In the Great Litany, prayed by many on the first Sunday in Lent each year, we ask God to deliver us from dying “suddenly and unprepared.” And while our culture seems to value a quick and painless death, the church understands the grace and the opportunity made possible by a prolonged dying process. Tortuous as slow decline and diminishment can be, it can allow for a faithful preparation — reconciliation with friends and family, a time to express fears and to be offered healing, a time to get financial and legal affairs in order, a time to celebrate the life given. Much of this is to be done by the person who is dying and by the closest members of their family, when possible. But the church can help. Indeed, sometimes the church can take the lead.
Tom told me of his cancer diagnosis on a beautiful sunny afternoon over a cup of coffee and a sinfully delicious cookie. If he went with the chemo, his doctor had told him, he’d maybe have six months to live.
Tom had been a founding member of the Advocate. He was our first senior warden, and our seventh. He was a steady presence in our rocky first decade. The congregation reeled at his diagnosis. And we wanted to honor him before he died.
This month we offer five resources on transformative stewardship. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.
1. Do you hear ‘stewardship’ and think ‘fall pledge drive’? In Transformative Stewardship Calendars, Chris Harris presents different ways to bring stewardship into your parishioners’ lives through the church calendar year.
In my role as a capital campaign consultant for the Episcopal Church Foundation, it’s not unusual to hear Vestry leaders hoping for grants to help pay for building improvement projects because…
“We serve our city in unique ways.”
“Our building is historically significant.”
“Our feeding ministry serves the broader community.”
Yes, but, in the world of grant-giving, the stark reality is that your congregation may not be all that special. When you identify a granting organization that will allow a church to apply (many don’t), expect the competition to be steep from established not-for-profit organizations. Agencies that provide food, clothing, health care, or other services as their main mission have honed their compelling “case statements.” A church that serves a community meal once a week or a free clinic once a month may be deemed to have a weaker case.
This article is also available in English here. Este artículo está disponible en ingles aquí.
Hablar de crecimiento espiritual no es una tarea fácil. Es un tema que se puede mirar desde un sin número de perspectivas porque lo que funciona para una persona, no necesariamente funciona para la otra. Sin embargo, todos podemos estar de acuerdo en que queremos crecer espiritualmente; tener una vida espiritual más rica y profunda. Lo difícil es descubrir cómo lograr ese tan deseado crecimiento. Especialmente si somos parte de algún grupo minoritario.
Si eres miembro de la comunidad LGBTQI+, una minoría racial o de género, sabes de lo que hablo. No es fácil crecer cuando se está tratando de sobrevivir y cuando además, estás buscando cómo sanar las heridas que muchas veces nos ha causado la religión y/o alguna iglesia.
Talking about spiritual growth is not an easy task. It is a topic that can be viewed from a number of perspectives because what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. However, we can all agree that we want to grow spiritually; have a richer and deeper spiritual life. The hard part is discovering how to achieve that much-desired growth. Especially if we are part of a minority group.
If you are a member of the LGBTQI+ community, a racial or gender minority, you know what I'm talking about. It is not easy to grow when you are trying to survive and when you are also trying to heal the wounds that were caused by religion or a church.
In my opinion, the first thing is to stop justifying our existence before those who deny our humanity. The Bible has been used to oppress women, the LGBTQI+ community and those of us who are not white. Putting ourselves on an equal footing is very exhausting. The best thing is to rest in the love of God, being sure that God loves us just as we are and created us as God’s sons and daughters.
Most people prefer not talking about death. Consequently, most people die without a written will. So what happens then?
If you don’t have a will the state has already written one for you. And guess how the state will distribute your assets after you die? Lawyers are first in line, of course. Then taxes, creditors, and finally loved ones. Nothing goes to charity.
Also, your survivors get to pay the maximum in estate and inheritance taxes.
With a will you control applicable taxes, you determine what charities you want to be part of your legacy. You release your family from unnecessary turmoil and delay in settling your estate.
Most of us who are in the Episcopal Church have a love of the liturgy. Or at least an appreciation for it. Some are well-versed in the meaning of the movement and the posture, the theological nuance of the words. Others have been formed by decades of weekly practice, the words of the canticles still rolling off the tongue, the Prayer of Humble Access still echoing in our soul.
But there are many in our pews and chairs who are still learning the rhythms of the liturgy. They know that there are songs, readings, the Peace and the Eucharist, and that the clergy come in at the beginning and go out at the end. But they don’t even think about the idea of being formed as the Body of Christ. Maybe they have a grasp of the liturgical year, but they still think of Pentecost as the day we wear red. And, increasingly, they are likely to attend about once a month, so may only get one Sunday in the shorter seasons. They will not have the continuity and repetition that leads to learning.
I have been privileged to hear many personal stories about the deep commitment people feel toward their parish. I remember a young woman recounting when she became a single parent and how her parish rallied around her providing on-going emotional support, as well as sometimes buying diapers and assisting with baby-sitting her daughter. To this woman, her parish literally became her support network and extended family.
In every workshop I do on legacy giving from one’s estate, there is one I phrase I say consistently: “When someone makes a planned gift of any kind to their parish, that person raises their congregation to the level of family in their estate plans”. Such a gift demonstrates that someone believes so strongly in the mission and ministry of his/her parish, that they would elevate them to the same status as one of their children or grandchildren for the eventual distribution of their worldly goods. Such a gift is not a simple token but demonstrates tremendous passion and conviction for the future ministry of the parish.
When someone makes this choice -- whether a bequest, remaining IRA balance, insurance policy or residuum of a Charitable Remainder Trust or Gift Annuity – that person offers a testimony: “I want to support my parish’s future ministry and to continue to participate in the mission which became so vital during my lifetime.”
My grandfather’s bedtime prayer was the Apostles’ Creed. Knowing that it held this special place in the heart of the man who held a special place in mine made me pay close attention to the words, regardless of the setting, throughout my life. I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, and the Apostles Creed was part of our weekly worship. Nonetheless, for me it was always a love-laced prayer.
Years later, now an Episcopal priest, I am often aware of a contrasting experience of the Creed in liturgy. First, it is the Nicene Creed rather than the Apostles. I know the Apostles Creed is the creed of baptism, and therefore more personal, and the Nicene Creed is more corporate, the “faith of the Church”, meant to be said by the whole congregation. It’s not a prayer.
Liturgically, The Nicene Creed follows the sermon (and sometimes serves as a corrective to the sermon!). It usually begins without introduction, beyond, in some places, an invitation to stand. It is a proclamation, declared with boldness by those gathered, kind of like a pledge of allegiance. This is what we believe!
Whether in capital campaign mode or not, annual giving is the primary source for funding the annual budget for most churches. Here are ten actions taken by churches that resulted in real increases in annual giving: