Thinking It Through
I had a call this evening with a prayer partner. I admitted how I felt after this morning’s Sunday Service. Sunday evenings are not an ideal for me to ponder my life. Holliwell wrote about “singing praises in the face of adversity.” Tonight that idea challenged me. The lead post for the next newsletter needed to be done, and it was mine to do. The topic on my heart is problematic.
Leona, Abbie and the Orchestra were completely fabulous, as always, and I gave an acceptable talk. 41 adults were present today. A mentor of mine reminds me that I shouldn’t pay any attention to Sunday attendance numbers. I give the talk that I have received guidance on, and prepared, and it is enough. The number of people who attend has nothing to do with me. And yet, I wonder.
Late Saturday, a minister from back east had asked for prayer treatment from the larger ministers’ email group for their Center. She asked us to know for their Center that a higher level of engagement, and support (in all ways), arose in participants of their Center. They had a town hall after services on Sunday in which the local Center leadership team agreed to explore the possibility of ‘doing church’ a new way, because it had become clear the old way wasn’t working for them. I feel fortunate to be part of a larger organization that supports each other, and their communities in this way, and one willing to consider alternative ways of being. I wrote, asking if they had any specifics yet. “No, not yet”, was her reply.
Last Friday night, at our Board planning meeting, Mariann asked the Board members to ponder what community meant to them, what they need from this spiritual community, and what they were willing to do in support of that community’s existence. We will revisit the question during this week’s Board of Trustees meeting. I am grateful we have leadership willing to discuss hard questions.
We have our annual meeting coming up in less than three weeks. This is the Board’s report to the congregation about what we have collectively accomplished this past year, and what our leadership team envisions for the year ahead. When I look back at what we’ve done, I’m amazed and delighted. Common hour thinking would say we have had miracle on top of miracle. We know it as the Law of Mind in Action. We also experienced timing that no one could have dreamed up (again, Mind in Action) … in the space of just a few months — the sale of the raw land on 22nd Street at a very good price, being displaced out of 4200 E River Road with 25 days’ notice and having 911 S Craycroft suddenly materialize move-in-ready, us being able to occupy it almost two months before we even formally qualified for a loan, and get a mortgage on the property that is 1/3 less than what we previously paid in rent. You can’t make a story that good up, and yet we did it, without so much as a ruffled feather, and no co-signer or guarantor required. A rather important factor in us being able to get the mortgage was three years of consistent positive cash flow.
Why were we able to have three years of positive cash flow? It wasn’t due to increases in attendance or contributions. Our attendance is has diminished over the last 2½ years. The bulk of our donations come from less than 20% of our contributors each month, and always has. To those of you who have kept us whole, thank you. To those of you who have managed to do very good work with what we have, thank you. Your Board and I refused to spend money we didn’t have. That tenacious point-of-view served us well to get us into our education center which can serve as a home base for us, and we can use it to create a real physical, tangible presence for Science of Mind in Tucson, if we choose. We haven’t had a visible location (with a sign!) since the Board of the old Religious Science Church on Mountain Avenue sold the building out from under the congregation to give the retiring minister a pension. (Our bylaws have been changed so that something like that cannot occur now.) I also wonder if our frugality has hampered us, by limiting our thought processes. I don’t think so, but I don’t actually know.
In case you are interested, this chart tracks attendance and contributions to CSLT from January 2017 to present. The upper (blue) line represents contributions/person-Sunday, and the lower (pink) line tracks attendance. The straight grey line that runs through each of the squiggly lines represents the trendline, or average track, the line has. Averaged contributions per person continue to increase slightly and averaged attendance had dropped from around 80 to around 50. It is not unusual for a congregation to have 40-50% of their attendees leave when a minister retires, or leaves. Perhaps that’s all this is.
This philosophy that I talk about and work at using all the time, and that we claim is true for us (when we remember to stay in our right minds) tells us that the cause of any event or experience must be invisible. Everything we can see, touch, taste or experience is an effect, a consequence, and … readily changeable. Our deeply-held, conscious and unconscious, beliefs are what really create our world. Raymond Holliwell (from Chapter 1 of Working With The Law) wrote, “A fatalistic belief is contagious, and when humanity submits to its influence, believing that the circumstances around them are stronger than the power within them, they are defeated before the race is run.”
I admit that I struggle with the idea that CSLT wants to be a real and vital force for good in Tucson. Maybe it’s my unbelief. I don’t know. I do know I bite my tongue when I hear someone say we aren’t growing or thriving because… (fill in the blank with your favorite way we aren’t “doing it right”). Every iota of that is an effect, an experience, something that comes as an after-thought, and not a cause.
When we remember that each of us has our own (mental) hands on the “steering wheel” of the most powerful creative and causative force known to humanity, our own thoughts, I just take a breath, and focus on what I can do, and get back to working on myself, because that’s what’s mine to do.
My request is that you think through what CSLT means to you, why you participate, or choose not to, and be clear and congruent within yourself. Know that your thoughts matter, make them work for you, and for the good of all.
–Rev Janis Farmer