Living from Our Depth: A Stewardship Reflection

Living from Our Depth

A Stewardship Reflection

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

                                                Ephesians 3:18-19

When it comes to what we call the “stewardship campaign,” I only know the percentages that show participation.  I purposefully don’t know who pledges what unless there is a pastoral reason for me to (loss of job, sudden decrease due to illness, increase that a family shares, etc.).  It is better for my own spiritual health—and my ability to be present to everyone in the parish—if I know the broad outlines that correspond with the growth and direction of the parish.  Some rectors want to know all the details, and of course we have access to the full information of the parish.  I have chosen this path, and it has helped me over four years to live into interesting tensions.

Each week during the campaign (what I see as our Season of Reaffirmation), Reba Page brings me a spreadsheet that is a snapshot of these details.  It shows me that Grace Church has 415 households, whether single men and women or families of five.  It showed me that 52% of those households made a conscious pledge toward the shared ministry budget last year.  This information led me to put out the challenge for us to reach a 70% pledge participation this year.  This would mean that we hope to have 290 households pledging for the 2018 budget.

As of right now, we are at 33% in participation, or 136 households.  Put another way, we are nearing the halfway mark in reaching our 70% participation goal!

I have purposefully avoided language of budget total “goals.”  I don’t want us to focus on the total amount pledged, because, honestly, my heart desires greater participation rather than focusing on a total amount.  If I’m honest, focusing on participation is a greater challenge, because it places pressure on each of us to contribute rather than rely on those in the parish who may be capable of pledging larger amounts.  We are all responsible for participating in the Spirit’s call on our lives.

As I have listened to the speakers on Sunday mornings and read the reflections in the newsletter, I can feel the strength in participation.  I think it was remarkable that Ronnie Vaughn wrote a reflection, and our Sunday vestry speakers have been inspiring.  I see us growing more intentional in our practice of faith as a community, and that makes my heart swell.

Perhaps we have spent enough time together these past four years for you to notice the language that is natural to me.  Language and images such as “space,” “discernment,” “practice,” “imagination,” “mindful,” and “contemplation” bounce all over the place.  Some scoff at it, thinking that it is just a bit—or much!—too loosy goosy.  Why the need to bring this language in?  To be completely honest with you, I see the broader “trends” in the diocese and the wider church where not only smaller family parishes but long-standing parishes are shrinking, even dying.  No one is immune from the pressures of the world today, with the constant consumer mentality.  Every rector encounters the pressure of “you’re not giving me the religious service I want in the way I expect it, so I will go elsewhere.”  It is the reality we face.  It is the apparent tension between a path of church growth and a path of transformation (as if these were mutually exclusive!).

What I believe is this: we may not be able to eliminate that pressure, but we have a conscious choice in how we practice our faith, how we seek transformation in our lives, rooted in Christ’s Spirit that infuses our hearts.  It is a matter of what the spiritual teacher Adyashanti describes as “Living from Our Depth.”  This space is what St. Paul invited the Church at Ephesus to experience in his letter to them (see the quote above).  The question of the Church “surviving” is a false one.  The Church may continue to exist as a pale reminder of what it once was.  We would do well to remember that God’s reconciling presence is by no means limited to the institutional Church.  The question I want us to explore is one of thriving, of rejoicing, of celebrating, of seeking transformation, of embodiment.  It is a space of practice and prayer, of worship and compassion.  It is a space of prayer, compassion, and belonging, as we have articulated in our key reference points.

Friends, this focus is the deeper significance of a “stewardship campaign,” because it calls us to be intentional, to practice our faith, to actively take our place in the Body of Christ.  When we live from our depth, we find that the place we experience as “our depth” is none other than the place in our spiritual heart where God dwells.  When we become aware of this indwelling, our lives are reoriented.  That, my friends, is the sweet spot.  We have had many glimpses of this at Grace, and it is my prayer that we delve even deeper into this reality we share as a community.

It is time.

It is time for us to lean in and share, to participate and invite.  It is time for us to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 I am eternally grateful to be your rector, and I am a better priest because of you all.

Blessings, always,

Stuart+

Following is a video meditation by Adyashanti that may help ground your prayers today.

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