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Friday Greetings - December 1

From Pastor Vann

What is Advent?

Advent begins this Sunday, December 3rd, and lasts until midnight on Christmas Eve. The four weeks of Advent are a season of candlelight, reflection, and expectation—a chance to get ready for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Advent gets its name from adventus, the Latin word for "arrival." The first recorded Advent celebrations were in the 500s in northern Italy, where churchgoers observed a week-long Christmas preparation involving fasting, prayer, and reflection on Christian values.

Eventually, that time of preparation became known as "Advent." Advent is now considered the first season of the Church's liturgical year, our annual cycle of feast days and Scripture readings. Much like our ancestors, modern Christians see it as a season of preparation in honor of Christ.

Each Sunday of Advent has a traditional meaning and prayers and readings assigned to it. They represent, in order, the Christian virtues of love, joy, hope, and peace.

As a Church, a nation, and a world, we've all been through a lot in the last few years. May this Advent be a time of rest, renewal, and joy for Centenary and all whose lives we touch.

Advent Prayer

Immanuel—"God with us"--during Advent, we celebrate that you're not hidden in some unreachable place but beside us in the blur and mystery of our lives. We turn to you this season and pray that you would bring us joy, healing, and hope. May something new and wonderful begin in us—something surprising and holy! May your love fill us and your joy overwhelm us. May our longing for you be fulfilled on that coming holy night. Amen.

Apportionments, Financial Stewardship, and Pastoral Responsibilities

Centenary is in the Sound District of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Sound District extends as far west as Kinston, as far south as Swansboro, as far north as Greenville, and as far east as the Atlantic Ocean. The North Carolina Conference includes all United Methodist congregations in North Carolina located east of Gibsonville in Alamance County.

Every year in June, the Conference's Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) prepares a budget that is discussed, amended, and approved by the assembled lay and clergy delegates. The Conference budget includes expenditures for District Superintendent salaries and benefits; Conference staff salaries and benefits; support for United Methodist colleges and camps located within the boundaries of our Conference; support for North Carolina ministerial students attending seminary; expenditures for outreach and evangelism programs within our Conference; and finally, support for mission and ministry beyond our Conference in the larger United Methodist Church, including Bishops' salaries and benefits and assistance for United Methodist missionaries worldwide.

After the Conference budget is approved, it’s divided up ("apportioned") to all the churches in the North Carolina Conference. The amount each congregation is asked to contribute is proportional (approximately) to how much that congregation spends on itself, less deductions for debt repayment, capital improvements, and local missions.

Unless you've been living on a desert island, you know that the United Methodist Church has just experienced a time of dissension and division. Approximately 40% of the churches in the North Carolina Conference defected to the newly formed Global Methodist Church. The Sound District was particularly hard hit, losing over half of our congregations. The Conference budget has been drastically cut because of the decrease in the number of churches, affecting everything from the number of Superintendents currently being paid to the amount of support given to our camps and other institutions.

Centenary's apportioned amount for 2023 is $110,087. While our congregation's giving has exceeded the budgeted amount—in other words, folks have given more than we predicted when we passed our own 2023 budget last fall—our expenses have increased faster than our giving due to the inflation that now plagues us all. Because of this, we've had to delay paying our apportionments since they're one of the few expenses we can pay in a lump sum. To date, we've paid 60% of the total, so we're about 30% behind (~$35,000) where we hoped we would be at the beginning of December.

Per The Book of Discipline (Paragraph 340.2.e), one of the pastor's responsibilities is "To lead the congregation in the fulfillment of its mission through full and faithful payment of all apportioned ministerial support, administrative, and benevolent funds." To that end, I ask you to prayerfully consider helping Centenary pay our 2023 apportionments by making an extra financial gift this month. Thank you for your generous support for our mission and ministries this year, and thank you in advance for helping us meet our obligation to support our beloved United Methodist connection. God bless you!

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