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.

The Key is Participation

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 11, 2018

By: Cathy and Lee Keiger

Merriam Webster defines stewardship as “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” What does this mean to us in relation to St. Mary’s?

Making a monetary pledge or other form of financial support is certainly a building block of stewardship, and an important one, but it is not the only piece and not necessarily the most important piece of our individual stewardship efforts. The key to stewardship is participation. It is ongoing and necessary in building healthy relationships. In short, stewardship is a spiritual discipline that reminds us of who we are and whose we are.

Individually, stewardship presents us an opportunity, actually multiple opportunities, to contribute and participate in the well-being of St. Mary’s. It is a kinder and gentler form of stewardship and it is completely voluntary.

Over the years, our family has enjoyed many activities and services as members of St. Mary’s.  We have served on vestries, participated in fellowship, sung in the choir, welcomed newcomers, and taught Sunday school. We have welcomed our children into the Church through baptism and have sought guidance and strength as we have mourned the loss of loved ones. In both good times and bad, Lee and I have strengthened our relationship with God. This would not have been possible if it had not been for St. Mary’s strong leadership and good stewardship.

We do not take the importance of stewardship lightly. Every year, we make an annual pledge to the church and it is the first bill we pay. For St. Mary’s to be nurtured, it needs both financial and spiritual support. By so doing, we ensure the parish’s continued existence, growth, and ability to carry out its many ministries. Stewardship is not elective but is continuous in nature.

Our tendency is to put an annual emphasis on stewardship. We need to remind ourselves, however, that this is not a one-shot opportunity to commit ourselves and our financial resources.  It is a time to remind ourselves of the ongoing opportunities that are available to us because of St. Mary’s stewardship efforts.

We encourage you to recognize our communal stewardship responsibility and to concentrate and meditate on your personal opportunities to contribute your proverbial time, talent, and money to St. Mary’s stewardship efforts.  We also encourage you to contemplate your opportunities on an ongoing and periodic basis and not just once a year.

Do Good and Share

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 4, 2018

By: Seth Schaeffer

In Hebrews 13:16, we are reminded: “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” For years, we at St. Mary’s received this reminder just before diligent ushers surged the aisles to disseminate shiny collection plates. Upon hearing these words, I would repeat them in my head and smile. I liked hearing them. But I never focused very deeply on what it was that I liked about them. Upon a cursory reflection, the reminder seems utterly unnecessary. Do we Church-going folk need to be reminded to do good? Certainly not. Do we, who constantly extoll the virtues of sharing on our children, need to be reminded to share? No way. Except, I think that sometimes we do.

As Wayne Dementi observed so well, the journey from showing up, to leaning in, and, finally, to staying strong gets a bit harder from one step to the next. I think about the reminder in Hebrews 13 in much the same way—doing good sounds pretty easy, but when that means sharing (i.e. giving someone else something that is yours), that’s a bit harder. And when sharing means sacrificing (i.e. giving even when it hurts), well, that is harder still. So I think it does help to be reminded, or urged, to do good, to share, and to sacrifice. God gives us proof that he is well pleased by our sacrifice through the warmth and joy we feel when we do.

Carrie and I felt that warmth and joy when we made our stewardship pledge for 2019. Pledging to St. Mary’s is one of the many ways we all can show—and feel—that we are “all in.” St. Mary’s is not just a place, it is a community that grows and is strengthened when all of its individual families share their blessings. Such sacrifices have allowed St. Mary’s to grow into the wonderful spiritual center that it is, weathering hardships along the way. And such sacrifices will allow St. Mary’s not only to weather the hardships to come, but to continue to flourish.

In the end, I think that the reminder in Hebrews 13 is not so much a reminder to do good and share, but a reminder that by doing these things, you are pleasing God. And I guess that is what I liked about hearing those words all along.

Spiritual practice. Gratitude. Thanks be to God.

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 28, 2018

By: Wayne Dementi

Spiritual practice and gratitude go together. This idea of embracing spiritual practice as a way of life has emerged in my consciousness over the past year or two – compliments of our clergy. As I engage in the spiritual practice of making myself think more about what I’m hearing and experience at St. Mary’s, my daily routine is hugely enriched.

Each week, at a minimum, I benefit from the following: the words offered by David and Bob in their wonderful sermons; the adult forum lessons from David and, most recently, Ben Campbell; the Men’s Spiritual Practice on Tuesday mornings; and other habits such as thoughtfully reading The Annunciation reflections.

The sermons call me to listen harder, think more, and be grateful. I have heard our clergy encourage me to weave these musings into my faith. For example, we heard David speak of one of his spiritual practices of envisioning those around him as their innocent 3-year old selves. Try that. It’s cool. I love challenging myself to Bob Hetherington’s solicitation to God as he prays for his sermon, “may the words we hear be your words”.

This next sentence is written in gratitude to Bob. I want him to know that I am working hard at showing up which is pretty easy, paying attention which is a little harder, and leaning in which is a lot like real work.

And this is a special mention of the Men’s Spiritual Practice group. I realize what you are about to read falls into the category of “you have to be there to understand it.” But we have been together for close to two years now. To study the Gospel with these friends has brought a new perspective to the wonder of spiritual practice. It’s a true blessing.

Dianne and I are so grateful for what is happening for us and our faith at St. Mary’s.

When I received the invitation to serve on the Stewardship Committee, my first reaction was “who – me?” Then I heard David May offer his theology for stewardship. Pledging should be faith based. We should each consider stewardship as a spiritual practice, with our personal decision being driven by a sense of gratitude to God. Dianne and I were thus empowered to pledge with confidence and gratitude.

Spiritual practice. Gratitude. Thanks be to God.

Remembering Who We Serve

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 21, 2018

By: Kemper Wharton

For the past twenty years, our family has been a part of the St. Mary’s family. I cannot say we would win an attendance medal but I can say St. Mary’s is always in our hearts as we have shared every possible emotion during our time here.

There is no way to put a value on our spiritual experience but during the stewardship season we try to do just that, as we consider our pledges. It is with this examination in mind that I ask, what is your why? Is it family value? Is it a feeling of obligation or a longing for a place to worship surrounded by loving like-minded people?
I am drawn to the words of an American folk singer and recipient of both the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Bob Dylan, and specifically, two ballads: “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “Stand by Faith”.

You might be asking yourself, Bob Dylan, really? Bob Dylan aficionados know that a great many of his songs have substantial religious meaning. These songs offer a glimpse into the why and then the how we can achieve our vision and dreams as we prayerfully consider our 2019 pledges. First, the why from a verse and chorus of “Gotta Serve Somebody”:

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

and “Stand by Faith” for the how:

How do we move
Move by faith
How do we move
Move by faith
How do we move
Move by faith
By faith, by faith, oh Lord

If we, through prayerful introspection, consider the blessing of being a part of St. Mary’s, a little country parish full of energy and momentum, and remember who we serve with an abundance of faith than reaching our goals will be easy.