Partnership at St Thomas
We spent all of Lent talking about what it meant to become a partner at St Thomas, but because of the nature of our wonderful community and the fact that Spring Break fell within that window, many of us weren’t in the room for every message. So I thought I would take a few hundred words to summarize the messages. I want to do that by speaking to a few of the questions that I have heard from many of you.
Question 1: “Wait, what is happening?!”
Answer: Well, we are in the process of becoming a “member church” in our denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church. That means that we are going from a church plant who is invited to listen at our denominational meetings and votes, to a full voting member who is able to share and participate in the direction of our denomination. Beyond that, it means we are moving from a church ruled by a hopefully benevolent dictator (me) to a church run by an elected Leadership Team made up of our members who will serve alternating two-year terms. (Currently, Lena Prine, Jana Loney, Kandi West, Jaken Garcia, Ryan West, Robert Garcia, Linda Ardelean, and myself.)
Question 2: “Well why are we in a denomination in the first place?”
Answer: I think denominations matter for a lot of reasons. Firstly, they provide all kinds of support through trainings, retreats, even finances, and help me to be a better, healthier pastor. And secondly, they provide accountability to keep me (and any future pastors) from ever abusing our positions, to protect our congregation from our blind spots, and to help our pastors find healing if they need it.
Question 3: “Okay so why’d you chose this denomination?”
Answer: There are tons of reasons! 1) The Covenant allows for a diversity of opinion more intentionally than any other denomination I know of, and that allows churches like us to have open and honest conversations without feeling the pressure to “tow the denominational line.” And 2) The Covenant cares deeply about diversity and equal representation around the table. They have worked incredibly intentionally over the last 20 years to go from a predominately Swedish denomination, led by white men, to a multiethnic, multicultural denomination lead by diverse men and women representative of those who call the Covenant home.
Question 4: “Got it, so what does this mean for me?”
Answer: That’s kind of up to you. As we become a member church we will have a ‘partnership’ roster. We will also have yearly meetings where the budgets are approved, and the vision of the church is laid out. If you would like to attend that meeting you can choose to do so. If you would like to vote at that meeting you will need to become a “partner.”
Question 5: “What does ‘become a partner’ mean?”
Answer: A partner is someone who has decided they are “bought in” with the vision of St Thomas and partner with the rest of the church to make that vision a reality. To become a partner, fill out a card and meet with a member of the leadership team. Their job isn’t to decide if you are theologically sound enough to become a partner, but rather to make sure that any involvement at St Thomas starts with relationship.
Question 6: “Are there any other requirements to partnership?”
Answer: Some, because partners are responsible for approving the budget, they are also expected to help meet the budget, so every partner is expected to give to St Thomas. There is no minimum giving amount, however, so if money is tight right now, $1 a month is absolutely fine. Beyond that, we just want our partners to want St Thomas to continue refining and accomplishing our current vision of bringing about the kingdom of God to Salem. Like I said in my closing sermon, “We are not looking to define who is in, or who is out, we are looking around wanting to know who is going to help us over the next hill, and maybe more importantly, the mountain x number of hills down the road.”
Question 7: “When’s this all happen?”
Answer: We want to be REALLLLLY intentional with this process, so it will all happen slowly over the next two years. We will begin meeting with interested partners now. We’ll have a partnership Sunday next Spring. And we will become an official “Member church” in the Spring/Summer of 2021. We aren’t in a rush, so it’s okay to express hesitancy be a part of this process.
Question 8: “Okay…. I still have more questions, what do I do with that?”
Answer: Call or email Mat, Linda, or any member of the Leadership team and we will do our best to answer any questions you’ve got!