Gratitude Changes Your Perspective

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 14, 2018

By: Tracey Ragsdale

For the past 10 years, I have been part of a woman’s Bible study group. The members of this group are my friends, some of whom I have known for years and some of whom have enriched my life with new friendships. Collectively, they provide a safe outlet in which I have been able to share both burdens and joys. One of the things I love most is receiving a Bible verse and commentary each day. They always seem to bring me some much needed perspective. I was particularly inspired by Psalms 118:29: “So let’s keep on giving our thanks to God, for he is so good! His constant, tender love lasts forever.” Erwin McManus writes, “Gratitude changes your perspective about life. You see the future, experience the present, and remember the past in a dramatically different way.”

During this season of stewardship, I am grateful. I am grateful to the wonderful staff who led us so seamlessly through our transition and so graciously welcomed David and Emily. I am grateful for the tireless work of the Rector Search Committee who so prayerfully listened as God called us to invite David as our next rector. I am grateful for the enthusiasm of this congregation as they have embraced David and our staff and are excited to share ways we can better serve in the future. I am grateful for Karen and Mike Huennekens who, without hesitation, said yes to our request to lead us in our annual campaign and who have worked to organize this effort. I am grateful to St. Mary’s for all that it has given to me and my family. I am thankful for the many friendships I have found through our church, the opportunity for spiritual growth, and for the constant challenge to become a better, more Godly person.

One of the ways I can show my gratitude is by joyfully pledging and supporting this parish. I love what we at St. Mary’s are doing, and I am inspired by how much more we can do together to share God’s blessings.

“Gratitude changes your perspective about life.”

Send us Out to do the Work

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 7, 2018

By: Mike Blanks

This year I had the privilege of being asked to serve on the stewardship committee. Prior to our first meeting of the year, I began thinking about what stewardship really means. It is now that time of year when we have been asked to make a pledge to St. Mary’s. By now we have all received the narrative budget and have heard at the adult forum and Sunday service about the importance of our pledges in order to meet the budget goals, to keep St. Mary’s running smoothly, the beautiful buildings and grounds maintained, and to achieve the goals of the many ministries of St. Mary’s. All of this is a necessity, but I am sure to many it also sounds like a burden to bear for all of us. So where do we find guidance and answers?

The Rev. David May has urged us all to prayerfully consider in making our pledges what God is calling each of us and St. Mary’s to do. In my own prayerful consideration of what stewardship means, I looked to our Episcopal traditions and the Bible for guidance. As Episcopalians we find in the last three of the five baptismal promises what we are charged to do not only within our own parish but also in the greater community. We have all accepted our mission by responding to each baptismal promise, “I will with God’s help”. In applying this to our pledges, we must meet the needs of not only our parish, but as Christians we also have the responsibility to do good works in our community and the greater world.

As part of the Eucharist service, in the Prayer of Thanksgiving, we together pray, “And now Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”

These reflections made me realize that my annual pledge is not a burden to bear, but instead an opportunity to be joyful about. As stated in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: “The person who gives generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

What are we called to do?

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, September 30, 2017

By: Fay Lohr

Jesus asks us to take care of those in need. Sounds like a big job! So what am I called to do?

Is it giving someone a big bear hug? Every Sunday morning, I look forward to a big hug from my friend Seward Gray. His positive attitude and warm hugs get me through the coming week.

Is it being present and listening to someone who is overwhelmed with life’s challenges? Is it praying someone through a difficult crisis when they don’t even know you are praying for them? Are these small tasks what we are being called to do?

One of the perks of being a member of St. Mary’s faith community is being able to do all these things for others as needed. It also means that same community will be there to nurture and protect us when life happens. When my husband Gordon faced some medical challenges, having our entire faith community praying certainly gave us the strength we needed. Knowing there are all those clouds of witnesses lifting up our prayers got us through.

In turn, serving on the Pastoral Care Team has given me an opportunity to reach out to members of St. Mary’s. It may be a bag of delicious pecans or a meal you can pop in the oven when things get crazy; a birthday card from the parish just when we think nobody remembers. I was especially touched to receive my St. Mary’s birthday card and read the special prayer enclosed.

All these small tasks carried out by our community add up quickly. They are what makes a visitor know that St. Mary’s is special. They can feel the positive energy and love that welcomes each of us. We have a beautiful facility, wonderful music, and challenging messages, but it is so much more. It is the sum total of all the gifts God has given each of us brought together as one Body of Christ.

Now is the time when we are called to do an inventory of our gifts and talents. Spend some time in prayer counting your blessings, giving thanks and discerning what you are going to give back to God.

The gift of time is precious and St. Mary’s needs all of our gifts – hugs, teaching Sunday School, making meals, singing in the choir, or being an acolyte.

What is the Holy Spirit calling each of us to do?

Respond with Time, Talent, and Treasure

Respond with Time, Talent, and Treasure

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 12, 2017

By: Jane duFrane and Fay Lohr, Stewardship co-chairs

We love witnessing how our gifts open the way at St. Mary’s to life-transforming ministries at our church, and in our local community, state, and around the globe. Over the past six weeks you have heard from different parishioners about their Stewardship journeys and what St. Mary’s means to them and their families.

Since the beginning of this year, your gifts have opened the way by accompanying parishioners on a retreat to the Society of St. John the Evangelist; sponsoring youth weekends at Shrine Mont Retreat Center; sending staff, parishioners, and youth on four different mission trips around the world; hosting a CARITAS shelter for homeless families; mailing hundreds of cards to families with new babies, ill family members, familial losses, and birthdays through our pastoral care teams; offering a fantastic Vacation Bible School; and collecting food for over 50 families through Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services. That names only some of the vibrant ministries here at St. Mary’s.

These ministries – and many more – are profoundly relevant to those in our congregation, the community that surrounds us, and to God, who opens our hearts, hands, and souls to do His work with those known and unknown. Our ministries open boxes of food, windows of hope, and minds of creative and joyous wonder. Our ministries open up each of us to our own gifts, some yet unknown, and to paths not seen before.

“A Gift Opens the Way” is a call to action for each of us: to worship together and open ourselves to the Word of God, know the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives, and respond to the nudges of the Holy Spirit. It is a call to respond with the time, talent, and treasure that God has given you.

Our mission at St. Mary’s calls us toward intentional generosity, including financial commitments. Some members tithe, giving ten percent of their income to the church; some members give proportionally, committing a certain percentage to our ministries; others give as they are able. What is important is that you open your heart to God, beginning as you are able, to support and sustain our life of ministry at St. Mary’s and in God’s Kingdom.

Your commitment to our Annual Giving Campaign is an essential gift that fuels St. Mary’s transformational ministries in Richmond and beyond. Your gift opens the way!

A Wonderful Place for Life

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 5, 2017

By: Amelia McDaniel

Teaching our children about God’s call to share our time, talent, and treasure in our community is a never-ending process. It is something that we as adults continue to grow into as well. We want our children to understand the importance of not only monetary donations to the church but also how they use their time and talents in the world to help others in God’s name.

In the past, the children made contributions to the church in their Sunday School classrooms or in the plate as it was passed in church. This year we are trying something new. At the offertory the children are invited to come forward to place their own offerings in plates that are held by young ushers. They can bring forward a monetary donation that will go into the general fund of the church. They may also bring forward a card that is found in the boxes where the worship bags are contained. On these cards, they can draw or write about a way they made an offering of time or talent during the week. A time they helped a friend. A time they shared their snack or lunch with another. A donation of cans to the food bank. We want them to grow to understand that all of what we do can be an offering to God.

This week’s video reflection is by one of our young students, Rainey Trice. Please check out St. Mary’s YouTube channel to watch the video. Her words are a powerful reminder about the impact that belonging to the St. Mary’s community can have on all our lives. Her sense of commitment to our community is an inspiration for those of all ages. As she reminds us at the end, St. Mary’s is a wonderful place for life. That could not happen without the generosity of all.