About a decade ago a number of us joined a Redeemer mission trip to the Agricultural School of El Hogar in Honduras. We painted a lot of walls that year…. But a special painting was one we made for the front of the volunteer house that read: Hay diversos dones, pero un mismo Espíritu. There are many gifts but the same spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4)
We have gifts on the mind these days – or at least I seem to. Kate preached a wonderful sermon on Pentecost; and Andrew preached powerfully about the imperative to seek racial justice. Which got me thinking about stewardship for these challenging times. How do we know what stewardship means when we can’t get out? When we can’t hug our grandkids? When you have lost your job? When you can’t sing off-key in church?
On the most important level, stewardship is the caretaking of God’s creation – of our world and of each other. The birthday of the church, Kate reminded us, is the “sending out” to do that caretaking. It feels to me, as I listen to Kate, Andrew, members of the vestry and other folks, that Redeemer has kept working to be the church and be together (even as we are apart). We are thinking about, and caring for each other; we are joining in worship and coffee hour; we are listening to and supporting our mission partners; we are taking the time and making the effort to join the work for racial justice. Our time and talent are clearly visible in the liturgy teams, mission leaders and parish staff as we innovate and experiment with alacrity, humor and grace.
There also is a practical side of stewardship, the one we hear about each year in the fall: the gathering of treasure to support the church, the “real” church of God’s people doing all that caretaking. A quick financial snapshot is revealing. Overall, the year to date collection of parishioner offerings is lower than the budgeted estimates. Given our lives’ disruption, that is not surprising. In March, our first month of “no-building” church, parishioner contributions fell off. In April they were back up and exceeded the monthly budget target by a few thousand dollars. That tells me that Redeemer is adaptive. Those of us who would ordinarily place an offering in the collection plate, shifted to other ways to give. And it suggests to me that Redeemer is helping to take care of the community, and vice versa.
The realities of how we regather and adjust our worship in a world in which covid-19 is a fact of life will have us continue to adapt. (I mean – who wants to be the last person in church to touch the collection plate that has made its way around? Not me, thanks.) Your Stewardship Committee members are exploring ways to strengthen our capacity for digital giving – and to make it easier. And we are planning to be sure that all members of our community are included through what will be an extended period of adjustment.
The Pentecost passage in Corinthians continues: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”. Giving care and taking care are hallmarks of the Redeemer community. I hope that as we adapt and struggle we remember to offer those gifts when we can and ask for that care when we need it. It is there.