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Upon moving to Baltimore two and a half years ago, finding an Episcopal church to call home was a priority, and I was astonished at all the choices the city has in that regard. I had an attraction to Old St. Paul’s based on its web presence (photos not to be understated), and my family’s first visit that fateful Sunday sealed the deal.
I am accustomed to being heavily involved in my church community, but this chapter in my life – i.e. new motherhood – causes me to take a meaningful hiatus as I learn from life’s greatest mindfulness teacher (one’s child) and absorb worship in a new way. St. Paul’s offers a beautiful service in a magnificent space with sacred music that draws us closer to the divine … while accommodating our youngest congregants. And participating in “God’s food,” as we call it in our little family, unifies us all.
In addition to Sunday worship, I am pleased to be able to attend the occasional Wednesday service (sansdaughter) to be fed in additional ways and am excited at the burgeoning promise of the new Old Rectory for small groups and formation.
And for all this, I am dutifully aware that it takes all of us to uphold a church financially. I want to be a contributor to the crowd-sourced income of this sacred place at which I call myself a member. It doesn’t matter how small; what matters is that we contemplate how to give back of our time, talent, and treasure for this place (e.g. the electric bills) and its work (e.g. the staff), never forgetting that it serves to empower us to go out and do the work God has given us to do in Baltimore and beyond!
Please let the vestry of Old St. Paul’s know how much you want to contribute to the 2020 budget so that they can plan ahead based on real numbers. Feel free to email your pledge to the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Simply send a message stating something like, “For the 2020 budget of St. Paul’s, Baltimore, I pledge to contribute ______?”
—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
If you already pledge to Old St. Paul’s—thank you! Your generosity funds our operations. The pledge commitments that parishioners make are used by the Vestry and church leaders to build an operating budget. Just like your personal budget, the church budget includes basic expenses (utilities, salaries, building maintenance, etc) as well as the programs that keep our congregation growing (music, education for children and adults, etc).
The theme for this year’s Stewardship Campaign is “The Gifts of God for the People of God”. We hear these words every week when we prepare to receive communion, but what do they mean? Everything that we have in our lives, from our relationships with others to our material possessions, is a gift that is given to us by God. As people of God, we are stewards of all that we hold dear.
For over twenty years, the luxury watch brand Patek Phillippe has used the advertising slogan: “You never really own a Patek Phillippe. You merely look after for it for the next generation.” This year marked our 325th year as a parish, an incredible testimony to the stewardship of those who came before us. We must continue the tradition for those who come after us.
Look around the church at the names and dates of those who are forever memorialized in our stained glass windows. Think about the financial support that they provided to Old St. Paul’s. We are blessed with a strong endowment thanks to their gifts. We are fortunate to have it, but it is our responsibility to maintain and build the endowment rather than relying on it in lieu of our pledge of financial commitment. I grew up in a church where my great-grandparents had been founding members. It is my hope that Old St. Paul’s will be there for my great-grandchildren.
We ask that you prayerfully consider increasing your pledge from what you gave in 2017.
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. 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.
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 like to be independent. I don’t like seeming weak. I don’t like asking for help. But over the last couple months, I’ve had to. I’m currently facing a health issues. It’s nothing too serious, but it’s something that has been bewildering and, at times, left me feeling completely helpless and alone.
But what has stood out the most to me is what a powerful thing presence can be. I have been so grateful for people simply being present with me in these difficult days, and the power of presence has been reinforced for me over and over again.
Being on the receiving end of help has started a stream of thought for me about what presence means and why it’s spoken so strongly to me.
Presence is more than just being there.
Presence is being open, not necessarily available 24/7. That’s an impossible expectation to put on anyone. But I can’t describe the relief I’ve found in those who are present with me, not simply in proximity, but in spirit by letting me know I can call at any time and say, “I can’t. I can’t tackle this anymore.”
Presence is listening. People know when the person they’re talking to is distracted. Sometimes you can’t help it, but a listening ear that is all there can be like fresh water to a thirsty person. Unvirtuous Abby once posted: “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference” (David Augsburger, Mennonite Teacher).
Presence is forgiving. It can be tiring. And sometimes the person in need doesn’t have room in his or her life to return the favor or even the mental space to remember to say thank you. Sometimes there can be hurt. But being present is being compassionate, overlooking wrongs.
Presence is active. It’s one thing to be available, but if someone is hurting, sometimes they have no idea or any capacity to state a need they may have. It’s recognizing, it’s noticing. At times my need was taken care of even before I felt it.
And most importantly, presence gives hope. The words or help of a friend has helped me face another day, it’s helped me stay positive, it’s given me courage—for no reason at all but the fact that I don’t feel alone in this.
As Advent is coming up, I find more and more richness in the name of Jesus: “Emmanuel,” “God with us.” His gift to us is His presence. He is someone who is wanting us to draw near.
“God with us” means that someone has an interest. Someone is nearby. Someone gives us the courage to face the next day. I’ve heard people say, “You shouldn’t go to God with a list.” And while that is valid, I honestly don’t think He cares if we end up going to Him in weariness with a request. I don’t think He tires of it. Knowing He is with me in unanswered health issues gives me peace. His presence gives me hope.
And it is through the presence of people that I’ve felt God’s presence as I walk through this.
Photo by Hania Luna