November 28, 2018
Dear members and friends of St. Stephen’s,
St. Stephen’s is a unique place. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that. You already knew how unique we are. That is why you’re here. That’s why you are a member of this congregation that is not quite like any other congregation.
When parishioners move away they often tell me: why can’t I find a place like St. Stephen’s in our new city? The reason is: we are not your typical Episcopal congregation. In fact, we’re not even your typical Christian congregation.
That uniqueness is what makes us who we are. And we should rejoice in that uniqueness. We should celebrate it fully!
For some, this uniqueness scares people off. Not for us—the ones who stay. We are quite proudly an anomaly in the Episcopal Church and the Church as a whole. We are a liberal, fairly High Church, liturgical, fully welcoming, fully inclusive, though fairly orthodox congregation that actually grows and attracts new members.
When you think about it, everything about that statement put us against the odds. After all, we are in a far off corner of the city, far from the main traveled roads. To find us, one actually has to search us out. And yet, they do find us! And they stay!
In this past year of 2018 we have continued our growth spurt—with 18 new members included among us! I love that one of the most common complaints I get from parishioners is this: “I haven’t been in church for a couple of weeks, and then when I finally get back here, there are all these new faces!”
These are all things for which we are grateful to God. These are clear sign that God’s Holy Spirit is now only present in us, but also at work in us and the ministries we do here.
But for us to be who we are, to be this unique place in which all people are welcome and included, we need your pledges of financial help, and physical presence.
I cannot stress how it important it is to pledge. As you know, we budget from what the congregation pledges. Your pledge determines how we are to budget for the upcoming year. For us to continue to do the work we do in this community and in the world, we need pledges.
But Stewardship is more than just about money. It 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.
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 many 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. Please pledge. 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
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