When I was asked to write about why my family gives to Belmont UMC, my first thought was pure mechanics: Kim and I give every week because we made it automatic. Our family hasn't been in a pew all together since before the pandemic started, and there have been weeks this year when I would have forgotten to mail a check or log into Realm. So I'm grateful for an autodraft option that keeps us faithful to our commitment to support the church with our finances. But thinking about the mechanics, I realized how much I miss having my whole family in the pews (almost) every Sunday so Keith and Lindsay could put their budgeted gifts into the offering plate. I miss the ritual of giving. I miss the vibrations of the organ and the warm human presence of the congregation joining voices to praise God from whom all blessings flow. And I miss the built-in opportunity to talk with Lindsay and Keith about what we do together through our giving--the majestic and the mundane. Our dollars buy goldfish crackers and toilet paper. And a dollar in a child's offering envelope can help give a neighbor a warm, safe night under our roof and hire clergy to inspire, lead, comfort, and challenge us to live into our faith. I miss the weekly opportunity to talk with them about what their giving helps us to accomplish together, so I'm glad for a pledge-season opportunity to get back in that habit.

This year, I tell myself that our giving helped pay for the tent where Keith and Lindsay sang with friends in their Halloween costumes on October27. I love that tent. I first heard about the tent during one of our weekly Regathering Team meetings to address the challenges and opportunities of being the church through and after the pandemic. Sometimes "regathering" is figuring out how to broadcast a service, assign socially distant seating in a pew, or revise a mask or vaccine policy. But I like it best when regathering is a tent that creates a dry breezy space for in-person children's choir with masks, hot dogs, elaborate marshmallow treats, and a new way of doing the things that always matter. Those of us with unvaccinated kids relied on virtual children's programming and Facebook church services together in pajamas on the couch for a long time. But this fall a simple tent between the church building and the Community Center became an outdoor choir room and Sunday School classroom this fall for children who are still waiting on a vaccine and can't afford days out of school after a potential COVID exposure. We've regathered on Wednesday nights around that tent as children sing and parents decompress. And the tent has brought us together for the first time with new families who found Belmont on their couches in pajamas during the pandemic. For individuals and the community, it's more than regathering; it's renewal. I'm grateful for the miraculous opportunity to gather children and the community that supports them under and around something as simple as a tent. 

I don't know what your tent is (and as a bystander to the Ministry Council's work over the past months, I'm confident that no one can know all the good things that our dollars help our church do), but if you're reading this letter, I know Belmont does something that you love and support. I know we can each think of one new thing from the past year that we hope our church will continue and one thing we look forward to as a marker of renewal or growth. That's the conversation our family is having as we finalize our plans for giving in 2022, and I know we'll have a long list that will teach us what Belmont UMC means to Keith, Lindsay, and their parents. Please join us in considering what you love about the new things at Belmont and the things we're still looking forward to.

Our family's pledge card is sitting in a stack of mail, but we'll make our pledge this weekend
through Realm, by emailing emily@belmontumc.org, or calling the church office at 615-383-0832.  Belmont needs goldfish, toilet paper, pipe organs, clergy, and safe places to do the miraculous things. We need tents and the things that happen under them and around them. Please join us in planning your giving for 2022 and making your pledge this weekend!

Jeffrey W. Sheehan