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.

Why are you here?

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, September 22, 2019

By: Karen & Mike Huennekens, 2020 Stewardship Campaign Co-Chairs

Why are you here? 

David recently asked that of our congregants at our fall kick off Sunday. We laughed, but really, why are you here? It’s a great question. Honestly, Mike and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Earlier this month, we returned to our two services and celebrated the beginning of our new season with a family picnic. Children’s Chapel has made a resurgence and our church is back in action after a slower summer pace. We hosted the Diocesan Ordinations and welcomed approximately 300 visitors and priests to celebrate Virginia’s newly ordained who are ready to serve in our communities. There’s excitement around a newly formed Welcomers Committee to serve our newest members. This is just a small snapshot of what makes St. Mary’s special.

Our stewardship theme this year comes from Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In a way, St. Mary’s is a beautiful treasure that we are privileged to call our own. We are blessed by faith, reflection, education, tradition, and friendship. We know your heart is at St. Mary’s. Is your treasure here also?

Mike and I think about the money we spend at the beach on vacation, the box seats for a football game, or those Hamilton tickets! It’s easy to justify the money when it’s something you want to do. We’ve been blessed and God has been good to us. We ask ourselves, are we giving all that we can?

As with other organizations, our costs continue to rise but our giving levels are not reflective of our financial needs. We hope that you will consider your individual capacity for making a difference in the life and work of St. Mary’s. A thriving church such as St. Mary’s needs a strong stewardship culture.

Let our giving reflect our blessings and gratitude by participating and pledging in the Annual Stewardship Campaign. This 8-week pledge campaign begins today and concludes on November 17. Throughout this time, we are leaning on you to make a commitment to support the many ministries of the church for the following year. You may complete your online pledge by visiting the website or mail your pledge card prior to November 17. Our Finance Committee is hard at work preparing the budget for the upcoming year. Together, we can make a difference in the work that God has prepared us to do.

“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Expressing Gratitude

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 18, 2018

By: Tracey Ragsdale, Senior Warden & Russell Wyatt, Junior Warden

Although we have come to the end of another season of stewardship, we realize that stewardship is neither a program nor a campaign, but a part of our discipleship. The way we live our lives and the choices that we make flow from a depth of understanding of and gratitude for who we are and to whom we belong. From our first breath til our last, we are both receivers and givers. How we evolve from an infant, the ultimate taker, to an adult, where we strive to share everything, is one measure of how we live “a godly, righteous, and sober life.” On our journey to generosity, we learn from our own actions and experiences, from parents and family, from friends and colleagues, and most importantly from our church.

Over the past few years, we have been exposed to the uncivil nature of our society on so many issues.  Now more than ever is the time to fall back on the core beliefs that we learned from our personal relationships with family, with friends, and with God to help overcome the tremendous differences that divide the people of our great nation.

As we wind down St. Mary’s 2019 Annual Giving Campaign and head into Advent, it is an appropriate time to express our deepest gratitude to a number of different people. First, to those of you who have gone through or are going through a discernment process, pledged or are contemplating pledging, we are extremely grateful. The Clergy and Staff continue to provide support in so many ways, allowing us to live into our ministries and spiritual growth. Lastly, a special thank you to the hard work of the entire Stewardship Committee, with particular thanks to Karen and Mike Huennekens for spearheading such a wonderful effort. Without their strong leadership and tireless determination, we would not be where we are today.

As a token of appreciation, the Stewardship Committee and the Vestry invite you to join us for a celebration honoring St. Mary’s 2019 Annual Giving Campaign after both services this morning in the New Parish Hall. Again, thank you so much for leaning in. We look forward to seeing everyone Sunday.