Money, God and Vestries
The Heart that Gives
It is with a real sense of serendipity that this issue of Vestry Papers offers the theme of stewardship and the opportunity for me to introduce myself as Cornerstone’s new director. I’ve been a priest in the Diocese of Northern California for seventeen years and, most recently, the rector of a pastoral size, multicultural parish for the past nine years.
Through those years and experiences of parish ministry, a conviction has grown in me that healthy, confident, well-formed leadership in congregations — that of both lay and clergy — make all the difference in the vitality and mission of the church. Stewardship is an essential component of such leadership. With that in mind — and knowing that many fall parish stewardship campaigns will be gearing up soon — this issue of Vestry Papers offers both theological and practical tips to encourage giving from the heart.
When we talk about stewardship and vestry responsibility for it, parish leaders often want to run the other way. But I believe that the anxiety around stewardship arises from some misconceptions. Stewardship is not about raising money for the budget.
Stewardship is about the right formation of hearts. It is an issue of spirituality, and it has as much to do with our souls as it has to do with budgets. Parish leaders can see their responsibilities about stewardship, not as production responsibilities but as formation opportunities. When hearts are open, then fingers do indeed let go.
Holding Ministry Loosely
I have a sign in my office that reads: “Caretaker Take Care.” It is a stewardship statement. It is a caution about self-care. It is a reminder that leadership is a habit of being as much as a responsibility of doing. It is a suggestion to hold ministry loosely so that the people around me can be about their ministry. It is a metaphor for who is really in charge — Jesus’ parables tell us who is the Owner of the vineyard, the Host of the banquet, the King who holds the steward accountable.
It is also a window into what I believe Cornerstone is all about. Cornerstone’s concern is for the most essential resource the church has — its leaders and the congregations for whom they care. The Rev. James Fenhagen, our founding director, described Cornerstone’s mission as being about the “health, wholeness and holiness” of congregations and church leaders at all levels. It is as viable a vision for me as the third director as it was for the first director. It too, is a stewardship statement.
I am tremendously excited about caring for the People of God in this new role. We are in the process of moving Cornerstone’s offices from Memphis to California and will soon be relocated at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. The next issue of Vestry Papers will have our new address and phone/fax numbers. In the meantime, if you have thoughts to share or would like to reach me, my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.