Stewardship is an important aspect of the life of the local church - it asks the question of us all how each member of the community is willing and able to resource God’s work in St Anne’s.
I should like to thank you all for the financial and other support which you have given to St Anne’s in recent years. At this particular time, I should also like to ask to review your contribution so that we can continue and expand our role over the next few years.
A few weeks back, at the beginning of September, our Old Testament reading came from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 18. In the reading God compared the house of Israel with a lump of clay the potter was shaping into a vessel fit for a specific purpose.
That image of God as the potter, and his church as the clay pot being formed with a specific, contextually appropriate purpose in mind, has been in my thoughts ever since I preached about it.
I feel the image speaks very appropriately about the situation we are facing at St Anne’s, about the choices we have to make with regard to the kind and shape of ministry we will engage in and how we will resource our activities in the coming year.
I am particularly thinking about how we can continue to grow our ministry to young families and children, our activities as an Eco-church, as well as exploring how we can, broadly speaking, become more inclusive – all those activities with a firm focus on connecting better and more fruitfully with our local community.
This year we have also resourced the employment of an Office Manager in order to free up myself, Ellen the wardens and treasurer to engage more fully with our actual tasks, and especially to have more time for pastoral work, mission and creative thinking. You will remember that we employed Phillippa in this part-time post in June. I am not exaggerating when I say that her arrival has been the single most helpful thing in my ministry at St Anne’s in the past eight years and it has already enabled both Ellen and me to put a lot more energy into our work with Pixies, Family@4, the schools, prison and hospital ministry, Inclusive Church, Winter Help Initiative, as well as quite a number of other things that we previously ‘never got round to’. I am extremely grateful to the PCC to have made the leap of faith to employ Phillippa – but now I am also asking you all to help us fund this important work in the office.
More details about the income and expenditure of St Anne’s and the financial challenges that we face can be found in the Stewardship Booklet which has been emailed out and can be found in the back of the church.
The PCC and I are aware that these difficult times with rapidly rising mortgages, energy costs and food prices are difficult for many of us, but I do also hope you will appreciate why we feel compelled to ask you nevertheless:
First and foremost because the work of God needs resourcing, plain and simple. There simply will not be a Winter Help Initiative, an Eco Church, an Inclusive Church, or any church for that matter, if it isn’t being resourced by people who are grateful for God’s love and blessings and who want others to receive that love and those blessings as well.
Secondly, we are aware that, like many churches, there are a few people who already give an extraordinary amount of money – we are very grateful to you and we are not really asking any more of you (unless, of course you want to bless us with more anyway)!
But having said that there may also be some members of our church family who might want to re-examine their financial expression of gratitude, especially if it has not changed for some time. Perhaps now is the time to change that?
Lastly, if it is a question between you heating, feeding or taking care of yourself or your family, I hope you will hear me loud and clear – you and your family come first! How could you not! But could you perhaps let go of one or two luxuries every week? Or buy that pair of trousers from the second-hand shop – I bought two pairs last week for less than £10 together!
The point I am trying to make is quite simple. If you don’t want to express your gratitude to God for his blessings, you will find an excuse easily. But if you do want to express your gratitude to God, you will just as easily find a way to do that (just as the grateful Jewish man did whose gold filling was used for Oskar Schindler’s ring as a thank you for saving his life).
The choice is yours and yours alone. But perhaps you might like to ask yourself how much is the Kingdom of God worth to you? How much do you value your faith and the ‘sure and certain knowledge’ that God’s unconditional love embraces, his wisdom inspires, and his strength encourages you every day as you face life’s trials as part of a supportive and loving church community?
Is that not a gift worth giving to another person through the ministry that takes places at St Anne’s?
So, please can I ask you to prayerfully consider how you, despite all the financial challenges we are all facing, could financially support and resource St Anne’s mission to the world this coming year? Let us together build a church where broken, confused, lonely, anxious, depressed and searching people, like you and I, can come and meet the God of love in whom we all live and breathe and have our being.
Yours in Christ,