God the Giver! Stewardship Campaign
I remember staring at the blank pledge card the year Calvin and I joined our first church as young adults, a heaviness in the pit of my stomach.
I had contributed to my church as a child and college student, but never “pledged” that I remember. Calvin and I were married right after I graduated from Mary Washington, and we went about the business of building a life together and finishing our respective professional programs, rarely giving a thought to going to church. When Calvin joined a practice in Winchester and I became a librarian at the local public library, however, we found ourselves drawn to church. Not surprisingly, Christ Church was thrilled to have a young couple join and put us to work in as many areas as we would say “yes” to.
Then came the pledge drive.
To tell you “the honest truth” (as my mother-in-law would say), I really didn’t want to pledge. We had lots of student loans to pay back. We had rent to pay, a practice to buy into, and we were saving to buy a house. We were still trying to get on our feet. Shouldn’t we be given a little slack? Maybe we could pledge next year?
Fortunately, I have a husband who often shows me a more generous path in life. Calvin’s attitude was, “We belong in this church now—we are part of it—so let’s pledge.”
I confess it was a new way of thinking, and I decided to step into it. We did not pledge in order to belong, as so many cultural organizations require. We did not pledge because we felt we had to. We pledged out of appreciation for the worshiping community that had welcomed us. We pledged in thanksgiving for a place that asked to get to know us and gave us a place to discern and use our gifts. We pledged in gratitude for a sense of belonging.
We’ve had more financially precarious times, like when Calvin sold his practice and went back to school, but we have continued to pledge. We’ve had questions along the way, such as whether our charitable giving affects our pledge to the church, and we’ve had to wrestle our way through those questions. But pledging is what we have decided to do.
One of my priests in Atlanta, the Rev. Dr. John Westerhoff, suggested that we write our pledge check to church before writing out our checks for bills (back in the day when everyone still used checkbooks). He advised that we linger in prayer over that pledge check as a spiritual practice, giving thanks for all that God has given us and for our ability to pay the bills we can pay. I’ve done that ever since, and I have to say it puts me in a very different frame of mind. I remember that our ability to earn money comes from the gifts God has bestowed upon us, and I am softened by gratitude.
I hope our meditations in this “God the Giver! Stewardship Campaign” have given you food for thought on pledging to St. Andrew’s. This ministry of asking for money for the church does not come easily to me. But I am convinced it is an important ministry, both in learning how to give and learning how to ask. I am convinced that St. Andrew’s is a strong and gifted community, even if we aren’t a monetarily rich church. It takes as many of us as can pledge to keep the church running. It is a deeply collaborative project and reveals our interdependence. The pledge campaign itself is both a challenge and a gift.
So I invite you to join me in pledging—not in order to belong, but out of gratitude for belonging to St. Andrew’s, to each other, and to God the Giver.