Each May we dedicate one Sunday or worship to reflecting on our practical stewardship of the church. Here, Rector Alan summarises his thoughts on our blessings and challenges:
I fear that this is going to sound like an election manifesto for the ‘Generosity Party.’ (Either that or a pastoral letter from someone definitely not an Archbishop!)
I preached about stewardship at the end of May. The subject made me realise how much of my ministry has been about the movement of things, and how my theological training, which may well have filled my head and heart with the lofty transcendence of the Christian faith, yet left me totally unprepared for a ministry of the movement of things (chairs, hymn boards, bank accounts, bodies, etc.). ‘We have become a church of crypts,’ I observed ruefully, of ‘towers, vaults, sacristies, safes, funds, burial grounds and masonry; of stone, roofs, doors, fences, gates, silver and plate; of treasurers, solicitors, deeds, charities and registers; of personnel policies, of health and safety schedules, of safeguarding practices,’ to name but a few of the articles that comprise the ministry of things.
It’s true. ‘We have become a church which requires a huge expenditure of energy just to keep the wheels in motion, even if we are not always clear what direction we wish to travel in. The more we plan the less we rely on God,’ (said, I becoming more preachy), ‘the more anxious we become the less we lean on his providence, the more taxing the business of managing becomes the quicker we lose a vision of the kingdom of God.
I then presented my manifesto for the ‘Generosity Party’, as follows: ‘Stewardship at St Giles is different to stewardship in other places. In the country parish that I knew, stewardship meant that if the people did not give the church would not be. It was a fairly simple message, as you can imagine and it was easy to scare people. You can only be in debt for so long before someone says, ‘Enough is enough.’ The people did give, I am pleased to say, or at least gave enough to stave off the clerical bailiffs from the door.
‘The primary stewardship of St Giles is to guard and nurture the gifts and generosity of those former times, through whose bequests of land and property and money we are enabled to continue. The Duchess Dudley and Caroline Clayson’s of the past, among others, have made possible a bedrock of stewardship that remains, and shall remain, the primary resource of the ministry and mission of this Church. (You would not need a calculator to work out that those who do come would need to be giving far more than is reasonable to keep the show on the road). No matter. Providence has been good to us. Providence has been on our side.
‘My appeal is not a desperate one, therefore, but it is heartfelt: I wish you to lead generous lives. I know the usual line, and have used it myself before, that we who follow a generous God must needs be generous ourselves; but this year I offer a variant on this. I wish you to be generous because it is good for you. I wish you to live full and fulfilled lives and to live towards the world as one who wished to bless and not curse it, so that you might, one day, be able to say that you have left it just a little bit better than it was before; and for this you will need to be generous: generous with the gifts you have been given, generous with love and laughter if they are yours to share; certainly generous with faith, not lecturing or hectoring or patronising others, but offering them due love and courtesy; and, yes, generous with money, (and yes, including St Giles) but also generous towards others. If there is something that really matters to you then follow the example of the apostle James and ‘visit the fFatherless and widows in their affliction;’ and if you can’t ‘visit’ them yourself then make realistic provision for others to do so. It is intrinsically good to be generous. It frees us from thinking that everything is ours, and ours alone; and that way freedom lies.’