In my first congregation, Pledge Sunday came and went in a day, and I didn’t even know it was happening. The wealthier members of the church had been told to be there with their checkbooks on a particular March Sunday. I noticed an unusually busy coffee hour after which the budget, for all intents and purposes, was raised.
In my second congregation of 300 members – in Illinois – people were asked to stay home after church on Pledge Sunday until a canvasser visited them. They do this in other parts of the country. When I came in that Sunday evening to do some work the pledge drive chairman was sitting behind my desk receiving and totaling pledge cards and passing out cans of beer because they had already gone over the goal.
During candidating week at my third settlement, the treasurer told me that they would have to withdraw the salary offer which had drawn me there in the first place, because the fund drive (run by that same treasurer) had been a disaster. For reasons that had nothing to do with me, they had not been happy campers that year and took it out in their pledging. It took five years to lift the morale of a congregation, which had begun life with its new minister on such a disappointing note.
Liberal congregations survive because they recognize they are united by an unwritten covenant. The covenant I speak of is a promise we make to one another that we will support the church as an institution, recognizing that our level of support may have to be increased over the years. If this covenant is faithfully kept by most people the congregation prospers. If the opposite is the case the congregation enters into a descending spiral with painful decisions having to be made each year. In this time in our nation’s history every justice-seeking congregation counts for a lot, and I hope you’ll give your full attention to this one. –John Nichols