Cultivating Gratitude & Generosity: Stewardship Letter from Our Pastor

 

October 12, 2020

Dearly Beloved,

 

Several weeks ago, we were blessed by Karlene Snyder’s testimony. (If you didn’t get to see it, you can watch it here) She shared her spiritual journey of struggle, tragedy, loss, hope and joy. She offered us “God sightings” that she experienced along the way – visions of the Holy Spirit’s presence, guidance and steadfast love. Karlene’s testimony, her courage, her vulnerability, her consistent choice to live in hope, courage and love so clearly speak of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life and in our community.

 

Karlene’s story reminds me that, though this year has been a challenging one, our church and faith have been a touchstone for us. We experience God’s presence in this community. On Tuesday mornings, scripture comes alive and speaks hope and courage to us. Outdoor worship at Tom and Sherri Frank’s home invites us into the wonder of God’s creation. The leadership of our children and youth in worship brings such joy and delight! In a time that continues to be profoundly disorienting, this community offers us grounding and a place to belong.

 

In addition to the comfort offered within our sacred community, we are also challenged and invited to grow. Book studies open windows through which to understand faith, Jesus, ourselves and God anew. In small groups, we have had the opportunity to wrestle with the legacy of racism and injustice in our communities. As we step into the New Year, we have committed to learning about what it means to be Open and Affirming. We will journey together in prayer, learning, conversation and study to discern God’s call to us around how to fully welcome and affirm God’s children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. These courageous conversations require and cultivate trust and our commitment to listening in love and humility, to learning and growing and changing.

 

Of course, none of this would be possible without your gifts of time, leadership, faithfulness and, yes, money. Your gifts this past year have been significant and consistent. Thank you!  Countless members, friends, church leaders, children and youth have given of their time and money, sharing reflections, making phone calls, lovingly caring for our building, praying, reading, learning and dreaming together. Many of us transitioned to mailing our checks into the church office, signing up for automatic bill pay, giving online or even through our phones. We have been willing to give and to change and to show up.

 

The decision to give a gift is a choice, and as followers of Jesus, giving is an essential and life-giving part of practicing our faith. We give out of gratitude for what God has done in our lives and world and as a sign of our commitment to being a part of the good things that God is still doing in our world and through our congregation.

 

One of our new members recently reflected: “I have felt the presence of God as profoundly over online worship with this church as I ever did sitting in a pew…. These are people I want to know, and they have already helped me on my journey more than they can ever know.” Friends, the Holy Spirit is changing lives through us. The Holy Spirit is changing us. Even when we cannot gather in our sanctuary, hold hands or hug, eat or sing together. The Holy Spirit is changing lives through us because we are opening our hearts and offering our lives to the Spirit who moves among and through and within us wherever we are.

 

So thank you for being the church for me, for each other and for others as we seek space to grieve, connect, and hope, as we seek a place to belong and to be loved in these difficult days.

 

I hope you will join me in prayerfully considering how you will give of yourself, your time, your leadership, your faithfulness and your money to support our congregation’s vibrant ministries in the coming year. I encourage you to consider making a pledge as I do – a commitment to give to the church in a regular and planned way. This helps us budget and plan for the coming year’s programing and outreach. And it helps you live into your generosity not as an afterthought, not out of what is leftover, but out of the abundance of your gratitude and joy.

 

Please keep our congregation in prayer during this season of gratitude and giving. Over the next few weeks, you will receive our annual Stewardship mailing with a commitment card (one for your records and one to return to the church office). Please plan to join us virtually on Commitment Sunday (November 8) when we will offer our intentions and celebrate all that we are and do as God’s church in the world.

 

With gratitude and love,

Thandiwe

Pastor, First Congregational Church