All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island, SC
November 1, 2007
Throughout my thirty-two years as a priest, I have heard on numerous occasions the remark that goes something like this: “When I win the lottery, the church will receive a huge gift!” And through the years the persons who offer that remark or remarks similar to that sincerely mean it. As much as I welcome such a possibility and indeed a windfall of such magnitude, I would prefer our church budget to reflect the thoughtful and prayerful pledges and gifts a parish receives on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Some large, some small, many in between, each reflecting the giving of many for a common purpose. I have witnessed the unhealthy stewardship of a parish where one family or a small group of pledgers make the critical difference rather than the entire membership creating a sense of ownership and purpose for giving.
All Saints is in the position of needing every member to pledge to the life and mission of the parish. Not 67% of the parish but 100%.
If I had my druthers, the parish would operate on a “faith” budget that reflects the needs of ministry, mission, and program, and would have the faith and courage to challenge parishioners to explore their own giving patterns and then to see and experience that money simply makes things possible as we endeavor to honor Christ here and beyond the walls of the church.
Living faithfully, as I struggle to do, means not really being concerned with what people give on a person level, but rather how a person comes to a point of giving … and not to a budget but to people, programs, ministry, and mission. No one can begin to tell anyone what they should or ought to give as a way to respond faithfully to God. That is so sacred and precious in the sight of God that the decision belongs to the heart and soul of the individual.
I do believe we are the body of Christ, living out our lives with other people who share in the vision and mission of this parish. In that respect we are like-minded people with a purpose. I would offer these insights.
Don’t give out of obligation but, rather, allow your faith to inform you, to compel you. Don’t give to a budget, but give out of generosity rather than out of a sense of poverty. Give with joy and understand that the gift has everything to do with you at a level you may not always comprehend. Give because you believe deep down that the mission and vision of All Saints is an exciting way to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Give as if you believe this gift is an honor to give and not a burden. Give with the prayer that someone unbeknownst to you will benefit from our collective giving.
Our mission statement is intentionally brief, clear, and real. It is about not only who we are and what we believe now, but it pushes that sense of now always into the future of our life together. We are the body of Christ. We are becoming the body of Christ. Honoring All Saints’ Vision and Mission Statement is a constant and worthy challenge to our faith. It is something to be lived out as if our integrity as Christians depended upon it!
I ask for 100% giving. Because you are part of a great effort to make a difference where we have been planted. And we do so not for the glory or out of obligation, but rather out of a common bond that places us in a Godly community that I have come to see as the body of Christ.
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