In the Episcopal Church we are asked to refer to the fall pledge drive – a phrase much used by NPR and PBS stations, as the Annual Renewal Campaign (ARC). I know, I know! I can hear some of you thinking that this is just another gimmicky phrase to obscure the fact that all the church is concerned with is money.
I remember growing up among cynics who often complained that all the church was concerned about was money. Often this was a backhanded way of expressing the naive assumption that the church shouldn’t need money – after all, God will provide. However, there was also an element of legitimate complaint that the church seemed unaccountable for how it spent our money.
Our annual budget is the way we make ourselves accountable to each other for the way St Martin’s spends our money. Yet, before a budget becomes possible, we need to know what our income is likely to be in the coming year. That’s why it is important you complete and return your
estimate of giving (pledge card) on or before the 18 November, the day designated as In-gathering Sunday. The cards will be snail-mailed next week to accompany a letter, this year from Fla Lewis, the Chair of Finance, along with some additional material we hope will be helpful.
In 2017 your generosity exceeded expectations, which brings me to the
renewal part of the Annual Renewal Campaign. Where does the impetus for generous living come from? In our spiritual tradition, generosity is an outward expression of gratitude. The
review part of the ARC process invites us to take a
spiritual inventory. We experience gratitude for good life, for loving family and friends, for good fortune and success, for the skills to negotiate challenges and opportunities in a difficult world. We connect with the source of our deepest gratitude when we realize that all we possess is actually a gift – given to us not simply to enjoy for our exclusive benefit but in order to also contribute towards the welfare of our neighbors. No one is an island, to paraphrase John Donne, and no one is self-made in the sense that our success is completely down to us without any help from social connection and infrastructure. The fact is that our individual prospering is interconnected with our neighbors flourishing.
Americans use the expression
give back, which I find delightful.
I remember a neighbor who in response to my telling him what I did exclaimed: “wow, you really give back”. Whether this is actually true or not I would like it to be, because for me, giving back is what brings me alive.
St Benedict had a lovely phrase about good stewardship. He called it –
the exercise of tender competence. My hope is that the
renewal piece of our Annual Renewal Campaign will invite you to give thanks and give back in gratitude for the many aspects of
tender competence that are just part of your everyday life.
See you in church, this Sunday!