From the Rector...
Stewardship and Making a Holy Offering in Advent
Dear Friends in Christ,
Beginning in the Season of Advent, we will initiate a process for taking an entirely new approach to stewardship and what it means to give money to the Church. Throughout my twenty years of ordained ministry I have witnessed persistent consternation and frustration when it comes to stewardship campaigns and getting parishioners to commit financial resources. I know many lay leaders who, having served on stewardship committees and have been the recipients of stewardship drives over
many years, who compare “stewardship” to oral surgery.
I believe our quandary is the result of confusing stewardship with making a holy offering. Typically, we see donating to the Church in terms of “paying the bills.” Or perhaps a more refined view is supporting “good works,” like giving to a charity. But when we consider our Christian tradition, as communicated both through Scriptures and our Book of Common Prayer, what we find is that all genuine giving is a result of having first received something priceless from God.
It is nothing more, nothing less than The Gift of Christ Jesus, who we have received into our life—which becomes our life— for which we now respond with a gift-in-return, which ultimately is our entire life. We give because we have received what matters most of all. This is the reason for making our contribution to the Church a holy offering.
Stewardship, on the other hand, concerns taking care of something that does not belong to us. Properly understood, stewardship— are you ready to be shocked?—has nothing to do with giving. Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14- 30, is instructive. Told in the context of being prepared for the kingdom of heaven, three points are salient for us. First, the slaves are to take good care of something that does not belong to them. Second, the expectation is that they are to make creative, generative use of the master’s possessions in his absence. Simple wealth preservation is not enough, as the fate of the third slave dramatically indicates. Finally, the parable transcends even the concern for maximizing a return on the master’s property. The key point is to be found trustworthy. Here we have the essence of stewardship.
In summary, we might say that stewardship begins when giving is a given. Plate contributions, pledges, donations, and bequests are holy offerings. Stewardship is what you do with these gifts after they have been committed.
So as to live into this new understanding of giving, at each Sunday in the Season of Advent (December 1, 8, 15, 22) we will bring both our 2014 pledge card (which you will receive in the mail) and our weekly gift directly to the Altar. This ritual will take place at the Offertory. As we do for Holy Communion, we will come forward from our pews to place our contribution at the Altar. This practice will be for the Season of Advent only. We will then return to our regular process of making our offertories via the plate. For the Season of Lent we’ll resume this practice. Thus, slowly but surely, God’s Gift and our giving will be at last reconciled. Thanks be to God!
Yours in Christ,