Four seasons have passed through Austin since we last laid out a vision for Vox Veniae. We’ve seen some fire and felt some rain but now, in the long afterburn of a late Texan summer, as we look to our next stage of growth, perhaps we should first — like the original gardener in his original garden — sit back and acknowledge the fruits of labor. God’s work among us has indeed been good. The heart of our vision last year was simple — consolidate and condense our operations, practice and teach generosity, all so that we could build up a surplus for local and global mission. The gardener must have found some strangely fertile ground because this ramshackle community produced a surplus defying all reasonable expectations of a young, poor, and broke east Austin.
Our task now is to discern where and how to plant the seeds God has given us. We’ve spent the last few weeks discussing this as a community and produced the following three directives to guide our work in the coming year:
Over the past few years Vox has developed substantial connections in both Afghanistan and India; while we will continue to develop these partnerships, this year we feel a particular need to increase our local missions efforts. We would like to achieve a 50-50 balance between global and local partnerships, better reflecting Vox’s own interest in both majority-world issues and the needs of our local parish. To achieve this balance, we will divide both the current surplus and next year’s mission funds equally among global and local efforts— Afghanistan will receive 25%, India 25%, Space12 15%, Posada Esperanza 15%, Mobile Loaves and Fishes 5%, and a new ‘Good Neighbor Fund’ (described below) 15%.
Along with balancing our missions approach, this year we will also look to simply increase our overall commitment to missions. We would like to build towards an eventual commitment of at least 30% of our overall budget and do so in a manner that balances fiscal responsibility with faithfulness to God’s calling. To this end, this year we will increase our missions commitment by a further 2.5% of our total budget. This increase will allow us to establish a new ‘Good Neighbor Fund’ proposed by community members during our annual missions feedback session this July. The Good Neighbor Fund will mirror Space12‘s model of deliberate simplicity in service, and will simply be money set aside for community members to use when needs arise among actual neighbors and local acquaintances. The intention is to enable Vox members to develop relationships and meet existing needs amongst the people who live next to them.
Finally, we turn to the most local of all missions work—the children of our community. When Vox began, the children’s ministry featured a grand total of three participants (the pastors’ kids). Today, Greenhouse hosts over thirty kids, three classrooms, and ages ranging from last week to thirteen. This past year the program appeared to reach a critical mass where our current system of coordination by one or two volunteer parents was simply untenable. While it does not fall under our official missions budget, we have always seen Greenhouse as a vital prelude to missions, and Vox’s children as in need of care and discipling as its adults. We also have been given an opportunity to connect and build relationships with the neighboring kids of Space12. Given our growth and our need in this area, we plan to add a part-time (10hr/wk) position to coordinate Greenhouse and pastor our children.
Close readers and listeners will notice the vegetation metaphors have been flying thick and fast. From seeds to seasons to greenhouses, the work of ministry always seems to find itself in a garden. Perhaps this is why Christ spoke so often of trees, flowers, shrubs. There is a vitality, an unexpected growth, and utter dependence on the heavens that seems to accompany a life of service. This past year we have experienced a whiff of that generous life. We pray that it will persist as we persist, a community of friends, discovering Christ, tending the garden.
If you have any questions, please contact the Stewardship Committee.
[Photo by lomokev @ Flickr]