Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bonus post: 2012 Annual Budget Drive

Since I missed a post last Friday, here's a make-up post.  Life is getting busier, I start the Natural Language Processing course on Coursera this week.  I mentioned last week that I am co-chairing the Annual Budget Drive for my church this year.  As part of the lead-up, we asked people to give testimonials, describing why they attend the church, what it means to them, and why they support it.

In the spirit of leading by example, I gave my testimonial last week.  The theme this year, is GIFT: Growing Into the Future Together.  Here is a lightly edited version of what I said:

Good morning.  My name is Kim Curry (and this is my son), and I am  the co-chair of this year’s Annual Budget Drive

We first came to UUCH four years ago, when I changed jobs from Houston to Huntsville.

My son was about 6 months old, and my mother had been diagnosed with diagnosed with cancer of the bile ducts, a very rare cancer that strikes perhaps 2 people in 100 thousand. Online research into the particulars of her case, showed that less than 10 percent of people lived 3-years after diagnosis, and nobody had lived more than 5.

We had been involved with Unitarian Universalist churches for 10 years, and members of the Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston for 5 years.  My son was dedicated at BAUUC.  I had visited this church during business trips in 2000 and 2001, and had liked what I saw then.

I would love to say that we instantly felt at home here, but I would be lying.  Most weeks, My son was the only infant at the service.  It was about naptime, and he wanted Mommy and milk.  We came for about 6 weeks, then stopped, and we stayed away for about 6 months.

During that time, we visited other liberal churches in the Huntsville area: the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, even the Catholic church.   None of them felt right.  None of them felt comfortable for a pair of Unitarian Universalists like us.

I grew up in a religious conservative Catholic family.  When the family was sick, we would watch Mass on tv and eat a cracker at communion time.  Every dollar that I earned in my babysitting jobs, was split.  Fifty percent went to my savings account, to help with college.  Ten percent went to the Church.  The remaining 40% I could spend as I wished.  My mother believed in tithing, and we were taught to give.  The first time I skipped going to service on Sunday, was when I was in college, after we had married.  I was 21.

I wanted my son to have a community.  I wanted my son to be taught that each person is worthwhile.  I wanted him to be taught to be kind, to help each other out.  I wanted him to seek out truth.  I wanted him to let everyone have their say.  To work for social justice, and to respect Mother Earth.  In short, I needed a community to help demonstrate the Seven Principles to my son, so that he could grow up living them.

We signed up for Church of the Larger Fellowship newsletters, and I thought about trying to practice our faith at home.  But given my mother’s situation… I knew that I could not weather my mother’s cancer alone, not even with Brian and our son.  I needed a church community, too.

I read the newsletters, watched the sermon topics, and thought about what we would do.  And so, a year later, I found myself back here, trying again.  My son was older, calmer, a little more willing to be separated from Mommy.  There were more babies and toddlers at the church.

That year, I made my first pledge to UUCH.  It wasn’t much.  I didn’t feel very connected to the church yet.  But I knew that I was using childcare services, that this community was supporting us, in some small way.  And I needed to give back, and keep it afloat.

When my grandmother died, Mom made it clear what she wanted to do with her inheritance.  One of the things she wanted to do was to tithe, to give ten percent of the money to her Catholic parish in Indiana for a ramp, to improve accessibility.

I haven’t tithed since I was eighteen.  In college, I didn’t have any money to spare.  It was after I graduated and moved into the professional world, that I resumed charitable giving.

I did pledge, at BAUUC, and I contributed to other charities.  But not 10 percent.

I’ve been working on my family finances since we moved to Huntsville.  I’ve been trying to consciously choose what is important to my family.  The house, the bills, groceries of course.  A rainy day fund, retirement, college for my son.  And continuing to give back to the communities and causes I support.

I decided to take a look at my budget, and see what my percentages were, and what I wanted them to be.  I decided that 10 percent was something I could work towards doing, and I decided how I wanted to divide that 10 percent among several organizations.  Last year, I moved in that direction, but I’m not quite there yet.

Only you know your family’s situation.  Only you know what your budget looks like.  Only you can say how much this church means to you, what it is worth to you.  We chose the theme GIFT to emphasize all the GIFTs we bring, our Time, Talent, and our Treasure.  All three are important to the work of this church, all three have value.

Each year as part of the Annual Budget Drive, the UUA puts out guidelines for what they call a “Fair Share” contribution.  There are four different levels of Fair Share contributions, depending on your level of involvement and commitment to the Association in general and your congregation in particular.  This year, as another step towards a full tithe, I would like to check the box that says “Yes, I am making a Fair Share pledge.”