September 4, 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
If you’re anything like me, the summer blockbuster that held your attention and won your heart never made it to a big-screen Cineplex. From mid-July and all through August, the story I couldn’t get enough of was the unfolding drama of Market Basket. What is it about Arthur T., I kept asking myself, that earned him the unwavering loyalty of 25,000 nonunion workers? How did a guy who must have gone to some of the same Lowell schools I attended win the devotion not only of managers at the top but also of baggers near the bottom of a seventy-store chain? And how can Sudbury UMC bottle that loyalty and convince our congregation’s members and friends to take a swig each morning at breakfast?
Loyalty, when you think about it, is the most important ingredient in the making and keeping covenants—in building relationships, tending them, and benefiting from them for decades to come. That’s why loyalty is what new members of The United Methodist Church are asked to pledge when they stand before a local congregation, profess their faith in Christ, affirm the Apostles Creed, and promise their support to the people whose long term loyalty to the same covenant gave them a church to join:
Since I have never worn a Market Basket apron or jacket, I have no idea if employees pledge their loyalty to what is clearly a close-knit community on the first day they punch a time clock. Like you, I have heard about Arthur T’s legendary personal touch and multiple expressions of kindness. And I am aware, as you are, of Market Basket’s reputation for higher than average wages (Massachusetts cashiers start at $12 per hour, $4 above minimum wage, and managers earn $140,000). A few days after Labor Day, CEOs in a country where too few workers feel fairly compensated should pick Arthur T’s brain!
But there’s a component of Market Basket loyalty that, more than anything else, I would love to bottle and put in the communion cups at Sudbury UMC. Somehow, the way Arthur T. manages a multi-billion dollar company has transformed employees into stakeholders and customers into a covenantal community. In other words, the Market Basket magic that captured my heart and held it all summer was the shift I witnessed from “How much can I get out of this company?” to “How much can I give?”
The more of that “magic” we can capture and consume at Sudbury UMC, the more “magical” our church will be. That’s why the focus of our Homecoming Sunday worship service on September 7 will be what it means to become more like covenant stakeholders and less like consumers of religious goods and services. As it happens, the “magic” we need to make the shift from consumer-takers to covenant-makers is, we Christians believe, in the bread and wine we share at the Table of the Lord. What Jesus did when he gave his body and blood for us is what we are now graced to do for each other.
See you in church,
Picture courtesy of: ………….