If you are on the Parish List of St. Francis-in-the-Wood, you should have received (or imminently receive) a letter from fellow parishioner John Moonen on behalf of our Stewardship team inviting you to review and consider your financial contribution to St. Francis-in-the-Wood in the coming year. I suspect this is not the most exciting piece of mail to land on your doorstep, however it is really important – both for the church in meeting our financial obligations and funding the ministries we are engaged in and, I believe, it is important for each of us as members of the church in our own individual spiritual practice and discipleship as followers of Jesus. Although “money” may not strike us as being very spiritual, actually our relationship with money (and other “worldly wealth”), and specifically our ability to hold lightly and to be generous, will tell us a lot about our spiritual health and maturity.
Personally, this is how I have always approached my giving to the church ever since I became a Christian as a teenager. Giving a portion of my income for the ministry of the church has been an important part of what it has meant for me to live as a Christian, and my understanding is that this has the first call on my money. And the reason for that is to remind me that it not “my money,” it is God’s. All things come from God. It’s a way of seeing our possessions as not ours but entrusted to us by God to be used for God’s purposes. That does not mean that God doesn’t want us to enjoy what we have – God’s not stingy, or a party-pooper, or even really needs our money (which is not ours anyway) – but it is we that need to give in order to be freed from being possessed by our possessions.
So that’s why I give to the church (before doing anything else with my income, even before taxes or giving elsewhere), regardless of the financial needs of the church. However, the financial “needs” of the church really represent the mission and ministry of the church that we are all part of and certainly invited to be part of – you could even say called to be part of. We’re on a mission from God, as Jake & Elwood would say. And often it seems that we as a church face financial challenges, and those challenges can cause us to be anxious. Yet, time and time again over the years, I have seen those challenges met because we, the members of the church, have responded to the call. And although we do face such challenges again, I see no reason why this time should be any different, and I trust that God will move us in our hearts to give generously to continue and expand God’s ministry at St. Francis-in-the-Wood.
I join John Moonen and the Stewardship Team in inviting us all to take the time to consider the contents of the envelope you have received (personally and lovingly stuffed by yours truly!), to think about our own part in the financial health of our church and how this is reflected in our financial pledge.
If you have not received this communication in the mail, it is most likely because you are not on the parish list. If you wish to be on the parish list, please complete the Membership Form, which you can download below, and return it to the Parish Office (you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org). If you do not wish to be on the parish list (perhaps because you do not live locally) but would like to contribute on a regular basis to St. Francis-in-the-Wood, please find a pledge form also downlaodable below along with John Moonen’s letter. You can return the form to the address below – please mark it “Confidential – Envelope Secretary.” Our Envelope Secretary is the only person who get to see what each us gives.
Each week during this time of year, when we are thinking about Stewardship and our financial commitment to the church, we invite a number of parishioners to share with the rest of us something of what St. Francis-in-the-Wood means to them, why they come and why they keep coming. I always find these stories and testimonies very encouraging and inspiring as it prompts me also to think about what St. Francis-in-the-Wood means to me, and I think it helps us all as we reflect on our own part in this community of faith. On Sunday, October 14th, Rector’s Warden Ian McBeath shared what St. Francis means to him, and on October 21st we heard from our longest standing parishioner Don Millerd. Both of these restimonies are also posted below for download.
Angus Stuart, Rector