My beloved Parishioners,
Over the years, you have read many Stewardship letters, each emphasizing either the mission of our Parish, the financial need or your responsibility. This year I chose not to do any of this. Instead, I challenge you to shift your approach on stewardship and redefine the very action of giving. The reason for this perspective is my belief that no stewardship letter, no matter how well it is written, can change your heart, the source of stewardship.
So, why do you give to the Church?
When was the last time you asked yourself this question? If you did, what was your thought process? Did you have a businesslike approach to the question, considering your priorities and family budget, or did you do it in a spirit of prayer and profound gratefulness for all the blessings God has bestowed on you in your life?
You see, giving should not be motivated by any external force (stewardship campaigns, incentives, recognitions, etc.) nor by a sense of organizational duty (to fulfill x amount of pledged dollars). Giving is an opportunity to share joyfully a small portion of what God has given to you and your family. It is an opportunity to acknowledge that everything belongs to God. We read in Psalm 24:1 "The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it". A gluttonous and frantic entitlement of our material possessions deprives God Himself of what belongs to him. It is claiming as our own that which belongs to God, and was only entrusted to us to multiply for His glory.
Even stewardship, the act of freely giving, should be done in a spirit of humility and thanksgiving. If we consider the Old Testament expectation of 10% (or tithing as practiced in many churches), the act of giving should be gratitude that God, in His generosity, allows His servants (His stewards) to keep 90% of what has always belonged to Him. Even if we give more than 10% begrudgingly , or we feel poorer because of the giving, we failed to understand what stewardship is all about. Stewardship is the only instance when by giving we feel richer.
Stewardship begins with YOU and GOD. It is neither duty nor obligation. It is not initiated by the Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church, nor should it produce anxiety. It produces the joy of having an Orthodox presence, in which our hearts resonate with the heavenly powers. It is an acknowledgement of God's gifts given despite of our sinfulness. It is the excitement about the things we can achieve individually and as a community.
In the next few days, you will receive an email with a survey. It will be anonymous and the only goal is to help you navigate and learn on your own the answer to the question, "Why do I give" so that when you do fill out your pledge card, you will do it after proper contemplation. It will also help the Parish understand where we are in terms of potential for stewardship. You will not have an option to put your name on it because it does not matter who you are. It only matters what you think and feel.
Please take time to reflect on the message of this letter and I hope that the upcoming survey will assist you in doing so. May God, Who for our salvation gave His only begotten Son to die for us, continue to bless you!
In His service,
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