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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Note: Letting the Spirit Lead You This Stewardship Season-11.2.23

In my rector’s note a few weeks ago, I said I would provide some guidance on prayerfully considering how the Spirit is leading you to use the gifts of time, talent and treasure she has placed in your life. This week I’ll discuss ways to consider the treasure part of the equation, and next week we’ll explore time and talent.

Years ago, I attended a parish that didn’t like to talk about money. Rather than passing a collection plate on Sunday, they put a basket in the back of church and hoped parishioners would drop something in it as they entered or left. The pastor said he didn’t like to disrupt the service with financial concerns. At the same time, there was regular worry about lack of giving.

On the one hand, I can understand how continuous appeals for money can make people feel self-conscious or guilty about what they can give. But I also missed that regular effort to acknowledge that the money we earn also has a sacredness to it that is marked by where our hearts are. Our finances reflect our labor, and our parish giving connects that labor to the labor of being church.

Whether one puts a contribution in the collection plate or sets an online gift that is more out-of sight- out-of-mind, intentional giving is an act of love, and setting that intention can take some thought and discernment. Here are some ideas on how to make that decision as you discern your pledge this year.

Begin with prayer. As you prepare to make your pledge, whether it’s online or written on your pledge card for Ingathering Sunday, Nov. 19, spend some time in prayer asking for God’s guidance in your decision making. Share with God your gratitude for the gifts and blessings God has placed in your life, as well as any fears or concerns that you might have about your finances or wellbeing. Prayerful giving requires prayerful listening, with the assurance that God knows both our gifts and our needs.

Reflect on what St. Peter’s means to you. Consider the non-financial parts of your life that you have invested in this community and in the work of discipleship that St. Peter’s brings to the world. As you consider what you can give financially, let the decision be formed by what you love, cherish and are grateful for. This is an offering to be made in joy, not in a spirit of guilt or fear.

Consider what you can afford. Look at your total income for a week, month or year, and consider what might be an affordable portion to set aside regularly to support St. Peter’s. Then build on that each year.

What’s a tithe? Some discern their regular giving based on a percentage of their income. The Biblical tithe, mentioned throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, is 10 percent of the “first fruits” of the land, reflecting gratitude for the abundance God brought into the lives of the people of Israel. That’s a standard that the church has often used to encourage giving. In 1989 the 67th General Convention passed a resolution affirming the tithe to be the "minimum standard" of giving for Episcopalians. At the time, the deputies and bishops pledged themselves to offer the 10 percent tithe, or work toward it, and they urged all Episcopalians to follow them, according to an article from Episcopal News Service, written at the time.

Following that guidance, some givers choose 10 percent of their income as a goal to reach over time, starting with a one or two percent tithe and gradually increasing it year by year. Others include their church community among many organizations that they might share a portion of their wealth with.

Tally what you already give. If you put money in the plate when you come to church or give online occasionally, consider tallying up what you tend to give and making a commitment to that amount in a formal pledge.

How to make a pledge

The pledge is just the indication of the total you plan to pay throughout the year. It can be adjusted up or down as you need. You can fill out an online pledge card at any time. Paper pledge cards are available to pick up at the entrances to the church. These will be turned in on Ingathering Sunday, Nov. 19.

In addition to the pledge for everyday expenses, this year’s pledge card includes a line for any contributions toward the boiler fund that you plan to give in 2024. Many parishioners have pledged a regular ongoing contribution for the next few years to help fund our new boilers. You can indicate such giving on this year’s pledge form as well. So far, we have reached more than two-thirds of that goal, and hope to close the gap this year.

While pledging is typically done by household, if you have children under 18, consider speaking with them about making their own personal pledge and putting a regular donation in the collection plate. Holding a neighborhood lemonade stand, garage sale or bake sale can also be a fun way to encourage kids to raise money for causes that they care about.

What happens on Ingathering Sunday?

Nov. 19 is the date we have set aside to make a community offering of our pledge cards at the 10 a.m. worship. We’ll form a procession and place our cards in the wooden boat that Dave Kipphut made for this year’s campaign.

If you already made your pledge online, you can indicate that on the paper pledge card that you turn in that Sunday. If you miss the date, or are attending liturgy online, you can still send your card to the church office or make a pledge online.

Paying on your pledge

Once you make your pledge, determine how you would like to pay it. Most parishioners fulfill their pledge through online payments that can be set up here. Others mail in checks regularly or drop their contribution in the collection plate. Loose cash in the collection plate goes to the rector’s discretionary fund, which pays for requests for assistance from community members.

Look for a quarterly report that the parish will mail to you to update you on how your pledge is progressing.

As the spirit leads us this Stewardship season and beyond, I have every hope that she will assist us and gift us with what we need to serve God with our whole heart, mind and strength this year!

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