On Sunday evening, September 23, at 5 in the afternoon, the Parkway family will do one of those things we enjoy and do well — get together to eat. We’ll be at McDaniel Farm Park, the setting where we had a good time together last summer, and we’ll have good barbecue and good conversation.

But somewhere during the evening we will have a little ceremony. We’ll burn a facsimile of the mortgage on the education building. The ceremony will be simple, the gesture merely symbolic, but the act of paying off the mortgage is a big deal. We are literally free from any encumbrances on how the congregation disburses the funds that we as members entrust to the church. How we spend our tithes and offerings is now completely between God and us.

Fifteen years ago, we owed about two and one-half million dollars. A significant dent was made in that amount through the generosity of George and Mary Beth Busbee, when Governor Busbee designated a one million dollar legacy through his membership on the Board of Directors of Delta Airlines. We received that money over the five years that immediately followed Governor Busbee’s death.

But all of the remaining indebtedness was erased through the generosity of our members and others, much of it above your regular contributions through giving to our Capital Stewardship Campaign. Even though that formal campaign ended several years ago, many of you have continued to give and, along with the systematic allocation of money by the finance committee, we are now debt-free.

An important point needs to be made, however. Knowing that this burden would be removed this year, the finance committee reallocated the amount we had been spending in that area elsewhere. For years we have deferred some much needed maintenance on our facilities, and this year some of that will be possible. As our buildings continue to age, more will need to be spent on keeping them up. This means that, in order to continue at the same level of ministry as in the past, we will need to continue to give at the current rate.

What we also need to recognize, however, is that, if we are more generous, we can also be more effective in ministry, missions, and programming. As is true with most churches, a huge percentage of our financial resources go to pay the staff and keep the lights on. Real ministry happens through those areas, but is certainly expanded when we can get beyond them.

When you consider the size of our congregation and see all that we are doing, it is easy to recognize that you are an incredibly generous group. That does not mean, of course, that many of us could not be more generous, and it certainly does not mean that there is not more that all of us can do. For right now, however, let’s celebrate. We’ve cleared a significant hurdle. I know God is pleased with what you have done. Let us pray that God is pleased with what we continue to do.