Dear Fellow Parishioner,
Active attendance at the local Episcopal Church has been my practice throughout an adult life of many residential moves-my daughters even graduated from an Episcopal Diocese sponsored secondary school-and it was always part of my Sunday participation to make a contribution when the offering plate was passed. I had never, however, made a pledge to any of the Episcopal Churches where I have been a member; that is to say, I had
never pledged before last year at All Saints by the Sea. The concept of
stewardship and last year's theme of
God the Giver inspired me to examine how I might have stayed on the side of
easy and remained ignorant of the magnitude, or more accurately
minitude, of my giving to the life of the church.
In my reflection, last fall, I realized that my
lack of intentionality sidelined my
soul, as well as my mind. I was acting, in the moment of putting a check or cash in the offering plate, without consciousness. It was not
stewardship and I was not incorporating recognition of God's gifts to me. At the same time that I was considering what it would mean to become a steward,I felt the tension between ensuring my own material well-being, and that of my loved ones, with the spiritual expansion for which I yearned. So, my calculations were careful, thoughtful, and prayerful. After reviewing the total of checks-in-the-plate during the prior year I determined (with some chagrin) that I could reasonably double the amount. And then, because I was committed to stretching, I added half again to the total and made the pledge.
Along with the pledge deliberation and calculation, an idea began to flicker in my mind. Perhaps embracing a different relationship to money and my financial giving would enrich my engagement with ASBTS. And indeed, this is one way in which I have experienced evidence of God's promise in
Living Generously, this year's theme. I have noticed that it has become more important to me, and more gratifying, to be in church on most Sundays. There has been a shift in my attitude from that of bystander, evaluating whether the church would meet my expectations, to participant, wondering how I might more completely embrace both my humility and potentiality-as a daughter of the divine. And, on the pragmatic side, I was amazed to fulfill my pledge mid-year. An occurrence which I celebrated with new-found confidence by making a commitment to the capital campaign.
Am I still underestimating my capacity? My conclusion is 'probably', because my own experience and my work with others as a psychologist suggest that most of us do. However, I also know I am now in the sea of abundance, buoyed by a presence beyond, and discovering the possibility of eventually learning to swim with the tide, aligning the gifts I have been given and those I return to the universe. And, each time I am carried into shore, and look back at the ocean, it is with deeper gratitude and greater freedom to venture out again beyond my perceived limits.
The benefits of
Living Generously, moving from the easy option of admiring the water from a beach chair, have far exceeded the deficits of staying safe on the sand.