Gratitude in a season of a pandemic - a 2020 Budget Report from the MSC Council on Finance and Administration

May 12, 2020
Submitted by the Rev. Dr. C. Dennis Shaw
Statistician, Mountain Sky Conference, UMC
Amber Mitts, Pastor, Alamosa First UMC, Alamosa, CO

“To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 King James Version (KJV)

"To everything, there is a season" indeed but gratitude is always in season: the generosity of the churches in the Mountain Sky Conference through April is impressive.

Through what was shared in April:  the sky is not falling. There is good news in where we stand at the end of the first third of the year:  right about where we would hope to be, about a third of our budgetary needs met through Mission Sharing. Again, thank you. Thank you very much! 

Figure 1:  Cumulative Mission Shares as % of Budget
Figure 1 shows where we have been at various months of the year since 2018 in meeting our (new) Conference budgetary needs. It also shows a wonderful resiliency and needs for our connectional system in a time where it’s so easy to feel alone and isolated. The hope of the realization that we are meeting our missional needs to reinforce our call to support each other; ‘however, we can, in whatever way we can.’ 

It is impressive how churches have kept the Conference in mind during these troubled times. Just as gratitude is always in season, generosity and honoring the connection are also always in season. Recessions can’t stop our connectional love and support!  Again, thank you. Thank you very much! 

While gratitude is always in season, urgency is particularly in season now: urgency is not anxiety:  urgency is about necessity, and anxiety is about fear.

It was through urgency we first heard the ideas of “flattening the curve” as we watched briefings on COVID 19. Through increased awareness, the goal was to reduce the exposure to the point that new cases would start to go down, and the slope on new cases would be flattened.

We have our own curve to flatten, if not bend.

Figure 1 also shows how we finished the years in 2018 and 2019:  both less than 100% of the budget. In both April of 2018 and 2019, the Conference was in a comparable position to 2020, and we missed the mark, considerably, by the end of the year. In anticipation of decreased income, we are taking steps to reduce spending by approximately 10%. 

Figure 2:  Twelve Month Moving Average

Figure 2 shows in part the issue before the Conference. If we look at each month as part of a moving chain of data and create a moving average (of monthly performance), the monthly chaos of very high and very low months are moved to order in our connectional performance. Our high as a new Conference, a new connection, was January 2019. Year-end is shown in yellow boxes.  April for the two years is shown as standalone numbers. 

We first flatten, then bend our own curve, up in our case, by sharing as we are able. During worship, we say to the gathered community to “Stand as you are able (in body or spirit).”  During this season of uncertainty, congregations experiencing abundance, or even status quo, are invited to share from that abundance as you are able. Many in our communities are experiencing scarcity in financial insecurity as a result of this pandemic. Others, like those on fixed incomes, can help continue providing in ways some find they cannot now. This is a gift of our connectional system: that we work together. In working together and meeting the needs, quite experimentally in this season, we witness to our collective call: reaching out and providing service and the hope of Christ to all.

Whereas the COVID 19 pandemic called us to ‘flatten the curve’, we need to bend our curve:  up.

Stand as you are able, share as you are able. This is a season of urgency in remembering and honoring our connection. Remember what our mission shares provide: deployment of new clergy leaders to replace those entering their own retirement seasons; training and education for clergy and lay leaders; leaders focused on missionally transforming our world; resources for all, across our conference. Continuing to contribute as we responsibly are able bears witness that we, the Mountain Sky Conference, stand resilient with the hope of what God is still doing in the world, through all whom God calls (spoiler alert: that's you!) Help us continue meeting and responding to the needs of our churches and connection, especially during this time where gratitude, mercy, and perseverance are desperately needed!

Dennis will share an article later in May on General and Jurisdictional connectional relationships with people called Methodists around the world.

Again, this season of a pandemic should be met with a season of gratitude, generosity, and urgency.

Again, thank you!

Dennis is a recently retired Mountain Sky Elder serving the Conference in various roles.

Amber is a recently commissioned Mountain Sky Provisional Elder serving the people of Alamosa, CO in her appointment to Alamosa First UMC.