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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Eucharistic Heart of Stewardship

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.

The Anatomy of the Christian Heart

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


ROBERTA said...

You can now count 16 people who have read your stewardship letter! Loved the 2 chambers in the Eucharistic Heart....I'm sure the parishioners will be moved to give generously and graciously during this time of radical harvesting....

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

16!! Whew! I feel better already.

Fran said...

The eucharistic heart-- oh my, that is amazing. Your words here are quite stirring and great use of symbols!

You done good Elizabeth - now you can but wait. I

Kirkepiscatoid said...

You realize I am chuckling b/c the expatriate LCMS in me needs to remind you that you are kicking off your stewardship campaign on Reformation Sunday--the classic week da Lootrans do it!

(But we are doing the same thing at my church, too, so I'll shut up...)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, child, I wish I could claim to be that intentional. It was decided upon by the Stewardship Committee and I don't mess with the work of the laity - especially when it has to do with their money.

Lisa Fox said...

Add me to those who read it and believed it, Elizabeth.

Despite what's happening to my salary [flat-lined] and 401(k)[plummeting], I intend to increase my parish pledge ... for all the kinds of reasons you mention here.

Jim said...

This is a year we can confidently increase our pledge. It will be at the expense of the 40, er 30, er 20, ok 101k. But that is alright, I figure to work till I die anyway. ;-)


Kirkepiscatoid said...

This year I am living a little on the edge for me. Historically I am a "pledge lowballer"--lowball my pledge and give twice that. But something happened in the book group I am leading in our last week's meeting. We are doing the book Soultypes (I need to go post on my own blog about that, maybe today...) and somehow we got into "pledging as a form of worship" and whether that was an extrovert thing or an introvert thing.

One of the people in the group said, "You know, when I was in college, and didn't have squat, I tithed. It sure wasn't much, but I tithed. Now I have a real job and I can't seem to bring myself to tithe. What's with that, anyway?"

I went home, and got to thinking. Hell, I am the same way. I am far more generous in terms of total bucks, but when I was young, I actually did tithe. When I was making 11,000 bucks a year I tithed.

It dawned on me. It was easier to trust in God's bounty when I had none of my own. Now, I like to think it's me....

So, last night, after two stiff bourbons, I stared and stared at the pledge card. Being in practice, I never know what I really am gonna make for the year in terms of paying myself a bonus. But I do have what is at least my known salary both at the lab and with my teaching gig. I slugged down the last of the 2nd bourbon, said, "Oh, WTF--let's have some adventure in my life." I wrote down 10% of my salary with the thought that I would tithe any bonus I paid myself, in a year where I feel as economically nervous as any I've ever had.

I decided I wanted to get back in touch with that 22 year old who without blinking, handed over $1100 of that 11,000. Today, I am laughing that I lost my friggin' mind!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Wow Kirke - if this letter gets THAT kind of response, I'll be one happy rector. Not about the money or the amount of money. Just the response. Thanks, Kirke. You give me hope. And, an idea.

Bourbon for everyone in the parish!!