November 11, 2013
Feast of St. Martin of Tours
Dear members and friends of St. Stephen’s,
Stewardship time is upon us. This is always an exciting time for us at St. Stephen’s. It is a time for us talk about money, our place in the congregation, the many ministries we do and to celebrate who we are as a congregation.
We certainly have much to celebrate! This past year has been a very busy one. We have continued our many ministries of radical love, radical acceptance and radical welcoming to those in our community. And many people have responded to that outreach. We have welcomed 30 new members to our fold in 2013 over two New Member Sundays (a third New Member Sunday is scheduled for December 15 when Bishop Michael Smith visits us; that day we will also celebrate at least three confirmation and two receptions). Our congregation has grown from 55 members in 2008, to almost 150 members this year! That is incredible! And it is an amazing sign of God’s presence in our midst, in our many ministries, and in all that we do here.
During this Stewardship time, we of course give thanks for all these wonderful things. We also look forward to our future: our financial future and the futures of the ministries God has called each of us to both within our congregation and in the larger community.
Stewardship is also about presence. One of the ways in which we can most easily and visibly contribute to Stewardship at St. Stephen’s is by our very presence on a regular basis at the Sunday morning celebration of the Holy Eucharist or on Wednesday evenings.
Attendance is not only about what each of us needs, it also what the larger congregation needs. We essentially need each other. We need the presence and proximity of each other. I recently came across this interesting take on church attendance, which I have paraphrased and adapted to us at St. Stephen’s:The writer of Hebrews challenges us with convicting words, “Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). It is important for us to think about how important our presence is in church on Sundays or Wednesdays. When one is not here:
- The body of the congregation is incomplete
- Our voice is not heard in the worship and singing of the saints
- We cannot actively serve others who may need our gifts
- We miss out on receiving the Word of God in a preaching format
- We miss out on corporate prayer
- We miss out on fellowship with our friends and others at the church
- We miss opportunities to share our own struggles with others who can help us
- We miss out on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and the spiritual benefits that go with regular Holy Communion.
My intent in sharing this is not to make anyone feel guilty. As you have heard me say many times, I do not take attendance at the door. I also understand that many people cannot attend due to illness or other circumstances in their lives. My intent is simply to remind us that when we pledge to St. Stephen’s we pledge of our money, we pledge of our talent, we pledge of the gifts we have received and are willing to share with others, we pledge of our expertise in certain areas of our lives, and we pledge of our very presence.
So, please do give. Give of your time and your presence. Give from the abundance that God has granted to you. And share of yourself in what ministries God has called you to here at St. Stephen’s
Your presence is also requested this coming Sunday November 17. On that day, we will gather together for our Pledge Sunday. The Vestry will host a lunch for us after our 11:00 celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Pledge Cards and Time and Talent sheets will be handed out as well.
In preparation for this special Sunday, I invite all of you to take time to reflect and to pray about your own stewardship. What talents can we offer to make St. Stephen’s a church that can reach out in love, compassion and radical acceptance to others? What material resources can we give to help maintain the ministries we do here?
As we continue our journey together, we look forward in hope and joy at the many incredible potentials that await us at St. Stephen’s.
Finally, please know of my gratitude in serving all of you as your priest. I feel blessed more and more each day for being here. Know that I pray for each of you by name in the course of a week in my daily prayers. I ask your continued prayers for me as well.
Fr. Jamie A. Parsley