A couple of weeks ago, Hickory Neck had a wonderful guest preacher who talked to us about stewardship. He led with a participatory set of questions. The first was, “What is your reaction when I tell you today is a Stewardship Sunday?” The responses ranged from “anxiety,” “nervousness,” “dread,” and “frustration” (though some people studiously responded, “gratitude”). The next question was, “How do you think your rector feels about Stewardship Sundays?” The responses were fairly similar, and the preacher surmised that stewardship is something rectors dread too because so much of what they can do is based on what parishioners are willing to give.
The funny thing is though, as I sat there listening to the preacher’s question about my own feelings, my initial response about how I, as rector, felt about stewardship season was “joy.” I know what you are thinking, “Come on, Jennifer, we know you get stressed out about money as much as we do!” And there is probably a latent sense of anxiety or at least uncertainty. But mostly I feel joy. I love talking about stewardship because to me, talking about stewardship is a lot like evangelism. Both involve talking about something you love and inviting people into that passion. And I absolutely love and am passionate about the community of Hickory Neck and the powerful ministry we are doing. I see every day what a powerful place this is for people, and what an incredible impact it is making on their lives. So, asking people to financially support this place is really just a matter of inviting people to affirm that goodness in their life – to give with the same abundance that is experienced within this community.
The other reason I feel joy in talking about stewardship is because talking about our financial giving is what people do when they are in relationship with one another – they talk about what it is important to them, and what effects their everyday lives. Money is one of those things that is at the very heart of our lives – we need it, we use it, and we often wish we had more. Jesus even talked about money perhaps more than any other issue in his ministry. But the reason many of us get uncomfortable talking about money is because money feels personal and intimate. But being in authentic relationship means sharing things that are personal and intimate. With whom else can you talk about money if not with those to whom you are closest, who support you in your darkest moments, and who love you unconditionally?
The last couple of months I have run into many colleagues and long-time friends, and invariably they ask me how things are going at Hickory Neck. I have noticed when I answer that inquiry, my body has a visceral response. I immediately and unconsciously smile and let out a sigh of satisfaction before I launch into what I love about our community and the work we are doing together. As you are working on your pledge cards this week, I hope you can first think about what those things are at Hickory Neck that give you joy, that make you excited to be here, investing your time and energy. Then I hope you can allow your financial pledge to be a testimony to that joy. Come, shine your light with me!