Stewardship

St Pauls | Ministry

PRINCIPLES IN DETERMINING OUR PLEDGE

Allyn C. Foster

The following are some reflections that Allyn Foster shared with the members of St. Paul's as part of the Budget and Financial Forum, sponsored by the Vestry at St. Paul's on Sunday, April 24, 2005.

1. Ownership

God is the Owner of everything. Everything, including life itself, is a trust from God. We brought nothing into this world. We will take nothing out.

There is no separation between the material and the spiritual. We make a big mistake when we compartmentalize our lives by assuming that the sacred has to do with our prayers, our worship, singing hymns in church, and that the rest is "secular." The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. (Psalm 24:1) All of life is holy.

2. Priorities

What is most important? What do we value most? We must make choices because none of us has unlimited resources.

We need to determine the place of the Spiritual in our scale of values.
What does St. Paul's mean to us? How important is this community of nurture and support and challenge? How valuable is this long and lovely tradition of sacred music, art, and liturgy?

Your Vestry and ministry staff spent a recent weekend on retreat. During part of that time we retraced the past fifty years of St. Paul's history, relying on the recollections of members of the group. We were all awed and overwhelmed by the richness of this faith community and the people who have contributed to that richness.

There is a line from a prayer for the church in the Book of Common Prayer, which refers to the church as "that wonderful and sacred mystery."

If something is that valuable, it deserves to be strongly and faithfully supported.
We will adjust our priorities. We will need to make some decisions as to the Church's importance in relation to other priorities. We will need to move something else to a lower position.

Flipping God a five or a ten if we have something left over fails to produce a positive result. Supporting a fund raiser for some church organization is appreciated, but is not a true measure of our stewardship.

The church's financial status is not the issue here, but rather the benefit to the giver. Token giving gives me no positive benefit. However giving that requires a priority decision connects my physical and material world with the spiritual and the eternal. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

3. Systematic

We live in segments of time and rhythm: daily, weekly, monthly. We do our shopping, we go to work, we eat, we sleep, we pay our bills.

We worship weekly. It is my firm belief that we are to give weekly as well. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but placing my offering envelope in the plate during worship is just as significant as saying the prayers, singing the hymns, or receiving the bread and wine.

I encourage us to think of pledging and giving on a weekly basis (even if we use direct withdrawal from a bank account.) There are two reasons for this. The first is that our giving then becomes a part of weekly worship.

The second reason for weekly pledging and giving is that we are able to give more. If you were to ask me to consider giving $2100 to the church this year, I would probably hesitate. But I can give $40 per week, and at the end of the year my statement tells me I have given nearly $2100! We're asking our members to consider increasing their 2005 pledges. Can I give an additional $500? That seems like quite a lot, and yet that's only $10 per week, which I think I can handle.
So when you determine your pledge, think in weekly increments and do the math to come up with the annual total.

4. Joy

We're not talking about drudgery, nor some heavy obligation, or paying dues.
St. Paul said something quite profound about giving when he wrote to the Church at Corinth. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:7)

God's desire is that our giving should bring us joy. Giving brings joy when it represents a sufficient portion of our possessions so as to have meaning.
My very first parish fresh out of seminary in 1958 was a tiny church in central New York State. The building was so tiny that 75 worshipers would cause the walls to bulge. The last person to leave on Sunday morning was the treasurer. When he shook my hand he left a roll of bills-my $50 weekly pay. Of course the church provided me with a small house, and paid for all the coal I needed. But that was it. I had three mouths to feed and a fourth to join that first year. We held a capital funds campaign that year. The director talked to us about our need to set the pace for the rest of the congregation. Did that mean me? On my tiny salary? Well, it did mean me! I struggled long and hard about surrendering $5.00 of that $50. But I did it.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It has provided a pattern for me to the present day. And you want to know something? I get a kick out of giving! It's one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, to know that I'm doing something that can make a difference.

 

Your Vestry and staff have made that commitment. Each one has increased his or her pledge. Many more did so at our Forum after worship on April 24. We are excited about what's happening at St. Paul's, and about what is about to happen. We've locked on that promise in Isaiah: I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19) We are witnessing new participation, new vision, new enthusiasm in every area of our life together. Part of that new thing is a new trend in financial support which will reverse the old trend of heavy draws on endowment and a vastly higher percentage of income coming from weekly pledges.

We are asking each person receiving this communication to made a meaningful increase in your giving for 2005. Please understand, no one is asking anyone to go hungry or to deprive themselves. If you are at or near the poverty line, we want you to be part of this fellowship. We love you. We want to reach out to you. But there are many who could make an increase of 50% or more, some perhaps 25% or 10%. This decision is between you and God.

If your financial commitment is not already included in the total of 2005, please fill out a card next Sunday, or request one from the church office. If you have already made a commitment, we invite you to fill one of the "Pledge Increase" cards, indicating an increase of a dollar amount or a percentage for the current year. Have you fulfilled your "Let the Stones Sing" Capital Campaign pledge? Why not consider applying a like amount as an increase to your Current Expense pledge?

Thanks for all you do and will do. Experience the JOY!

 

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2005 St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo New York