Who said annual meetings can’t be fun?

Those who follow Jesus are called into a life of Faith in the steadfast mercy of God, a life of Hope that dares us to walk into the unknown future trusting that all will be well, and a life of love for neighbors, ourselves, and the world around us.  

Given all of that, I have never understood why annual congregational meetings should be anything but joyful, hopeful, and loving! Of course there will be discussion and sometimes disagreement but in the end, we serve a a purpose bigger than ourselves and are saved by the same undeserved grace. All of that was clearly evident as about 90 people gathered for the 2021 Saint Michael Lutheran Congregational meeting this past Sunday. 

I will go into some of the items in more details in upcoming posts but for now I want to share highlights for those who were not able to attend and also to refresh the minds of those who were there. We had our usual slate of elections for leadership and representation including: 

Church Council members: Tom Richardson, Kris Casari, Don Bader, Kris Hoffman, Bill Lee 

Council Secretary: Mary Megel

2022 Nominating Committee: Robert Knox and Vicky Bronstad, Corky Janing, Robin Stych, Joyce Miller, and Mark Sheets

2022 Synod Assembly Voting members: Cory Curran, Joyce Palmer, Pat Stevens, and Brenda Phillips.  (Alternate) – Kris Hoffman 

We heard reports from the usual folks including Treasurer Kelle Scott who gave thanks for our faithfulness in giving. While contributions are below expectations, so too are expenses and if we finish the year with strong giving, we will continue our strong financial position that enables a whole variety of ministry to take place. 

We passed a budget with a modest 2.2% increase that decreased certain areas (including a lower mortgage payment thanks to refinancing) while also giving staff a higher percentage increase and taking certain inflationary items into account. We also raised our mission share the the NE Synod.

With great JOY we designated the 10% tithe of this year’s capital campaign to five worthy ministries: 

Lakota Lutheran Center- Scottsbluff 

Lutheran Family Services Refugee Resettlement

Oaks Indian Mission, Oaks Oklahoma

Serving Hands of Hope Foundation – South Sudan 

Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministry 

Throughout this past year, we have raised over $7000+ for the SMLC “Forty or More” anniversary appeal and the congregation voted to designate that to the Nebraska Synod’s 150th anniversary fund. These resources will be used to support small or under-resourced ministries as well as empowering new leaders for the church and providing congregations with additional outreach resources.  

One more thing…

The item that received the most discussion was an “out of the box” idea that I had concerning our very first pastoral intern, David Mayen. David has completed all the requirements of candidacy and is available to be called by a congregation to be a pastor. However, David is also fiercely loyal to the Dinka speaking congregation he has led both before he was our intern and up to this very day. This has made a call into ministry more complicated for him and he remains a “first call candidate” who is essentially leading the South Sudanese congregation as a volunteer on the weekends while he works a full-time job to support his family the other five days of the week. 

Several months ago, I began to think Saint Michael might have an opportunity to help. What if we could financially support a position that would allow the Dinka speaking congregation to call David as their pastor so that he would be officially recognized and ordained in the ELCA?  I spoke with bishop Maas and leaders at Messiah Lutheran where the South Sudanese congregation meets. We drew up a preliminary plan that included a 15 hr/week position over three years that would require about $22,000 per year. We applied and received an Immanuel Vision Foundation grant for $10,000 for this year.  

At the annual meeting, the congregation voted to move money from our General Fund into a special designated fund for this outreach project, with the invitation of individuals giving more to the fund as needed. These funds are part of a surplus we have and do not affect the budget. If additional funds are given, perhaps we will be able to continue support for more than the minimum three years. I am so proud of our congregation for being able to take this bold step! 

The council will play a key role and is best suited for all of the fiduciary and financial responsibilities yet to be worked out. We need additional meetings with the Bishop’s office and the congregational leaders of the South Sudanese Congregation to determine the exact nature of the call. There are provisions of the grant to satisfy and relationships with the South Sudanese congregation to build… but the congregation essentially said: 

This is important ministry and we will provide both congregational and personal resources to make it happen as the details are worked out.  

If there is some unforeseen reason the details can’t be worked out, these designated funds can always be reclaimed by the congregation at a future meeting and used for general or other ministry. So we have that built in flexibility.  

We closed the meeting with much thanksgiving for staff, outgoing council, volunteers and most especially for our good and gracious God who supplies more than we need and helps us accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine. We finished with a narrated video recap that I have linked to below. I thank God for the joy and faithfulness of this congregation, a community of people filled with more potential than we have yet to imagine!