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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.
Bishop Swing, the bishop who ordained me, often said, “Ministry takes money.” Ministry certainly takes a lot of other things as well—prayer, compassion, hard work, and so on. But Bishop Swing wanted to let people of faith know that we can’t shy away from the fact that money is needed to carry out the work of the church. The church does not run on air. The diocese doesn’t pay our bills (I have heard more than one someone wonder about that). We depend on the giving of each member of the congregation.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about death lately. Not only is it the week of Halloween, but I’ve also recently had more than a few friends suffer through major surgeries, vehicle collisions, and severe illness. And so maybe it’s because of these events and meditations that I’ve also been feeling especially grateful to have such a life- and living-centered faith. For although many focus on the torment and violent death of Christ, it is important to also constantly remind oneself of what it was he was dying for. To my mind, Christ was not simply a sacrifice, but a man who died for his dedication to the love, life, and eternity of the world. The legacy of Jesus then, for me, has always been a life-centered faith. A faith where the mysterious God empowers us to conquer death, where all things are interconnected and eternal rather than isolated, linear, and full of endings.
Despite this legacy, however, the Christian Church, like many religions, has left in its wake a tremendously bloody history thanks to the failings, fears, and prejudices of its practitioners over the centuries: persecution of countless men and women as witches, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and many other instances of war, terrorism, conquest, and “cleansing.”
As Halloween is nearly upon us, it strikes me as a strangely ideal time to pause and give a moment of remembrance to those who have suffered and to those who continue to suffer at the hands of people who claim to be acting in the name and service of God.
To aid you in this, I leave you with a prayer from Michel Quoist’s classic meditation, Prayers:
Grant me, Lord, to spread true love in the world.
Grant that by me and by your children it may penetrate a little
into all circles, all societies, all economic and political
systems, all laws, all contracts, all rulings;
Grant that it may penetrate into offices, factories, apartment
buildings, movie houses, dance halls;
Grant that it may penetrate the hearts of men and that I may
never forget that the battle for a better world is a battle of
love, in the service of love.
(Quoist, pg 103)
Photo by Jessica Sexton, OSP Youth Minister