Steve’s Slant

As I write this, in just a few hours the president will give his first State of the Union address since taking office last January.  So, per my recent custom, I’m going to follow that example and offer my own thoughts on the state of our union here at Warren Wilson Presbyterian.

I have covered some of this ground already.  In December, I sent a message to the congregation in which I shared with you what I deemed to be good news of great joy: that the investments we’ve made in our Ministry Plan were beginning to bear fruit.  I noted that we can now point to measurable gains we’ve made — some of them more modest, some of them quite significant — toward reaching all four of our main goals: improving congregational care, deepening our engagement with and service to the wider community (particularly the college), enhancing our faith development and enriching our worship experience, and, finally, strengthening our church for a sustainable future.  Having detailed those gains earlier, I will not repeat them here. (If you missed that letter, or would like to revisit it, you can find the post here:

But I do want to underscore some recent news, which Jerry Vaneman, our church treasurer, shared with us at our congregational meeting, following worship on the 21st.  In brief, on the financial side, we’re on very solid ground.  We finished 2017 comfortably in the black, and we exceeded our challenge pledge budget for 2018.  So, taking these things together — the gains we’ve made toward our goals, and our strong financial footing — we are entering 2018 arguably in the healthiest position we’ve been in for several years.  So that is obviously news worth celebrating!  And thanks must go out in all directions to everyone who has helped get us to this point: Our Session, our Forward Planning Leadership Team, our Stewardship Team, our staff and the leaders of all our ministry teams.  And, of course, to all of you for your incredible support and your ongoing generosity, which make our life together possible.

bannerWith that said, I would like to share with you a few highlights we can look forward to in the weeks and months ahead:
First, as part of our outreach to the campus community, we’re constantly thinking about creative ways to take what we believe — those of us who gather on the inside of the Chapel — and make that visible to those who pass by on the outside of the building, those who may never join us for worship.  Session just approved a recommendation that will enable us to do that quite literally.  Under the guidance of our Communications Team, we have commissioned a large banner for the front of the Chapel as shown here.

The banner is the brainchild of our friend, local singer-songwriter, David LaMotte.  We’re making it with his permission, and hanging it with the permission of President Morton at WWC.  It will be paid for from our Student Relations Fund, and it should be up by early next week!  So keep your eyes peeled for that.  (It will be hard to miss!)

On Friday evening, February 9th, the Session and leaders of several of our ministry teams will gather for an overnight retreat at William Black Lodge.  The purpose of the retreat is to come to a deeper and clearer understanding of how best to coordinate, oversee and implement our ministry plan — and how we might invite greater participation in our ministries and programs, new and old alike.  We’re looking forward to a rich time of reflection and conversation, and to sharing the fruits of our time together with the broader congregation.

Finally, I have two personal highlights I’m thrilled to share with you:

  1. Starting this Monday I will be launching my first-ever personal blog.  It’s called BlueFaith, and my tagline is: Dispatches from the intersection of faith and politics.  Session has given me their blessing to pursue this project.   But I want to be clear that, one, I will be working on this on my own time, and, two, the views I express will be my own.  I will not be speaking in any official capacity on behalf of the congregation.  Still, if you’d like to join me on this journey, staring on Monday you can follow along here:
  2. I’m very pleased to formally announce that on July 8th and 15th, I will be participating in an international pulpit swap with the Rev. R. Frazer Penny, minister at the Dunkeld Cathedral in Dunkeld, Scotland.  This exchange is part of a new official Sister City relationship between Asheville and Dunkeld.  This connection between our two cities was spearheaded in large part by Doug and Darcy Orr, and their good friend, Fiona Ritchey, of Thistle and Shamrock fame, and a resident of Dunkeld.  We will provide much more information about this exchange in upcoming issues of The Extended Family but I wanted to share this news now, so we can start planning how best to celebrate and commemorate this wonderful opportunity.