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—Larissa Peters, St. Paul’s Member
Growing up, when I was told in my church (and by my parents) that we should “tithe”, I didn’t question it too much. That’s what you did if you went to church. If I didn’t have money, my dad would pass me a bill from along the aisle, so I had something to put in the offering plate.
Somewhere along the way, it became “I have to do it” and then just a habit. So when I was asked to pledge a regular monthly gift to Old St. Paul’s a few years back, it was no big deal.
But now that we’re about to go through this pledge campaign at Old St. Paul’s, and I’m about to ask others to give, I’ve started really asking myself why should I and why do I give?
How giving makes me feel:
You know what really makes me happy in giving? It’s when I see a friend in need, or when I have the opportunity to share something with my family. It’s sharing what I have with loved ones, and seeing how it’s helped them.
You know when it’s hard? It’s when I have to share or give something I was planning to keep for myself, such as when I go grocery shopping and pass by Jerome, a homeless man outside Eddies, our local grocer. I know that sounds selfish. It is selfish. But it’s so much easier (and actually brings me more happiness) if I’m in the store and pick something with Jerome in mind. It’s when I have him in mind and plan to share my food or money that giving makes me feel happy and helpful.
What this means for pledging at church:
I’ve made a lot of good friends at church and I have a lot of good friends I want to invite to church. So when Carol asks me to give monthly to help support Old St. Paul’s, I don’t think about supporting Old St. Paul’s. I think of supporting Jaime and Myrna in the choir, or of ensuring that Kate, Anne, Sarah, and Francine’s kids keep Eileen Brittain as their Sunday School teacher, or that my friend has a welcome and comfortable place to visit and worship, or that we can provide a great space for quality discussion and pay speakers for The Forum.
What’s more, it’s helping me make a plan, to set aside something special throughout the year. The organized side of me knows what’s coming in the year and how to plan accordingly.
And I would be remiss if didn’t say that I am also the recipient of the generosity of many other pledgers, my church friends. I benefit from the parties, the amazing Christmas concert that I invite my friends to attend, the Sunday receptions, and the opportunity to advocate for refugees.
Sharing my resources monthly at church is sharing with friends who I’ve grown to love and appreciate.
—Barry Brown, St. Paul’s Stewardship Committee
Suzanne and I arrived in Baltimore in the summer of 2015, after an unexpected job change and relocation. We soon began looking for a church that would be near our new home. More specifically, we wanted a traditional Episcopal service with good music and a progressive understanding of the Christian experience.
We made our first visit to Old St Paul’s on October 11, 2015, and we were hooked by the end of the service. For me, the music, liturgy, and message were all just right. Then, to make a wonderful experience even better, we were warmly greeted by many people after the service.
Over the subsequent months, we visited other churches, but never quite felt the connection we felt at OSP. We returned about every other week and began attending the forum, participated in Civic Works day of service, served lunch with the OSP team at Our Daily Bread, and attended numerous parties. All the while our network of friends at OSP continued to grow.
It is very difficult for an introvert like me to pull up my roots and move off to a strange new city. I’ve had to do it a few times in my life, and sometimes wasn’t sure I’d survive. For me, stepping into OSP felt almost as if I had always been here. This church has had an incredible impact on my adapting to a new city. So we support Old St. Paul’s with our financial pledge to help keep our spiritual home healthy, and to help insure it is here for others who need the same support it has given me.
Please consider your commitment to growth and give electronically to Old St. Paul’s:
—Vicky Murray, St. Paul’s Stewardship Committee
Pledge – noun; a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something.
Many parishioners regularly contribute money to the collection plate but are reluctant to commit to a pledge amount. Maybe you fall into this category. Maybe you like to keep your options open, maybe you don’t feel like your pledge would be sufficient, maybe you just haven’t before considered the differences between giving on Sunday morning versus making a pledge. If you aren’t already pledging, we on the Stewardship Committee would like you to consider this as the year that you step up to pledging.
Consider that you are being interviewed for a job. The job sounds appealing and the employer says they think you are the one and they’re excited to make you an offer. But then they say, “Here’s the thing. We can’t commit to a regular salary. We want to pay you, but we’ll just have to see how much we can pay out each week or month.” Would you take the job? Unless you are independently wealthy, you probably wouldn’t. Why? Because you have bills and obligations and you want to know that you have a regular income that you can count on and use to budget your expenses.
The church is no different. We are blessed to have a thriving and growing congregation. With this growth comes a need for more programs and resources—childcare, youth ministry and education in addition to the basic necessities of utilities, building maintenance, and salaries. And of course, there’s the wonderful music program as well as our outreach and adult education programs that keep people coming back for more. Without firm commitments from our congregation, the vestry and priests cannot make prudent budget decisions.
If you haven’t pledged before, here are a few things to consider:
- The average pledge in the Episcopal Church in the United States is $2,700 per year.
- The average pledge at Old St. Paul’s is $1,700 per year.
- Many people consider proportional giving, making their pledge as a percentage of their income.
- Your pledge amount will never be disclosed to other parishioners.
Please consider your commitment to growth and give electronically to Old St. Paul’s.
—The Rev. Mark Stanley
Isn’t it time that we stopped using the title “Father” for priests? Even though Jesus said, “Call no one Father” (Matthew 23:9), I don’t think we need to use the literal sense of that text as the foundation for this change.
I would start with the baptismal theology of our 1979 Book of Common Prayer. One of the great thrusts of our current Prayer Book is honoring the ministry of the laity. What is most important is that we are all baptized. As baptized members of Christ’s body, we have ministries either as lay or ordained people. So why should priests get a special (and seemingly superior) title? What is meant as a sign of respect towards the clergy seems to reinforce an outmoded hierarchy.
I know a priest who likes to be called Father because “I have worked so hard for this role and I want the respect this vocation deserves.” This is certainly a valid concern in a societal context where all authority figures are getting less respect. My response is that authentic respect flows from who we are and not what we are called. Our pastoral leadership and spiritual presence, and not any special title, will be the real source of a congregation giving us authority.
In addition, with the ordination of women in 1976 we have changed who can be in the priesthood. Is there an equivalent title to “Father” for women? Some women clergy like being called “Mother.” Others can’t stand it. It doesn’t help that “Mother” is also a title used by Roman Catholic nuns. In the Episcopal Church we have both genders ordained. This decision has consequences. We just can’t have one gender with a standard title that does not work for all. This seems like a simple issue of justice. Are men who like the title “Father” willing to let this title go for the sake of our clergy sisters?
Is “Father” really even the best title to describe what a priest does? I remember being a newly ordained 25 year old priest and having an elderly woman in our parish continually calling me “Father.” Do I really function like a father to her? This puts me in the parent role and her in the child position. It can actually be harming the spiritual development of parishioners to be putting them in this infantilizing position.
Furthermore, using the title Father creates the potential for theological confusion. Imagine a priest about to lead the Lord’s Prayer. It is then announced “Father Smith will now lead us in the ‘Our Father.’” Here is a situation where you are calling God “Father” in close connection with calling the priest “Father.” Is this ordained human being really in the same role as the Divine? Unfortunately some people already fall into that misunderstanding. Having a spiritual leader with the same title as the first person of the Trinity is just not a good set up for anyone.
In general I think people should be able to be called whatever they want. However when a title has the potential of getting in the way of the mission of the church, I would hope that people would be willing to make a change. Even if that change requires the sacrifice of a beloved title.
I don’t have the answer to what priests should be called. I do know that whatever we are called it should be the same title for both men and women. I find that it feels great to be a pastoral leader who is on a mutual first name basis with the people in my parish. They seem to like it too. So I propose we stick with the most meaningful names we have, our baptismal names—the names with which we are marked as Christ’s own forever.
—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
Experience has taught me that pledging to the church makes people feel good. I know it’s hard to believe, especially when money is already tight, but I have heard church members talking about what a positive difference it has made in their spiritual lives once they made the commitment to pledge.
There is something wonderful about choosing to move from being a guest at church to becoming more of an owner; a full and complete member of our community. People who pledge feel they have more of a voice and vote about important decisions in their church. People who pledge report feeling a sense of satisfaction because they are pooling their resources so that shared values are strengthened and passed on to the children of our congregation, benefiting everyone.
Think about that for a moment. How much is it worth, in this day and age, to experience the inner peace that comes from knowing you are doing all you can to uphold the values of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and respect for the dignity of every human being? How much is it worth to know that you are positively impacting the children in our midst? Wouldn’t we all agree that we want children to see through the eyes of compassion, justice, and hope for new life?
Is that sense of joy worth making sacrifices for? Does going to church, and taking your family, enrich your life? Might it be worth it to give up one night out a month and instead give that money to the church? What is your inner peace worth?
Pledging is making a promise to the vestry that in the coming year we will fulfill our financial giving to the church. Our pledge totals allow the vestry to create a realistic budget, planning to support programs in the following year, and knowing that the church will have the funds necessary to pay for them.
You are warmly invited to make a pledge to Old St. Paul’s Church for 2017. Consider how much you feel good about giving each week, and then multiply that by 52 weeks. You may fill out a pledge card at church, or fill one out on our website by clicking here. Those who pledge by November 30th will be invited to the Early Pledger Celebration. God loves a cheerful giver. Know that you are cherished at Old St. Paul’s.
—The Rev. Mark Stanley, Rector
A friend just expressed to me his concerns about his upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. His relatives who come to gather around the table have views from across the political spectrum. After a particularly divisive Presidential election, he is worried that the conversation at this meal will become uncomfortable, heated, and maybe hurtful.
Here at Old St. Paul’s we too gather around a meal—The Holy Eucharist. Around our altar table we too have a broad variety of opinions. Some are delighted with the outcome of this recent election, and some are devastated. With such diversity, how do we move ahead as a healthy and caring community?
In this congregation, we want people to express themselves and to be authentic. Being genuine with each other is a way we learn and grow in real relationship.
Can we balance our need to express ourselves with the possibility that others might feel excluded or put down by what we say? Followers of Jesus are invited to pay special attention to anyone who is hurting. Some in our community are worried and fearful after this election. There is concern that the rights and needs of certain groups in our society, particularly the most marginal, are being threatened. Others in our congregation have felt unfairly labeled because of the way they voted. Now is a time for sensitivity, especially with regards to all things political. Being thoughtful about how we come across shows our love and respect for others.
It takes energy to be a healthy and loving community. Real listening, respect, and compassion go a long way to keeping us connected. I give thanks to all of you for all your good work in building up the Body of Christ here at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Baltimore.
My wife Jenn and I spent our initial Baltimore years developing our spiritual lives at a church in the suburbs. When we moved downtown we felt a need to find a church closer to our weekday community. We also felt a need to change how we were nourishing our understanding of God. We started attending Old St. Paul’s in the Fall of 2009.
Our first Sunday at St. Paul’s was the kickoff of The Forum, the adult education program. There was palpable excitement for the local celebrity speaker. The church had reserved the ballroom of the Tremont Grand, the hotel next door, for the special occasion. Gary Vikan, Director of The Walter’s Art Museum, was sharing a playful lecture on his recently released book, From the Holy Land to Graceland. It was immediately obvious that his deep knowledge of Byzantine art was matched by his deep wonder of rock and roll culture. The lecture was mesmerizing. It spoke to my mind, my heart, and my soul. It was what I hoped church could do. It was what I hoped I could do with my own life’s work.
When I started attending Old St. Paul’s, I was looking for direction. I was reasonably far removed from my engineering degrees. It would be hard to pursue a path in that trade, not to mention that I lacked the ambition to do so. I had an inkling to go into finance, but again I was not moved. I was dabbling on the business side of art, managing a friend’s mural project. I was moving forward, but with hazy vision and limited fire. Gary clarified for me what might be possible and kindled the notions of the value of art that were already floating in my head.
In the course of his lecture, Gary shared that he was from Minnesota. I took the divine connection to my home state as an omen. I stalked him out of the hotel and stopped him before he got into his car. I shared briefly about my work on the Baltimore Love Project and he gave me his contact info. Two weeks later, we met for coffee. I will be having lunch with Gary again next Thursday. It is something we have done consistently since our initial coffee nearly 7 years ago.
The introduction to Gary was pivotal to my career, but it is not the only thing Old St. Paul’s has done for my vocation. The church has been a consistent source of inspiration, purpose, and direction. And, just as importantly, it has often allowed me to provide the same for others. This receiving and giving afforded by Old St. Paul’s has changed my life. It is one of the most cherished and valuable things to me. As a result, I yearn to invest more of myself, my time, and my treasure into Old St. Paul’s being!
Interested in sharing the various ways Old St. Paul’s has changed you? Please either email The Reverend Mary Luck Stanley or include a comment directly to this post by typing in the discussion box below. You can also choose to receive email notifications of new St. Paul’s articles by clicking the “Follow” button on the left-hand side of your screen. Thank you & God bless!