The 2021 Stewardship Campaign has one week remaining before its formal ending on All Saints’ Day. 95 households have pledged a total of $390,159 as of October 22. The goal for this year’s campaign is $550,000. Of parishioners who pledged last year, 43 have yet to pledge this year. We ask those who have not pledged to consider prayerfully their support and return their pledge to the church bookkeeper by Thursday, October 29 in order to be included in the total announced on November 1.
Please remember that the Stewardship Campaign has three goals: 100 percent participation; sufficient income through pledging to maintain current payroll and obligations without relying on endowment income; and increase giving beyond Grace through the Diocesan pledge and Outreach.
Your Stewardship Committee: Dennis Cross (Chair), Susan Cross, Carol Dent, Gail Dickerson, David Hansen, John Milford, Rob Minor
Lay Stewardship Sermon - Brant Hellwig
Dennis Cross, chair of our parish’s stewardship committee, approached me a few weeks ago about delivering the lay sermon on stewardship. I agreed, although with a healthy degree of apprehension. The idea of delivering a sermon suggests that I have something meaningful or profound to impart. I am not sure about that. But thankfully, this is a lay sermon, and I am confident in my ability to showcase the “layperson” aspect of the address.
Dennis asked that I share some background on why our family contributes to the church as part of our stewardship campaign. In that regard, I want to share a story of a stewardship-themed event at our previous church home in South Carolina.
As part of stewardship season, the church decided to invite members to a one of many gatherings hosted by parishioners in their homes to discuss the topic. My wife and I hosted one of the events, which seemed nice enough. We had some wine, beer, appetizers – something of a stewardship happy hour. We are Episcopalian after all. There were about 10 people at the event, we all sat around a circular table, and started to chat. “Ok. Stewardship . . . Discuss.”
After people broke the ice, the conversation picked up. Actually, a little too much. One parishioner highlighted the number of excellent initiatives our church supported in the local community and beyond, stressing those good works – and one in which he was actively involved – as a dominant reason behind his giving to the church. Another member of the congregation, who I would describe as a cradle-to-grave, dyed-in-the wool Episcopalian, was somewhat bothered by that approach. No, in her mind, the reason to give abundantly to the church was grounded in Christian duty. Beginning and end of story.
The two went back and forth for a bit and, after the one parishioner once again touted his preferred outreach activity, the other finally asserted “I frankly don’t give a [darn] about that program.” But her statement had a little more heat on it than “darn.” Her husband shook his head, saying something like “Oh Lord, here we go,” and the rest of us scrambled to refill the wine glasses and change the subject.
At the end of the day, I am not so sure our stewardship happy hour had the desired effect of striking a positive tone. [Nonetheless, we did make sure to hand out the stewardship envelopes to everyone on the way out.]
I thought back to that event as I prepared my remarks, because, on the issue of whether our giving to the church should be tied to or depend on the activities of our church parish, I actually think both individuals had a point.
In one sense, our family’s giving to our church home in Grace Episcopal has nothing to do with the events that are going on here. Rather, our giving constitutes an expression of thanksgiving for the many ways we have benefited from God’s grace. It stems from a recognition that the resources we are privileged to have are not really ours alone – maybe not “ours” at all. Especially in times like this, the ability to have a job to even earn a living is itself a blessing from God. Returning a portion of our resources to the church is simply a recognition that we have benefited abundantly from God’s grace. Doing so is liberating, relieving, and even joyful. It is one way for us to recognize that we not really rugged individualists who make or break our own destiny. Rather, we are part of God’s family, and all that we have ultimately comes from Him. Stewardship therefore is not so much of an obligation, but rather a grateful recognition of His benevolence.
None of what I just described depends on what is taking place at Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington Virginia. Nonetheless, our family is inspired and moved by what our church parish is doing not only for us and for our parish, but for our community more broadly. Through our stewardship pledge, we are saying “Yes” to the various ways our church is sharing God’s word and his love.
There is simply no way to capture all that our church does, but I’ll mention some things that inspire our family and bring us closer to God.
- The spiritual leadership and guidance provided by Father Tuck, which we find inspiring.
- The unquestioning acceptance and fellowship offered by the Tuesday Morning men’s prayer breakfast group.
- The impactful work of members of our Outreach Committee.
- The hard word and leadership offered by members of our church Vestry.
- The joy we are able to bring children through our Angel Tree gifts.
- The statements of support that we have made to marginalized members of our community.
- The greetings we receive from the ushers when we walk into the church – even when we are coming in a few minutes late.
- The warmth that exists among members of our congregation when we can gather, which is genuine and palpable.
- Our interest in welcoming newcomers to our church and to our worship services.
- The care that so many have shown to my daughters, who essentially grew up in this parish.
- The feeling of peace, love, and hope that exists when we all sing Silent Night by candlelight in the courtyard after the Christmas Eve service.
- The return of the alleluias and the joy in celebrating Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning.
These and many more things are all gifts from God, gifts that are facilitated through our parish. They are a few things with which I am most familiar, and they merely scratch the surface of the many ways our church parish spreads God’s love among us and our community.
Our stewardship pledge is a way for us to essentially say “Yes” to all of these good things. That feels good. It brings my family contentment and joy.
In closing, we all have our own particular motivations for contributing to the Lord’s work through Grace Episcopal. It may be a simple recognition that our resources are not ours alone. It may be because you are inspired and want to support the sharing of God’s grace that occurs through our church and, in particular, through our clergy, our staff, and our parishioners. It may be some of both, along with other reasons. Ultimately, I believe common denominators are an expression of gratitude and a desire to spread God’s love. Both bring us closer to Him.