For the past eight weeks, we have been engaged in a campaign to teach about stewardship. A key element in that campaign has been an appeal for members of the Cathedral community to make a pledge of financial support for 2017. Why?
First of all, a pledge of faithful stewardship of our money is a practice we recommend as one of the spiritual disciplines of our lives. According to the biblical story, human beings are created in the image of God and called by God to be stewards, managers of everything God gives us to sustain and enrich life on planet Earth. Along with that vocation, God has given human beings gifts and abilities that no other creature posses. A pledge of financial support is a tangible profession of our belief that our Creator has called and equipped us to be stewards of God’s bounty. Outward, tangible signs of our beliefs are woven into the fabric of the community of faith: Holy Baptism, Holy Eucharist, works of mercy, standing or kneeling for prayer, going to church, and reading the Bible are some of the other outward and tangible signs of our spiritual life.
In addition, our pledge is more about the giver’s need to give than about the Church’s need to receive. Certainly, as we grow in generosity toward God, the work of the Church benefits as a result of our giving. There are many worthy non-profit organizations. Christians are encouraged to get involved in those organizations and to support them financially. But the Church is not just another non-profit; the Church is of God and is God’s primary instrument for carrying out God’s work in the world. So, we give to God through God’s Church and we make that gift the first priority in all our charitable giving.
Also, our pledge is a reminder that everything we have, whether saved, spent, or given away is a sacred trust from God. When we make contributions to fulfill our pledge, we are mindful that we are stewards over what remains. It causes us to be more intentional about how we use our resources and helps us have a healthy relationship with our possessions so that we don’t rely on them more than we rely on God.
And, our Cathedral community, like the entire Church, is a covenant community. The God we worship has welcomed us into a covenant and calls us to live in covenant with one another. So, when I make any kind of pledge, promise, vow, in the context of my faith community, it is a tangible expression of my desire to participate in and be accountable to my sisters and brothers in Christ. All people are welcome to be consumers of the ministries of the Church. But the ministries of the Church are carried out by those who consider themselves members. The members are the delivery system. Our Vestry, Staff, and Finance Committee develop a mission plan each year. Our pledges give them a reliable estimate of the amount of funding available to carry out that plan. Therefore we have to be committed to one another in Christ’s mission. A pledge of financial support is one of the ways we are expected to demonstrate that commitment. Our pledge says to God and to God's covenant people, “You can count on me!”
Some have expressed concern that there are those who are waiting until the new Dean arrives before making a pledge. In truth, very few people are doing that. Most of our members at Saint John's Cathedral understand that faithful stewardship is about giving to God for the mission of God's Church, not giving to the Dean. And they understand that a pledge is not a bargaining tool for getting their way or a means of expressing satisfaction or dissatisfaction. In fact, if our people respond as generously as I believe they will, those who are discerning a call to be the new Dean will be impressed by this sign of spiritual vitality and maturity.
If you have made your pledge of faithful stewardship, thank you! I hope this reflection strengthens your resolve. If you have not made a pledge, please do so very soon and join us in growing in generosity in the coming year. If you have never made a pledge, please give it prayerful consideration. You may find, as so many of us have found, that the discipline can have a transforming effect in your spiritual journey.
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
Saint John's Cathedral