Every month ECFVP offers five resources on a theme. This month we've asked the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford to choose five resources from Vital Practices to highlight. Please find her choices below. Please share this email with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.
I will never forget a sweet widow I interviewed during a feasibility study for a capital campaign in a parish in Pennsylvania. As we discussed the various proposed projects, it seemed she had a story for each one. Her children were baptized in the sanctuary, she taught Sunday School in those classrooms, she donated china tea cups for fellowship in the lounge. There was no hesitation when asked about her support for the campaign. Of course she would give.
Nothing in the conversation surprised her until I asked if she thought the campaign would be successful. “What do you mean?” she wanted to know. When I explained that questions are being asked to determine how much money could be raised, her bright face suddenly faded.
Shocked, bewildered, hurt, and angry are just a few words that come to mind when thinking about what I and many others have experienced along with David in 1 Samuel. What do you do when the very institution that you love, trust, and given yourself to, turns against you? Moreover, what do you do when these institutions not only turn against you, but come against the purposes and plans of God for your life?
In 1 Samuel 18, we see the powers that be both bless David and attack his very life. In this chapter David is given armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt of King Saul’s son, Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:4). It is also recorded that David is successful wherever Saul sends him (1 Samuel 18:5). In fact, he is so successful that Saul sets him over the army (1 Samuel 18:5). David’s fame grows to the point where the women of the towns of Israel sing a celebratory song about him recorded in verse 7: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” At this, Saul became angry.
In the beginning phases of the pandemic as our churches started closing, there was a lot of concern from church leadership about the financial stewardship from our members. This concern was not misplaced, many churches pre-pandemic were not able to meet their monthly commitment based solely on giving from congregants. Many were surmising that the fall-out would be permanent church closures.
So how would the pandemic impact these categories of givers:
1. The many faithful who pledge and fulfill that commitment
2. Those who do not pledge and are regular givers
3. Many who give only when they are physically present at the church service
4. Others who are unable or unwilling to contribute
“Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises”
- Psalm 50:14 – The Message
After months of churches scrambling to add or improve electronic and/or mobile donation options during the pandemic, it seems safe to assume that online giving is here to stay. What I wonder about is how churches are faring if they previously did not strongly promote the concept of annual pledging. Sure, people may find it easier to donate online, but how do they determine the size of their gifts if they did not promise to give a certain amount this year?
There are bottom line reasons why most faith communities appreciate those who pledge to give a certain dollar amount in the year ahead. The most obvious is that the total amount pledged helps the Vestry set the overall spending plan (budget) for the next year.