I went to a program about “Funding Current Ministry” at the conference I attended recently in California. I asked one question of the presenter during the program and it seems to have gotten me in trouble. At the end of the session I was the recipient of an examination from the presenter about my understanding of the sacramentality of money.
The presenter wanted to know what I did with the money during the liturgy. He wanted to know if I lifted it up and put it on the altar. I told him that in our tradition we were uncomfortable with suggesting that our gifts in any way were the equivalent of Christ’s Body and Blood. With words that seemed to imply a superior theological understanding of the matter, he dismissed me with an expression of hope that I would learn to do better. I didn’t realize until then that my question must have really gotten to him.
What I asked was how his talk about running a stewardship program related to the words of our worship, to the experience of dying and rising in Christ. You and I don’t hear the words, “pledge,” “tithe” and “stewardship” during the Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist, like Holy Baptism, is about the mystery of Christ’s redemptive action. Well, I’m not at all sure I want to talk about raising money for the work of Christ apart from the language of our worship when I stop to think about it. My call as a pastor, priest and teacher is not to raise money but to help people rise to new life in Christ. When people have died and risen in Christ, they give.
Certainly I think there is a role for the church community to help people know how to give appropriately. It’s almost a parental role kind of thing. Most members of the clergy have the experience of helping people grow in their understanding of the need to give, a need that functions on so many different levels.
When I spoke up about how the language of the “stewardship program” could be stated using the words of our worship, I know I was speaking a language known but not really experienced by many people in the room. What about you? Do you experience your life as being primarily about having died and risen in Christ and growing in your understanding of that mystery?
If we need new programs at Saint Mary’s, then it’s more than a conventional stewardship program. At least I for one believe we need our stewardship efforts to be linked directly to our life in Christ. I guess there wouldn’t be much of a deficit if the active members of the parish tithed. I guess any of the stewardship programs put out by the national church commission on this subject would generate more cash for us and God knows we need cash around here. But why don’t we reach for the best the tradition calls us to, just as we do in worship.
This community feels called to be the Body of Christ liturgically; I think we need the opportunity to be trusted to give without gimmicks. This doesn’t mean we won’t ask for gifts to Saint Mary’s annual ministry budget. This doesn’t mean I won’t ask for money for projects that need attention. What it does mean is that I am going to try to learn to talk about money in terms of our response to living in Christ. A good program or “education” on stewardship is important. But such a program must be rooted in our understanding of having died and risen in Christ. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST…Your prayers are asked for James, Mabel, Thomas and Yamily, priest, who are hospitalized and for Dennis, Jack, Carol, Olga, Helen, Margaret, Shirley, Hannah, Dawn and Bryn and for the repose of the soul of Stuart, bishop and of Armando Acosta, Liz Crommett's father, who passed away last week.. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 20: 1954 Karl Irving Bennett; March 22: 1971 Mary E. Fargher; March 24: 1952 Ida Mary Steifel.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Genesis 12:1-8, Psalm 33:12-22, Romans 4:1-17, John 3:1-17 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin, 10:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Breidenthal, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin . . . On Saturday, March 18, Canon Garrison will hear confessions . . . On Saturday, March 25, Father Gerth will hear confessions.
FROM THE PARISH REGISTER FOR FEBRUARY 2000 . . . Letters of Transfer were received for Robert Loper from Saint Bartholomew’s Church, New York City, for Ryan Edwin Lesh from Saint. Paul’s Memorial, Charlottesville, Virginia . . . Robert Norman Cogliati was recorded in the canonical Register of Baptized Persons as a member of the parish . . . Letters of Transfer were sent for David, Elizabeth, Amanda and Evan Crommett to Christ and Saint Stephen’s Church, New York City, and for Robert May to Grace Church, Newark, New Jersey.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Shin’s Bible Basics Class this Saturday morning, March 18, from 10:00 to 11:30 AM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . As we go to press, Mabel Lewis is at Long Island College Hospital for treatment, Thomas Haines is at Lenox Hill Hospital, and James Crawford is hospitalized in North Carolina where he lives. Please keep these members of the parish community in your prayers . . . The Rector called on Dennis Smith at home last Saturday. He is recovering very well from his recent surgery and looks forward to returning to Saint Mary’s very soon . . .. Father Shin will be leading the Rector’s Class this Sunday while Father Gerth is away . . . Our new senior seminarian, Mary Haddad will be leading the Sunday morning Bible Study Class on Romans . . . Father Breidenthal’s Lenten series on the Paschal Mystery begins this Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Many thanks to the altar servers who assisted with Stations of the Cross & Eucharistic Exposition & Benediction last Friday night . . . A letter has been mailed to the local parish community requesting donations for the Flower Fund for Easter flowers and for help to reduce the deficit in this account . . . Attendance last Sunday 164.
JAMES STUART WETMORE, bishop, rip . . . Your prayers and presence are requested for the Celebration of Mass at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine on the Feast of the Annunciation, Saturday, March 25, at 11:00 AM when the ashes of James Stuart Wetmore, bishop, will be interred in the Cathedral. Bishop Wetmore was suffragan bishop of the Diocese of New York from 1960 to 1987.
HONORING GEORGE BLACKSHIRE . . . The reception following the Solemn Mass on Annunciation Eve will be even more festive than usual in honor of the ministry of George Blackshire who has served for two decades as head of the Brother Lawrence Guild. Some of our newer parishioners may not know that “Brother Lawrence Guild” is our community’s name for the group that organizes our fellowship. George doesn’t want us to do this; but his rector, yours truly, has insisted that it is his duty to be here and to let us recognize his work. (Yours truly also threatened to bring the congregation, including Bishop Taylor who will be with us this evening, to George’s house in Brooklyn if he didn’t show up.) Plan to stay and help us celebrate the life of this community and this particular ministry George has had among us for so long. S.G.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . Father Douglas Brown, O.H.C. will be will us on Saturday, April 1, to lead Saint Mary’s Lenten Quiet Day. The day begins at 11:00 AM and concludes at 3:00 PM. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered. A sign-up sheet is posted on the bulletin board in St. Joseph’s Hall. Please speak with Father Shin if you would like to know more about the Lenten Quiet Day at Saint Mary’s.
This week at Saint Mary’s
10:00 AM The Rector's Class
10:00 AM Sunday Morning Bible Study
1:00 PM Journey in Faith
7:00 PM Paschal Mystery: Approaches New and Old
Eve of the Annunciation of Our Lord
Procession & Solemn Mass
A Reception follows in Saint Joseph’s Hall
The Calendar for the Last Week after the Epiphany
Monday Weekday of Lent
Tuesday Weekday of Lent
Wednesday Weekday of Lent
Thursday Weekday of Lent
Friday Weekday of Lent Special Lenten Abstinence
Saturday Weekday of Lent
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Allen Shin, curate, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant,
The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.