Thankful to Belong to this Community

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 27, 2019

By: Brantley Holmes

I’m not sure when Byron and I started putting a check in the collection plate every Sunday. We talk about what we pledge, but have never formally discussed how we pay it; weekly, monthly, quarterly. But no matter, that weekly practice has become a ritual that if not done I feel like I’ve forgotten something. And it’s not just me who is used to that ritual, our children. Every Sunday one will ask, “Can I put the check in today?”

I remember my parents pledging and putting their contribution in the collection plate on Sundays. I remember them encouraging me to give, talking with me about the importance of giving back, and taking responsibility for my part.

I’m not sure how God and faith all works. I know that my perspective on life is better and I can handle the stress I experience better because I invest in my relationship with God. I didn’t always know that. I didn’t always go to church or value the blessing of it. I didn’t attend youth group or like Sunday school. Despite taking many wrong turns, I am exactly where I wanted to be since I was a little girl, and I believe there are many reasons why. I have wonderful parents who ensured that I grew up in a church community where I was loved, cared for, and prayed for many times by many people.

When I went back to school to get a Postmaster’s Certificate in Nursing, I had to do a research project. I chose to research what helps prevent risk taking behavior in teenagers. I read fifteen studies and the common theme was communication and community. Children who had a place to belong, where they felt safe and loved, were less likely to engage in risk taking behaviors.

I am so thankful – for my husband and children, my parents, my family, my friends, my work, and my church. I am thankful to belong to a place where I feel renewed each week, to share in that with Byron and our children, and have a place where our children can build friendships and their faith. I am thankful for my relationship with God. My dad will say “People do what is important to them.” I agree. St. Mary’s is important to me. I want to say thank you; to show my gratitude. My pledge helps me do that.

I realize from experience that our children may not truly appreciate the value of all this right now, but they see that Byron and I do, and for that I am thankful as well.

We Found Our Church Home

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 20, 2019

By: Harry Baldwin

Home is a comforting and peaceful place after returning from a trip. There is a deep sense of serenity and solace gained by being among familiar belongings. Home is a place where we can be ourselves, and be loved, respected, and cared for by those who mean the most to us.

My wife, Jeannie, and I returned home to Richmond after being in Alexandria for twelve years. We sought and found a new home to house our cherished items, to get a great night’s sleep, and to share good times with family and friends. We also sought a new church, a new parish home. It was logical to check out St. Mary’s and we soon knew we had found our church home.

St. Mary’s meets precisely our needs – to be ourselves among fellow parishioners, to be loved, respected and cared for by clergy and lay members. We come to be fed weekly at God’s table with divine nourishment, to be forgiven as only God can do, and to be with family. We are very comfortable and at peace in our St. Mary’s home.

The campus and church buildings are beautiful and meet the needs of young and old alike. What really makes St. Mary’s the wonderful, peaceful, and comforting home is the living presence of the Holy Spirit. God is exceptionally good to me, to Jeannie, to each of us. Everything I have, possess, and need is provided by God. I owe all to him.

Stewardship time is an opportunity to reflect and respond to God’s generosity and kindness. This opportunity affords us the specific time to evaluate what time, talents, and treasures can be returned to God. Like every other home, there are expenses of brick and mortar as well as personal needs. Clergy and staff must be compensated for their compassionate work. Most importantly, we want – not need – to show God our sincere gratitude for everything he has given to us. I personally receive far more from God in my parish home than I could ever give.

The biblical guidance for our stewardship effort this year is “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I ask you to consider how much our St. Mary’s church home means to you and to share your time, talents, and financial gifts for God’s work in this place. I urge you to increase your pledge or to give for the first time. To continue to invest in St. Mary’s will enhance the place where we are loved, respected, and cared for by God, fellow parishioners and staff. May the Holy Spirit continue to grace and bless our St. Mary’s home.

A Growing Appreciation of my Blessings

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 13, 2019

By: Danny Williams

As our stewardship campaign gets underway, the focus falls on the needs of the church, for they are many and growing. But perhaps an even more important element in this exercise is our need to give. I see stewardship as one of the very most important missions of the church; a lesson, that if learned, will contribute more to peace of mind· than just about anything. An end to feeling guilty about spending on other things; an end to feelings of resentment at requests for donations; a joy at pleasing the asker and being able to do your part for whatever the enterprise might be. All within the framework of a stewardship standard that you have decided is right for you. We all know successful people who are generous. I have come to believe that they are successful because they are generous, not the other way around.

In 1981 when I turned 44, I decided that I would try to give away ten percent of my income. I included all giving in my objective. Not just church, but schools, hospitals, museums, the United Way, and the guy at the stoplight. This might fall short of the biblical tithe of returning to God a tenth of what he gives you. I suppose a strict interpretation would call for the whole ten percent going to the church. But it was a standard that seemed achievable for Georga and me and it made room for plenty of new giving. Now at age 81, I look back on this decision as a primary reason for the wonderful easy life that I am so grateful for. A good theme for living, if not for a stewardship campaign might be Ecclesiasties 11:1- “Cast your bread upon the waters for after many days you will find it again.” That’s exactly how it has played out for me. I found that with the rearrangement of my priorities, many of my other hopes and aspirations no longer seemed so important. A growing appreciation of my existing blessings took their place.

So as you consider your support for St. Mary’s in 2020, please also consider the broader benefits that stewardship brings. I believe you will be glad you did.

Evolving in Beautiful Ways

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 6, 2019

By: Patsy Simril

Friends, when you pledge to St. Mary’s, you will receive a thank you card featuring a lovely photograph of David baptizing a baby. The Stewardship Committee chose that picture because that is where all of this church stuff begins.

Recently, I had to prepare a reflection for my Education For Ministry Class which I was dreading. Fortunately, I found a funny birthday card that made me laugh and then think. It features a butterfly driving a flashy sportscar who was stopped by a policeman, and she is showing him her driver’s license. The license shows a picture of a caterpillar, and she says to him, “That’s an old photo.” Inside, the card reads, “I love the way you are evolving.” That sums up pretty well my feelings about you, us, and St. Mary’s. We are all evolving in so many beautiful ways.

When we are baptized, we start our journey with people who love us, making promises and pledges to God on our behalf. We slowly evolve into people who question, search, and strive to be the best we can be. There are three components of strengthening our faith: prayer, study, and fellowship. Each is equally important, and I believe God loves to see us use our time, gifts, and talents to explore each one. That sounds like a lot of commitment, but when you attend St. Mary’s, you can get all three at a time. The more you visit, the more you receive, the more you evolve into that butterfly.

As a member of the Stewardship Committee, I ask that you consider increasing your participation in our church life and generously sharing your time, talents, and gifts with our church. I am happy and proud of the way our church is evolving, and I believe God feels the same way. How else can we explain the many gifts we have here–from our beautiful church and grounds to the welcoming and talented staff and clergy? Let’s keep our evolution and momentum going!

Our Relationship with Others

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, September 29, 2019

By: Dianne Dementi

Let me start this reflection by sharing that I did not see myself as ever becoming a contributing member of a Stewardship Committee. Ask people for money – oh no! Fortunately, the leadership of St. Mary’s feels like God will take care of each member’s desire to pledge. My role is to connect with our members, be here to support them, and tell them what St. Mary’s means to me. I can do that.

My Christian beliefs have deepened in many ways since coming to St. Mary’s. Initially when I found this wonderful church, I truly felt “at home.” Then, naturally, all kinds of changes occurred. I watched as the leadership changed multiple times, and, amazingly, the congregation of this church accepted the changes with grace and strength, always believing that even better times were coming. I was awed, and it gave me a great sense of peace.

Our adult forums have also opened my heart to new ways of listening and finding ways to serve. I truly heard David when he said, “Don’t be recruited, be called.” I did not even have to think about it when Carol Evans asked me to co-chair the Altar Guild with her. I feel like Altar Guild has always been part of my life, even as far back as my childhood. I remember watching my Grandmother stand at the end of her dining room table ironing church linens, pulling them down the table so they would not wrinkle and rolling them on cardboard tubes to carry them back to her church.

My participation in this ministry at St. Mary’s has renewed my connection with my Grandmother, and I believe she was “sitting on my shoulder” when I accepted the call. I receive far more from this ministry than I give. It is an amazing group of dedicated women. The camaraderie among the members is something to behold, and their grace and friendship makes our tasks more reward than work.

With that, this quote from Rick Warren came to mind, “we discover our role in life through our relationships with others.” Through my relationships on Altar Guild and the wider St. Mary’s community, I find that my heart is truly at St. Mary’s during this season of Stewardship. And I give much thanks for that.

I wish you all similar experiences.