Help Support Bethlehem as We Support our Community!
Dear Bethlehem Family and Friends,
This year I've preached several times about God's economy, an economy of abundance in which there is grace and love for all. It is also an economy in which we live the proverb cuando come uno, comen dos, if one can eat, two can eat. The time we're living through now is a challenge and an invitation to embrace that principle - because so many people are struggling we need to find ways to stretch every resource we have to show love and care to one another and our community.
Before coronavirus, Bethlehem was on track for its best year financially in a long time. We had a solid budget that included raises for our staff and increased programming, and we actually finished 2019 in the black. We were also one of only six congregations in the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod who had two consecutive years of increased worship attendance. Since we've suspended in-person services, congregational giving has stopped almost entirely. This is due to a combination of a few things. Many of our members have lost jobs or had their hours drastically cut. Others are taking care of family in new ways, or are being expected to homeschool children for several hours a day while still working fulltime. Another major reason is that most of us at Bethlehem are in the habit of giving when we go to church, and since we haven't been having services, we haven't had that opportunity.
Bethlehem's Administrative Team met last week and is committed to continuing to pay our staff through this crisis, along with continuing our free meal program. Unlike many organizations, we've actually expanded programming during the pandemic. We've turned Community Table into Community Table ToGo, which now provides over 320 free meals to our community each week, and has brought in over $7000 on top of our initial $10,000 fundraising campaign since the start of the pandemic. We've started online evening prayers on Tuesday nights at 9pm. I've begun recording reflections every Sunday to be posted on our facebook page and website. All of this requires that we keep our building maintained and cleaned even more than usual, and reflects our commitment that even in a crisis Bethlehem will be here for our community.
At our meeting, I asked our administrative team to reduce my monthly salary by $1000 for the next three months to help us get through this crisis. This will help our monthly cashflow, especially since we recognize that for many people, basic survival is the top priority right now. They agreed to this temporary measure, yet in order for us to continue our commitments to feed our community and pay our staff, we're going to need our wider community to pitch in.
Since we started Community Table ToGo in the middle March, we've gotten thousands of dollars in gifts to support that program, and every week I get emails and calls from people who had never before been connected to Bethlehem. We have a clear sense of purpose that gives life to our community and shows God's love, and because of that people power and money have been showing up! By praying about our purpose and listening to what God is calling us to, we'll be able to keep our momentum going and dream of more and more ways to build up our church and community.
We are a strong community seeking to grow even stronger through this crisis, and our strength comes not from a big endowment, but from our faith in God, our stubbornness in the face of danger, and our bravery in proclaiming God's love for all in a world that favors the few.
Thank you for your commitment to our community, and for your financial support!
Pastor Ben Groth