Years ago as Stewardship Chair at another parish, I faced hard questions about my own pledge. The standard of the tithe loomed over me as an unattainable standard, making me feel like a slacker for doing anything less. Without the clear-cut standard of the tithe I turned to other sources to determine an appropriate pledge. I listened to justifications based on the church budget, such as the need to balance the church budget, to increase this or that program, to ensure raises for the staff, and so forth. The dissection of church finances made the church seem less a sanctuary and more a business.
There is no doubt that a parish is a busy enterprise. It has many needs, including money to operate. But those justifications felt like demands. The response to a demand does not feel like a gift. By focusing on those demands, I never felt happy.
Then I was reminded that a stewardship commitment is an act of thanksgiving and celebration, not the paying of an invoice. A pledge as a celebration? Aren’t celebratory gifts for special times, such as Easter or a special event? By focusing on a pledge as celebration, I stopped thinking about the parish budget. The pledge began to feel like a gift, a source of joy and pleasure. And the weird thing was that, the more I nudged my pledge upward, the more of a celebration it felt and the more joy it brought out in me. My mentality turned from “give until it hurts” to “give until it feels good, and then give more until it feels better.”
What would happen if we confounded the Vestry and threw the budget into turmoil because we opened our hearts in celebration and joyfully gave – dare I say it – far more than the Vestry (or the clergy) ever budgeted or imagined? We would discover wonderful surprises ahead, ones the Holy Spirit can surely help the Vestry handle.
I have much to thank God for. Among the blessings in my life are the community of the faithful; the gifts of outstanding leadership in Matt and Salying, whose sermons, pastoral gifts, and energetic piety transform me weekly; and the contributions of all those lay ministries of the parish that support and encourage our community in so many respects (and who may never know what particular effect they have upon those of us who silently absorb the fruits of their gifts).
I offer my pledge in grateful and joyful thanks to God for these and God’s many other gifts.