Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lives of Meaning and of Purpose::Fund Raising vs. Stewardship, by The Rev. Peter J. Van Hook

Each year the Bishop's Committee of St. Mary's Church asks the supporters of the congregation to submit a pledge card. The information from the cards—both indications of financial giving and for contributions of time—are used by the Bishop's Committee to plan for the next year and beyond. The pledge cards are a purely practical way for the leadership of your parish church to have adequate information for planning.
There are also some practical reasons for doing the pledge cards in the spring. Although the administrative year for The Episcopal Church is the calendar year (January 1) the Diocesan budget cycle requires the Bishop's Committee to submit its grant request by the end of July each year for the coming calendar year. Having our pledge drive in the spring also gets us out of the fall with its family and social needs at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We have chosen the Sundays of Eastertide to offer Moments for Mission, short talks by members of the congregation about their own sense of stewardship, and to explain why they support St. Mary's Church as well. These are also invitations for you to engage these persons in conversation about their sense of stewardship.

All of this is done at the risk of sending a mixed message. That is, it is all too easy to fall into thinking that stewardship is what we do when we give to the church. I cannot emphasize enough that the pledge drive is fund raising not stewardship. STEWARDSHIP is living a life of meaning and of purpose, as God leads us to understand that purpose. Giving to your church may be part of your overall stewardship, but it ought to be only a small part of that stewardship. Does St. Mary's Church desire and need your contributions of money and time? Of course it does. At the same time, the needs of your church ought to be considered only as a small part of how you are living your life as a Christian.

To live a life of meaning and of purpose is to embrace life in all its glory and its pain, to commit oneself to a way of life that is guided by the spirit of Jesus. It is a considerate life, one in which you consider what is right for you.

It is only in this context of an understanding of stewardship that the comment I have made so often can make any sense: I do not care if you give to St. Mary's Church or not. What I care about is your spiritual life in all its fullness. Do I, personally, believe that giving to St. Mary's Church is important? Yes—and I contribute something over 10% of my income to this congregation. But I also give to other things and needs. My money contributions to St. Mary's Church are but a small part of my overall stewardship of myself.

At the same time, I care very much that you submit a pledge card to this church. Why? First, because your Bishop's Committee needs that information in order to act out its stewardship for the church and its people. Second, the pledge card is a tool to remind you to take stock of your life of meaning and of purpose on a regular basis. That pledge card is only a practicality. Use it as an opportunity to consider your own life of meaning and of purpose.


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