Once upon a time there was a little village on the coast of Oregon—a favorite tourist destination in the summer and a sleepy little hamlet of 700 in the winter. Many people say that Yachats is a magical little place and it appears that that magic has once again shown its face. Yachats is the home to the “church with the agate windows” also known as Yachats Community Presbyterian Church.
It seems that the church has caught the magic of Yachats or maybe Yachats has caught the magic of the church—I am not quite sure which way it goes.
What the town calls magic the Bible calls faith. In this case, it is the faith that is expressed in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). The Yachats version of this parable goes like this:
A church positioned just a couple hundred yards above the crashing waves of the Pacific had a few assets they had saved over the years. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to run a church year to year, support a number of community programs, and provide a place for theological reflection and musical nourishment.
Then one day they felt called by a higher voice to take some risks and do more and be more. They felt a need to respond to the call of faithfulness more than the need to be prudent and safe. They felt a call to respond to the increasing needs caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They didn’t have a lot, but they had something. So they challenged the community, they invited the community to join them in providing relief to the people of a tourist economy that was taking a hard beating.
They invested, just like the parable of the talents reminds us, in the community knowing that their sacrificial gift might result in the death of the congregation. They invested $15,000 for displaced workers and small business. They asked and they prayed that the community might match their gifts—maybe even double the impact they were hoping for.
This is where the magic comes in. This is where what the Bible calls faith becomes real. Not only did the community match their gifts, but the original $15,000 investment has produced nearly $150,000 in total donations to provide relief for those affected by the coronavirus. Remember, that this is a village of just 700 people! That’s an average of more than $200 per person. That’s faith! That’s magic!
Of course, I am only telling you part of the story. They have provided financial relief to 250 displaced workers and 15 businesses so far. They have funded for two weeks a program at the Moose Lodge that feeds 100 people daily. They have stepped up funding for a program that feeds immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
And, did I mention that their offerings have also gone up in the church? Yes, isn’t that interesting?
Says the Rev. Bob Barrett when asked to reflect on this, “The feeling of the council had been, ‘We are a resurrection people. We risk death and trust that new life is possible on the other side.’ Giving begets giving. People want to invest in something that is making a difference and changing lives.”
Magical and faithful.
But the story continues. The presbytery has taken notice of all the places in our churches where a generosity of spirit and faithfulness seems to be taking root and changing the cultures of those congregations. There are dozens of stories in the presbytery where such magic and faithfulness is taking place.
The presbytery wants to honor that and continue seeing the parable of the talents, the parable of Yachats take root in our congregations. Giving begets giving. Generosity has a way of catching on like wildfire.
Next week every church in this presbytery will receive $1,000 to experiment with their own version of the parable of the talents. Take a risk. Invest it in something that changes lives. Invite the community to join you on this journey.
In fact, take the presbytery gift and ask your Session to double it and then ask your ecumenical partners to double it again and then ask your community to match what the faith community has invested. Take our $1,000 and find a way to leverage it so that $1,000 becomes $10,000. Practice the parable of the talents. Give God a shot.
Once upon a time, there was a little village on the coast of Oregon…
Believe in the magic.
Believe in the power of faith.
Believe that God loves nothing more than a good story.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades