By James Collins and Nancy Collins
James: I am James Collins, and I have been a pledging member of Neighborhood Church for just under 40 years. The question was put to me, “Why do you pledge to Neighborhood Church?” My response is, “How could I not pledge to Neighborhood Church?”
Neighborhood Church has helped me to accomplish both personal growth and fulfillment of my responsibilities to the larger society. The church was here for me when my children needed religious instruction. It was here for me when I suffered the loss of my 25-year marriage; and it was here to celebrate with me my joy of remarriage to my partner Nancy here at the pulpit with me now. I received help and encouragement to do solo singing here and at other venues in the area and this has been a great joy for me.
In the early years of my membership here, I was employed in a law enforcement position, and had been warned by coworkers that my job would cause me to suffer a negative transformation of personality. When I needed a way to help me maintain good emotional balance, this church afforded me the opportunity to teach Sunday school for six years and, thereby, establish contact with our bright and energetic Junior High School class. I am happy to say that my outlook on life remained very positive.
Supporting Neighborhood Church is important to me also because it provides an intelligent voice in our currently troubled country and world. We must help make the church financially strong so that it will be here for us, our children, and future generations. We have been a spiritual force in Pasadena since the late 1880’s, and I invite you all to join with Nancy and me to pledge generously to Neighborhood and keep our voice strong.
Nancy: I too have been at Neighborhood for a long time, 33 years to be precise, and, like many of you in our congregation, I came here to find a home when I very much needed one. I was newly divorced and struggling to define my now radically changed life. I was looking for a community that would welcome me and somehow, I didn’t know how, support me. I found that community and much more.
I teared up singing hymns, the tunes of which I knew but which had words that didn’t feel hypocritical to sing. I found hymns that touched my deepest loves and hurts and longings. I found I couldn’t skip a Sunday, for Brandoch Lovely’s sermons sparked ideas and shone rays of hope into that frightening place in which I had chosen to put myself.
Among the many challenges I found myself confronting, a very practical one often took center stage: I was poor. Not destitute, mind you, but I was living on a drastically reduced income. I was also new to the concept of “Church.” As a child my parents had dutifully sent me to Sunday school and just as dutifully gave money to the church but I had not crossed the threshold of a church since my teenage years. Coming here I soon realized that I was expected to give MONEY and I didn’t know how I could possibly afford to give more than a small amount.
Now I am not advocating by any stretch of the imagination, that anyone give “a small amount.” What I am proposing that you consider is a concept from ancient Greece that has been restated by Benjamin Franklin and our own Unitarian ancestor Ralph Waldo Emerson. You may know it from the 2000 movie “Pay It Forward” and I give credit to Irene Burkner, who many years ago called my attention to its relevance at Neighborhood. It is this:
The Neighborhood Church community was here for me when I needed it because those who came before built and maintained the physical structure, they called and PAID ministers, they hired and PAID staff, and they supported its programs. My ancestors at this church pledged their dollars so that the church that had been here for them when they came was here for me when I needed it. Neighborhood has been here through easy times and difficult times. It has been here through all our successes and struggles. Throughout all it has remained strong because WE have remained strong and WE have continued to support this church.
It was here in my time of need and in your time of need and it must be here for those who come after us.
Please join Jim and me in generously Paying It Forward.
The 2018-2019 Pledge Campaign is underway. Please consider submitting your pledge at anytime through Sunday, March 11, online or in person every Sunday after service. You can submit your pledge online at http://neighborhooduu.org/pledge/. Have any questions? Email Liz Murphy, the Membership & Stewardship Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.