Thursday, May 1, 2014

Giving our values,

Mine was a church-going family growing up. To be specific, we attended the Episcopal Church. Or perhaps I should that we went to several Episcopal churches, as the family moved and life changed. You’d think I’d have been disoriented worshiping at that those different congregations, but that’s the thing about the Episcopal Church. The music and priest changes from congregation to congregation, but they all do much of the same things.

Specifically, they commonly use the Book of Common Prayer, which offers the same prayers, calls and responses, beautiful words repeated weekly at the Communion Table. Which meant that growing up, I had a lot of memorizing to do! Sure, we had the books in our pews to read from, but to participate fully it was best if you knew the expectations by heart. And by the time I was a youth, I had it down cold. I could walk into any old St. Timothy’s anywhere in America and know when to stand, when to kneel, when to cross myself, when to bow my head, when to say “And also with you” and “Thanks be to God!” Sometimes, it felt like we were just going through the motions, but that wasn’t usually the case. After all, the Book of Common Prayer is a deep well of spiritual well-being. Indeed, it fostered a sense of comfort, familiarity, even love to know I could show up in a new place and feel already part of the community, once I’d learned how to “do church”, Episcopal style.

I suspect all congregations are like that. We may have fewer dedicated prayers, more variety in our Communion. But we too have established traditions and, most importantly, specific values that guide our worship and work together. And one thing we share the Episcopal Church- perhaps with all Christian churches- is a moment during our service when we give money to support the ministry. I learned how to do that too growing up, and I’m glad my parents taught me. When the collection plate went by, Mom or Dad would often give me a dollar to drop in. It made me feel as adult and important as anything else we did, I’ll have you know. I’d throw that bill into the plate with gusto and a huge smile on my face! That it wasn’t my money probably helped that joy along, but the feeling has stuck with me. Anytime now I give my family’s check (Tabitha usually does it since I have other things on my mind most Sundays), I still feel that childlike exuberance bubble up, and it helps my give.

The thing that’s changed, however, is I’ve since learned more about why I give what I give. Faith formation doesn’t end once you’ve grown out of youth group and children sermons. Now I understand better that giving money isn’t just about making Mom or God happy. It’s a tangible expression of the values I hold, and an investment in the values our church stands for.

Every year, around this time, Plymouth Creek asks people to think about their giving. Our fiscal year ends on May 31, so we need to set a budget for the coming year. That happens best, of course, if we know what our people plan to give. So we ask that you consider your financial situation, what you’re able and willing to share. But more importantly, I hope you’ll take time to reconsider the values that inspire your church participation, those we hope to teach each other and use to serve our neighbors. After all, that’s the investment you’re making with your giving; not just into buildings and salaries, but to values and God’s mission. It takes resources for that good work to happen, and I’m grateful you share yours.

If you plan to make a pledge, please fill out a card and put it in the offering plate or send it to the church office by May 25th. And whatever you give, however you give, be grateful for the values you learn by learning church, and then put into practice not simply with money on Sundays, but every day by loving your neighbors.

Grace and Peace,

Note: You may pick up a pledge card at church or contact the church office to have one sent to you.

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