By Holly Slater
A couple of months ago I went to my second vestry retreat. It was a great weekend filled with hard work, socializing with old and new friends, spiritual growth, and, of course, lots of talk and planning around the budget and stewardship. Now, I am a lifelong Episcopalian and as such, stewardship has always been an awkward subject. As a small child, before we went to our Sunday school classes, we would sing ”Jesus Loves Me”, say a prayer, and then one by one we would take our coins to the front and insert them into a small lighthouse that would light up as the coins went in. I’m not sure I equated that with giving to the church, but I do know that I was upset if my Mom forgot to give me my coins.
It wasn’t until I served on a vestry at my former church many years ago that I realized how important pledging is. Of course stewardship is the use of God’s gifts responsibly, but serving on the vestry made me realize the importance of the practical side of stewardship.
We each plan our family’s budget and spending based on our year’s income. In most cases we can count on our income from employment and other sources to be pretty stable. I know that things like the loss of a job happen but hopefully that is rare. A church is the only entity that plans its budget on hope and prayer. We hope that everyone who pledged last year will do so again. We hope that at least some people will increase their pledges over last year. We hope that new members will decide to pledge some of their income to the church. We pray that the unpledged plate offerings will at least stay the same as last year. All of this makes it difficult to plan a budget. Like a family, our church must perform regular maintenance on the building– our church home. Sometimes we must repair an unexpected leak in the roof as happened last year. We have a beautiful wooded campus but trees come down in storms and must be removed. We have a wonderful and dedicated staff who expect a paycheck regularly (imagine that!). It makes planning a budget and operating a church much easier if everyone makes and fulfills a pledge. If you haven’t done so it is never too late. Please give consideration to making a pledge for 2018, and continuing that practice in the future. Please think about what Epiphany means to you and your family. As for me, in addition to the practical reasons given above, I pledge because you all are my family. I rejoice in your blessings and grieve when you grieve. I know that if I need something, whether that is a meal when I am ill or an ear to listen to my problems, you are there for me. My spiritual life is enhanced by weekly worship services and bible study. I look forward to social events such as our wonderful and wild celebration of Epiphany. My soul is restored each year at our parish retreat at Kanuga. There are too many more reasons to list. None of these things can happen without stewardship and pledges of time, talent, and treasure.
If you have any questions, Benno and Sharon are always available. Hey…. maybe we should get a lighthouse that lights up as we offer our pledges!