Note: I'm guessing that there isn't a clergy person who is a rector who, this time of year, isn't sweating out what to say - or what s/he has said - in the Annual Stewardship Letter.
You know. The one that is Very Important To Write, something that will fit on ONE PAGE ONLY, something that simultaneously awakens the intellect and inspires the heart, and, of course, something that less than 5% of the recipients will read.
So, since I sweat at least half a pint of blood over this one, I thought I'd post it for ya'll to read. You don't have to comment. I just needed to know that more than 12-15 people would actually read it.
Stewardship Season starts tomorrow at 9 AM with The Training of the Canvassers for the Every Member Canvass. So far, 25 people have signed up for the training. I'm hopeful for a Good Harvest.
Ora pro nobis.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The Eucharist is at the heart of our common lives of faith as Christians. There are two chambers in the heart of the Eucharist – radical hospitality and gracious generosity.
Radical hospitality is the welcome which Jesus gave to absolutely everyone – saints and scoundrels alike – to come and follow The Way, the Truth and the Life of His saving and redemptive grace. Gracious generosity moves us beyond the virtue of charity, into the habit of giving from the heart – without coercion of a sense of duty or guilt.
This year, more than ever, it is important to remember this lesson in The Anatomy of The Christian Heart. These are fiscally uncertain times. Anxiety hangs in the air like a toxic cloud which, if inhaled in large enough quantities, has been known to close off and shrink the heart, resulting in behavior that is anything but hospitable, gracious or generous.
The good news is that Christianity has always flourished in times of uncertainty. You only need to look no further than 200 Main Street to find evidence of this.
Our church school and youth group programs are thriving. There are another eleven young people who are preparing for Confirmation this Spring.
This year, our own Grace Oakley will be “rector” of “Happening,” the diocesan youth event which will be held here at St. Paul’s. Our Royal School of Cathedral Music program has been launched, and there are now eight members of the fledgling group, “The St. Paul Singers,” comprised of children from our church and some who are not, who are learning how to glorify God with their hearts, minds and voices.
This past summer, we were able to open our doors and provide a temporary home for the Madison Day Care of Grace Church, which had been displaced due to construction at their facility. Our Food Pantry drives have provided food for our neighbors in need in Morris County and your generous contribution to the Rector’s discretionary fund also provides the dignity of Shop Rite gift certificates for those in need.
The sacraments have been brought to those who are too frail or otherwise unable to be with us on Sunday, who are also mailed weekly communication packets of announcements, copies of sermons, and our occasional news letter, “Celebration Times.”
And, through it all, St. Paul’s is here to celebrate the “new millennium’ of baptisms, as well as to minister at the hour of death and in the time of bereavement.
These are mere highlights of all that is the lifeblood of a church whose Eucharistic heart is set on radical hospitality and gracious generosity.
Sunday after Sunday, we are nourished and fed in a ‘sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving’ for God’s hospitality and generosity. Stewardship is the way we take care and make sure that the Body of Christ, the Church, functions in health and wholeness and holiness of life.
This Stewardship Season, now more than ever, I ask you to consider the question: What do you do with all that you have, after you say, ‘I believe’?
I ask you to answer that question from within the chambers of the heart of radical hospitality and gracious generosity as you have known them at St. Paul’s.
I have every confidence that, at the end of this Stewardship Season, we will discover that we are more and more of a reflection of the very heart of God, who loved us first and loves us best.
(the Rev'd Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton