Thankful Stewardship

As Americans we tend to associate November with Thanksgiving, a time for expressing gratitude for the blessings we have received. In the Old Testament we read countless stories and commandments highlighting the importance of giving thanks, usually through the form of an offering to God. It’s a chance to acknowledge what matters most in life. November is also stewardship season for most churches…a time for considering what matters most to us as a community of faith and how we will prioritize our resources in the coming year. Recently I looked up the definition of a steward and Oxford gave three definitions:

1. a person who looks after the passengers on a ship, aircraft, or train and brings them meals.

2. an official appointed to supervise arrangements or keep order at a large public event, for example a sporting event.

3. a person employed to manage another’s property, especially a large house or estate.

The more I think about it, the title of steward is a fitting one for members of the church. We are called to look after others on the journey of faith, and provide sustenance through the sharing of Holy Communion and the Word. We organize and host events that bring people together in community for joyous celebrations. And finally, we acknowledge that the Church does not ultimately belong to us, but is the Church of God who has entrusted its care and development to us for God’s own purposes. This year I want you to ask and pray on this question: “Why does the ministry of St. John UCC matter to me?” Has this been the church that has nurtured you on your faith journey? The church of your ancestors? The spiritual home that has sheltered you during times of trouble and heartache? The stewardship of St. John UCC is not about just keeping the lights on and the pastor and staff paid. We give, friends, not because we believe the church will crumble without us, but because we know that the church will flourish with us. When we give money to fund the ongoing ministry of the church, we are enabling area children to spend a week singing songs, playing games, and making crafts while they learn the stories of our faith in Vacation Bible School; our money funds the supplies for the pastor and visitation teams to care for the spiritual needs of our home-bound members and those who are hospitalized; we send youth to camp for weekend confirmation retreats; and we provide meaningful worship services that encourage others to worship God with their whole selves.

Each day, we are exploring new ways to be a beautiful, unique, and vital ministry to Germantown and the surrounding area. For this reason, I delight in giving to and through St John United Church of Christ, and I invite you to join me.

Luke the Evangelist writes that as Jesus was teaching the crowds about the cost of discipleship he asked, “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). There is indeed many costs to maintaining a ministry and being a beacon of light and hope in the world. As the year draws to a close, our church leadership is looking ahead to 2017 and considering what ministry initiatives we can undertake to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. As we do so, we need to consider the costs and know what level of financial support we can anticipate to meet those costs.

Beginning on November 6th, for the two Sundays following, members of the congregation will speak in worship on, “Why St. John Matters to Me,” Enclosed in this newsletter is a commitment card. We ask that you prayerfully consider your household budget and consider how St. John fits into your life and then record your giving commitment for 2017. Then on November 13th, we will collect these cards and have a special blessing of our commitment to support the ministry of St. John UCC. The commitments will be tallied by our financial secretary and the total value of all commitments will be shared with the Trustees at our November 20th meeting so that we can prepare a budget based upon our anticipated income for the year (individual commitments are confidential and are NOT shared).

In Joyful thanksgiving for the goodness of God,

Pastor Tara