Thoughts from Pastor Matt…
Friends, I hope you don’t need me to tell you that there are many ways in which the Spirit is already at work among us, in the joys and delights of our community and in all of the talents, time, and passions shared among us. We see it in new faces among us this fall, and familiar faces shining with new energy. We see it in new passions and new questions. We see it in the faces of community members, even ones who’ve never been inside our walls, who voice their thanks for our congregation’s witness in the world.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll be invited to further add to that Spirit-filled work through your financial investment in God’s mission in this place for the coming year. Often as part of the annual pledge campaign, we hear individuals, families, and households share brief messages around their support and investment in God’s mission through the life of our congregation. So I thought it only appropriate that I share with you about how my partner Adam and I think through three questions all of us are called to respond to in some way.
Why do you give to Storrs Congregational Church? Because we love the church, always have, and always will! One of us grew up as a Methodist in Northern Virginia and now journeys in the Episcopal tradition, and the other was born into the Presbyterian branch of our Christian family in central Michigan, and took the very short hop on over to the United Church of Christ branch while in college.
But even more important than the church itself, for both of us, the place of God in our lives is central to who we are and what we value. We look for the Spirit of God alive and active in the world, and we believe in the mission that God is working among us. We are honored and humbled that God chooses this all-too-human gathering we call church to work God’s wonders in the world, and we feel privileged to see first-hand the profound and positive ways that it changes lives. We give because we want to be a part of making that happen. We want to invest in that kind of mission, that kind of work—an investment we believe whose return is beyond measure.
How do you decide how much to give? This question is a little bit harder! In our respective ecclesial traditions and styles of being church together, it’s always a matter of personal choice, and the variables at play for any person are different. Of course, there are standards to strive for—from the Biblical standard of the tithe (10% of income as a first-fruits offering), to the woman in Jesus’ story who gave her whole living. For Adam and I, we talk about it openly in advance and make a decision as a couple before the pledge Sundays at our respective congregations so that each of us is comfortable with a decision that is ours, together. Most importantly, we work out a level of giving that represents not so much what we think the financial need is at the church, but what we feel we need to give in order to be in right relationship with both our money and our God.
How much do you give? Ahhh! Now we get deep… and perhaps onto dangerous turf! It wasn’t too long ago that we would have hesitated quite a bit to answer. Quite frankly, we haven’t always been comfortable or satisfied with our own levels of giving. On top of that, our culture’s temptation toward secrecy on money issues—especially in the church—had its effect on us, too. But as one wise soul has observed, “I have found that the higher the level of secrecy, the lower the level of giving.”
As we ourselves have gotten more comfortable with our own stewardship, it’s easier to be candid. A few years ago, we reached our goal, which was for us to actually tithe. We now give fully 10% of our regular income toward our church pledges, and we recalculate that amount each year to make sure we keep to that goal. So, for 2019, our household giving to church pledges will be $190.38 per week, or $9,900 on an annual basis. The truth is that this amount isn’t exactly “easy” for us. We still have plenty of student loans, along with other forms of both short-term and long-term debt. Working to pay off debt is another aspect of healthy financial stewardship. Nevertheless, we also know that the sort of giving to which we are called isn’t simply what would come “easily”.
I hope that responding personally like this is helpful as all of us are called to make a pledge in support of God’s mission through Storrs Congregational Church again for 2019. The only other thing to add is this: both Adam and I (even though Adam’s not around often) are grateful, truly grateful, for all who help to make Storrs Congregational Church the vital place that it is, whatever gifts you bring. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!
Yours in the journey,