some of us are contributors...
Some of us are care-givers.

The answer I'd be looking for...
Is that we're one big family...
One body in Christ...
Called and gathered by God's Holy Spirit.

The answer I'd be looking for...
Is that we've been around for a long, long time...
Having built a memorable history...
Of which we can be...
And are filled with pride...
Boasting of what the Lord has done.

The answer I'd be looking for...
Is that through thick and thin...
Through big runs and little runs...
Through high prices and low prices...
That God's Holy Spirit has been present through it all...
Establishing His Church high on this hill...
To be His ambassadors of good will in this community.

And if and when given that answer...
I'd come back again...
And again...
And again...
And make this place...
My church home...
One body in Christ...my Christian Family.

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