Dear Friends in Christ,
When Erin and I were first married, just out of college, and starting our first jobs in a new city we set out to find a church. For both of us, growing up in fairly religious families and communities, the question wasn’t “if”, but, rather, “where” we would attend services. In a previous Friday Letter I told the story of our first encounter with the Episcopal Church, how an elderly woman named Maxine sat next to us (and did for the following weeks and months) to ensure we wouldn’t be lost in the liturgy and described how she helped us integrate into a new faith community, one with a different culture and customs than we were used to. That church, there on a quiet back street of a small city outside Seattle was the first place either of us pledged.
Growing up we had both been taught to bring an offering every time we attended church. My mom would often slip a quarter in my hand as the offering plate passed to make sure I put something in. But, as full-fledged adults, this was the first time we actually sat down and decided not only that we would give, but how much, and how we would fit that giving into our budget. That first pledge was in many ways an act of obligation. We knew that by participating in this specific church, that we ought to give to it as well. We gave because deep down we felt it was expected of us.
But, it didn’t take long, the next year in fact, when Erin and I began to realize what a powerful impact this church made on us. We were making friends, incorporating into the community, learning, growing, and all the while being supported by our brothers and sisters in the pews and classes of our parish. Without realizing it, we were falling in love with our church. When it came time to pledge the next year, we noticed a subtle shift in our attitude. Now, we were giving, not just because we sensed it was required of us, but, because we were grateful for our new community. Our giving took on an element of gratitude.
Over the years, as we’ve left that first church and joined others, we have tried to cultivate that spirit of gratitude. Now, each year as we contemplate our pledge, we not only consider the ways we are thankful for our parish home, but truly for all our many blessings. There is much for which we can give thanks. As our stewardship brochure this year points out, now we not only give to our parish, but we give through it as a means of expressing our gratitude for all God has given us.
As you have likely noticed, our annual stewardship drive is upon us. You will likely be receiving, if you haven’t already, your annual pledge card and letter. There will be links on our website for online pledging, and on Sundays we will be hearing from folks who want to tell us why they give to St. John’s. This year, I would love to hear from more than just the folks in the pulpit (as valuable as their stories will no doubt be) to hear your stories, why you, and your family take it upon yourselves each year to pledge a portion of your finances through and to St. John’s. Why do YOU give? Send me your story and I’ll do my best to share it with others (anonymously if you prefer).
There is much going on around the parish. Please check out our website calendar and check out the announcements in our bulletin. See you in church!