Let us pray.
Lord of the teasing riddle, whose questions undo our certainty and sit us on a different
path: give us a heart of passion, a searching mind, gentle strength of body and unseen
depths of soul, so that we might love you wholly and our neighbour as ourselves;
through Jesus Christ, the law of grace. Amen.
This morning let me begin by thanking Father Patrick for the invitation to speak to you
during the service about stewardship and afterwards about gift planning. We intended
to do this one year ago however my 101 year-old mother died just before the scheduled
date. I needed to go sort out the details for the family and funeral and a life well-lived.
Patrick was very gracious and supportive and he has my grateful thanks.
So, who do you have standing before you? In my role as a diocesan staff person, I am a
resource consultant to parishes for stewardship and gift development. That means I
help parishes develop annual stewardship and discipleship programs to strengthen and
grow their faith communities in our diocese. This is accomplished by creating resources,
offering training workshops and being a resource consultant to parish stewardship
committees across the diocese.
What about gift development? God has provided gifts to us of time, talent or financial
resources and my work supports individual Anglicans in parishes to express their love for
God in the ways they use their time, talent and financial resources in response to God’s
grace. The Stewardship in Community: The Benedictine Way conference last Saturday is
an example of that. Anglicans from all parts of the Diocese gathered to develop their
personal Pathway of Life – what the Book of Common Prayer on Page 555 calls a Rule of
Life. I also provide information and encouragement and support for individual financial
giving of annual, major and legacy gifts, which is the subject of the following talk after
The Gospel today calls us to Love God and Love our Neighbour. I will spend this time
reflecting on what that means from a stewardship and gift development point of view.
We begin with a basic fundamental premise – all we have, everything, comes from God.
We are called to be Good Stewards in our care of these gifts; and, to return a proportion
to God annually in thanksgiving. In our Hebrew lesson today, God models this
behaviour. He is very generous – he gives the people the land of Israel. But God also has
expectations. That is why Jesus calls us to love God with all your heart, your soul and
with all your mind.
How does that play out in parish life from a stewardship point of view? In community,
how do we love God? Probably the most important thing is to love each other, as God
loves us. That means relationships are important and a sense of belonging for all
members of the community. We see this in this morning’s Psalm as the people hope for
a renewed relationship with God. “Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry?” they ask.
They want to renew their relationship with God.
Stewardship in community also means having a common understanding of what the
community is about. What is the story you tell about the community life together? What
are your dreams – what is your long term vision? Holding these goals and dreams in a
loving, relational way means that you can hold these up when there are short-term
needs or the issues of one budget year cause heart tremors for your treasurer. Creating
a common vision and dreams enables the parish to grow in grace.
Leadership is also important. And I don’t mean decision-making, which is also important.
I mean the kind of leadership that models Good Stewardship. These leaders must be
examples to others in the community by loving God and neighbour in their worship,
prayer, life in Christ, witnessing to God, service, and proportionally offering their
financial gifts to God. Leaders cannot lead people where they are not willing to go
Loving God in community also means educating the members of the community about
how they might respond to God with their time, talents and financial resources. This
stewardship work is year-round – not just something one does when leadership needs
to secure the budget for the coming year. This annual program should be accomplished
with a written plan that educates the community about living as good stewards
regularly through sermons, personal witness, bulletin inserts, bible studies, and
communications about progress on dreams and goals; the list is quite long.
Speaking about communications on dreams and goals, a very effective way to do that is
to create a narrative budget that focuses on the main goals of the community. A
narrative budget communicates progress on common vision and goals using stories and
images. It might include categories like the wider mission of the church, serving the
neighbourhood, worship, Christian formation and education, pastoral care, debt
reduction and caring for facilities. St. Philip-by-the Sea Anglican parish in Lantzville on
Vancouver Island took an interesting approach; they used the framework of the Marks
of Mission to create their narrative budget.
People are interested in what money makes possible. They give to dreams and visions,
responding to God’s love. They care more about mission and ministry than they do
about bookkeeping. Stories are more inspiring than numbers. In today’s Psalm the
writer implores God to share his story by showing his servants his work and his splendor
to the children. They are interested in what God does, not how he did it. Narrative
budgets are more about the soul than the purse. This approach to financial communications encourages members of the community to give proportionately from
their income. It is a very effective way to love God.
My friend, the Most Reverend Douglas Hambidge who was our Diocesan bishop many
years ago is one of the great teachers on stewardship in the church today. When he
talks about giving money, he says that at the Eucharist, God says “this is how much I
love you”. And, on the cross, Jesus says “this is how much I love you”. When we give of
our time, talent and financial resources, we are saying in response to God and Jesus:
“this is how much I love you”. We must give in proportion to God’s generosity to our
This teaching is at the core of our loving relationship with God. Paul tells us we are made
in the image of God who is loving and generous. Our response to God should be
proportional to his love for us. This central theme of stewardship is what all the
education and communications throughout the year are about. The goal of these
activities is to create an expectation in the faith community that people love God by
giving proportionally of their time, talent and financial resources.
This approach leads to stability in the community as the dreams are achieved and the
goals reached. The common vision developed together is nurtured in a framework of
love, generosity and proportionality.
Jesus also calls us to love our neighbours. I see from your new handsome website that
there is a lot of loving going on. This Christian response to neighbour and stranger is
another way that we live in the image of God. God loves everyone and our challenge is
to do the same.
For Good Stewards, this is about serving others, even strangers. In an alternate Hebrew
lesson appointed for today, when we see injustice, the scripture says we are to love
your neighbour as ourselves. This ancient belief is also what Jesus is saying in today’s
Gospel reading. It appears that you have taken this to heart in several ways that love
and serve your neighbourhood.
Loving our neighbour also has a deeper meaning and purpose that is more difficult to
achieve – especially in this global world we now live in. In Leviticus we are cautioned not
to “profit by the blood of our neighbour”. I take this to mean neighbour in the broadest
sense possible. This passage has developed special meaning for me since I have been
personally engaged in our parish work in El Salvador.
When you travel there, and to many other countries I am certain, you quickly see how
people struggle to live and work, often for less per month than many here earn in a
couple days. Many, including myself, return to Canada determined to do something
about this injustice.
When we consider our lifestyle in Canada, how do we love our neighbours in other parts
of the world? In many countries, many work in little more than slave-like conditions
producing clothing and other manufactured items that we take for granted.
For many years I was a board member and also chairperson of the Mission to Seafarers
ministry in our diocese. This century old home away from home for seafarers offers a
safe haven for thousands of people every year who travel the oceans of the world. They
bring us the products made by many of those people I just spoke about. While we do a
pretty good job of caring for seafarers locally, I wonder how much time we spend
thinking about our response to the mostly poor women who produce things for us.
I am heartened to look at your parish website to see that your community supports
PWRDF’s work, your eco-social justice group and the Shoebox Ministry. I encourage you
to continue to search for new ways in which you can serve the needs of the global
In the Epistle today Paul writes that we are entrusted with the message of the Gospel;
and, that God is testing our hearts. Our response to these global challenges is testing
the hearts of many.
This week’s tragic events in Ottawa at the National War Memorial and our Parliament is
testing our capacity to love and forgive our global neighbours, yet that is what God calls
us to do. The point blank execution of Corporal Nathan Cirillo on Wednesday has no
doubt changed us. Yet, we are called to love.
An effective parish stewardship program calls us to engage with our love of God and
neighbour. It calls us to not live our lives in the shallows. We are called by God to go
deeper; to go into the deep waters of life. We are not to be like Moses who, at first,
pleaded to God that someone else be sent.
From our place of stability in life, we are called to be aware. If we see an injustice or
have a deep passion for something we want to fix, we are called to act. If we are
listening, this might be God, tapping us on the shoulder, reminding us to love our
neighbour. We move from listening to conversion - seeking a solution. Who can respond
to this need; are they street credible, can I have a relationship with them? Only then
should we choose how to give. And that is where gift planning can be a real help.
We heard earlier that people give to dreams and visions. This is rarely truer than with a
bequest gift because each of us is making a kind of legacy statement – we want
something to be ongoing or we create something new with our gift that benefits the
community after we are at rest.
This was the case with Margaret Lewis. She was an arts teacher at Kitsilano High School
who left her entire estate to the diocese – why? Because she realized that many clergy
widows had little or no income and she wanted the diocese to do something about it.
She enabled other kinds of support with this bequest as well. So now the Anglican
Initiatives Fund, which manages this gift, can ensure that clergy widows have the
financial support that they need; and the gift also supports other diocesan initiatives.
Providing a bequest to your parish or the diocese is your last chance to tithe
proportionally during your lifetime. Other ideas for deciding how much to leave as a
legacy from your estate include adopting the church and treating it as a family member,
in effect, another child; still others give enough so the endowment they create
generates enough annual income to replace their annual gift to the parish.
Because some of you may not be able to stay for my talk about gift planning, I wanted to
at least share some highlights of my second talk. I will also talk about several other
giving methods including annuities, insurance and gifts of securities. Hopefully you will
stay for the twenty minutes it takes to share this information with you.
The words we will sing in the communion hymn, Somos del Señor, are “each day allows
us to decide for good, loving and serving as we know we should”. This sums up the
whole point of a vibrant annual stewardship program.
Let us pray:
Lord we pray that we will make stewardship a way of Life. We acknowledge you as the
source of all we have and all we are.
Help us to place you, our loving Creator, first in our lives by becoming more prayerful,
more focused on loving and caring for our families and our neighbours in need, and by
becoming less preoccupied with material things.
Help us to hear your call to be good stewards, caretakers, and managers of all your gifts
by sharing them for your purposes.
Help us make your priorities our priorities and to put our faith into action. Help us plan
to "give back" the talents, treasures and time with which we have been blessed.
Help us plan to serve our church, our community, and our world with your gifts.
May we serve you and pray with a joyful spirit of mind and heart.
Glen Mitchell, Director of Stewardship and Planned Giving, The Diocese of New Westminster