Flannery O’Connor once said of us Christians that “we shall know the truth and the truth will make us odd.” The time has come once again for us to make our annual financial pledges in support of this wonderfully odd and holy place, St. Elizabeth. This year is a little different! Looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, we are making a sea change in our attention. I have covered some of the details in the letter that I have sent to each of you, but I am excited to say that we are refocusing our attention to the work that God has given us to do: to love and serve God as faithful witnesses of Christ, our Lord.
The time has come for us to tend to the harvest of ministry in this marvelous place on behalf of a community in change. We can help to heal and unify a small corner of a nation in division. While there are still building issues for us to deal with, this parish can now turn its focus and resources toward ministry to our neighborhood and the surrounding community. Having done what we can to make sure that there will be a place for future generations to gather in the presence of God, we are ready to share this blessing with others.
Authentic happiness, you see, comes from identifying and cultivating the gifts that God has given each of us so that we can joyfully give them to the world. Unlike some churches, St. Elizabeth is not a destination, but a filling station and school for the love of God. We can offer our friends, neighbors and all those whom Christ draws to us a place to find, nourish and give the unique gift that God has planted within them. We can show people and teach them how to model their lives after Jesus Christ, who does not tell us what to think or what to do, but rather how to live. The One we follow, who gives us all that we have and to whom we ourselves belong, leads us into a life of abundance steeped in love for others—a life based on trust in that which is greater than us all.
In the October Elizabethan, I wrote about the difference in perspective between thinking about ourselves as “practitioners” rather than “members.” That applies to our giving as much as anything else. Ministry is not solely about money, but our money is a good part of the engine behind ministry. And giving is not “dues-paying,” but is a crucial spiritual practice. By investing in ministry, we discover ourselves and learn more about God, whose whole being is generosity. Giving teaches us to recognize where all our resources come from and returns a liberating and exquisite joy.
I invite you to pray over the next couple of weeks and then to join me in expressing your gratitude to God through our financial pledges. These will be combined with the pledges of time and talent that we gathered last month and used to create a vision for 2017.
On the mornings of November 13th and 20th, at 9:00 in the St. John room, we will have some conversations about what it is to be a practitioner rather than a member, and about the specific areas of ministry that God uses to transfigure practitioners. You will also see in the letter that I sent that the time has come for us to be a little bolder in our transparency around money. I invite you to pray over the next couple of weeks and then to join me in expressing your gratitude to God through our financial pledges. These will be combined with the pledges of time and talent that we gathered last month and used to create a vision for 2017. This is truly a momentous time to be part of this for this delightfully odd and holy parish, and I thank you for being here!
– Father John Forman, The Elizabethan, November 2016