Stewardship Voices

Paul Ogren: Give what you can. Give what you’re able.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from Grace Harkness several  weeks ago, asking me if I wanted to talk to the congregation about stewardship.  As I am sure Bill Konrardy can attest – can anyone really say NO to Grace?  So here I am.

So then I get a primer from Drew and the Stewardship Committee a few weeks later with a few suggested talking points!!  I don’t really follow directions very well – so here goes.

I am going to talk about 3 things – financial resources, Ogren’s religious journey, and time, effort and talent.

Financial Resources: Give what you can – give what you are able.

Ogren’s Religious Journey: I was born in a Catholic family with an Uncle that was a priest and the rest of the family, both sides – strict Catholic. I attended the warm and fuzzy named grade schools of St. Peter in Chains and St. Thomas the Apostle.  On arriving @ St. Thomas Church every day (yes mass before school – yes that would be 6 days a week attending mass!!),  I needed to pass a mosaic of Doubting Thomas putting his hands into the wounds of Jesus – what a nice uplifting way to start each day!

I was the youngest of four children and by the time I came around my parents were just tired and worn out as I imagine the Bijnagte’s and Harkness’s to mention a few, can attest to.  Yes – the “baby” of the family at times – makes out pretty well!!!  The Catholic high school was 20 miles away in a different town and I played lots of sports – so my parents let me attend the local public high school to make life easier.  Of course I attended CCD classes (whatever that stands for) on Sunday morning with, of course Mom and Dad, teachers.  No confirmation classes, no youth group, no ski trips, no Junior/Senior High mission trips, no Wednesday night pizza fest – just one hour a week of pure religion education on Sunday morning – of course immediately after the early mass which was after a typical high school Saturday night.  Not always what I had in mind!!

I went to college for 4 – 5 years or so and then went to work for a year or so after that.  During this time – religion was not on the radar screen!!! I met Beth along the way and actually decided to take the plunge and get married.

Then BOOM! – instantly religion came rushing back into my life!!!  Of course the family asked — How are you getting married – with a priest or a minister???? We decided to try and please both sides of the family and have a priest friend of our family AND Beth’s family United Methodist minister officiated at Beth’s home United Methodist Church.  Oh the complications!! – Who can receive communion from whom, and all the paperwork and meetings that go with mixed denominations nuptials at that time!!!!  Anyway – it was glorious day – we all were beaming and we must have done something right – because we have been married ever since.

So we move around – change jobs a few times, change cities a few times – and finally – we find out – we are pregnant!!  We have a bouncing baby boy Ben and then BOOM – again religion comes roaring back into our lives.  Are we going to get Ben baptized – a priest, a minister, or not at all?   Where is the family baptismal gown that has been in the family for 5 generations!!!

So we are now in Minneapolis and we decide to go church shopping.  We visited several churches of various denominations and locations and decided on LHUMC – Beth liked the music and I like the Wuollet’s cookies, large coffee pot, and the talk fest at the end of every service, which is so different from my upbringing!!!  We were welcomed with open arms.

Pretty soon, Brothers Peter and Jacob came along – Beth starts sings in the choir and plays bassoon in quintets.  I actually manage/volunteer in the nursery for several years.  I still vividly remember brand new bright-eyed parents dropping off their little bundles of joy with me in the nursery. Talk about faith!!!

I was on the Board of Trustees for a while and then the kids actually started growing up and doing stuff I wanted to do – like ski and snowboard trips, Junior High and ASP Mission Trips, which in turn – turned into making dinner for 40 – 50 on Wednesday nights, helping whatever fund raisers someone came up with, and just hanging out with kids having fun.  These were great times and not only did the kids have fun —  but the adults and leadership that participated got to know each really well – to say the least – we spent a lot of time together!!!

In the wink of an eye or as the phrase goes “when raising kids – days are long but years are short” – the kids graduate from high school – went off to wherever and do whatever – and we are left – back as if we were in our early 20’s again – Not exactly!!!

In this case – we have built relationships up over those 15 – 20 years.  And so church becomes a community of friends and relatives who are not related – mainly due to the ridiculous amount of time and experiences that we have all shared due to our children growing up in this church – including the good times, along with the challenging.    That word “community” is at times overused, bantered around, and actually ridiculed in the media – but that is what this is – a community of folks trying to keep on keeping on and doing good things for each other and the world.

This community has allowed me to continue what I like to do with the youth and also gives me the opportunity to experience other opportunities if so desired, like this!! The opportunities that exist in this community are way too numerous to even start to name, just read the bulletin!!

Time, Effort, and Talents: Let’s start with Time and Effort. Everyone has time and everyone can put forth effort.  It doesn’t matter how much of either.  At different stages of life – that time and effort comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and types to fit every type of person.  Any and all – is always appreciated.

When the help e-mail comes out from Pat or you read it in the bulletin– think about answering the call.  Think about it and then just say yes.  Everyone in this church is well worth the time and effort to get to know, especially the ones you don’t know.

Talent – I am not one of these folks – I am a time and effort guy.  But just look around this congregation and look at the vocal, instrumental, musical, and theatrical talent that is ever present.  It’s off the chart – it doesn’t matter the age – those with these artist talents are truly special which we enjoy all the time.  I am continuously amazed how good it is.

Besides that – there are actually people that like and are good at – paperwork, accounting, counting stuff, leading committees, teaching and facilitating, and fixing stuff outside their own homes.  Some of these things – like paperwork and accounting – I don’t get it – but you have no idea how much you are appreciated for these types of talents.

One last thing, so I don’t totally ignore the suggested talking points that were sent to me.  Where do I see God at work at Lake Harriet?  Well, the easy answer would be in all the members of the church.  It’s the when that counts to me.  Every now and then, Melanie tells us to bow our heads and pray with – Kathy playing piano in the background, or with some prayer, or just being quiet.  Every once in a while, don’t do what Melanie says, and keep your head up!!  It’s remarkable when you are looking out over a sea of people seriously thinking and contemplating – it just gives you hope that you are in the presence of thoughtful people.  You can tell some are struggling and trying to figure something out, while others are smiling – probably thinking of kids and grandkid trick-or-treating or something.  It’s a rare site to see hundreds of people quiet and truly contemplating the realities of life.

There you have it – All of this LHUMC community stuff doesn’t just happen by accident – it needs people, leadership, and resources to make it all happen, to change and to grow – which includes Time, Effort, Talent and Financial Resources –

So give what you can – give what you are able. 

Thanks, Paul Ogren