Today I went to my first Diocese of Virginia event: the annual stewardship conference. I joined six wonderful and enthusiastic folks from St. Paul's -- we had enough to fill a table. And I am pleased to report I did not have any flat tires on the way home (see blog entry re Vestry retreat).
Bishop Coadjutor Shannon Johnston gave a terrific presentation about his own struggles with giving over the years, and how giving has become central to his spiritual growth. He implored us to see stewardship as something bigger than the annual pledge drive. Giving, he said, is central to our mission as Christians and integral to our spiritual health and well-being.
In the afternoon we were treated to an rousing talk by The Rev. Dan Matthews, the retired rector of Trinity Church, Wall Street (and a much revered CDSP grad!). I've heard Dan speak before, but never so eloquently as he did today in attacking the dominant culture of greed that says we never quite have enough and our self-worth is measured by how much money and possessions we hoard. "We are captured in a culture of scarcity," he said. The central mission of the church is to break through that culture and free people from its chains. Jesus spoke over and over on that theme, far more than he ever mentioned sex.
Dan gave us much to think about: He emphasized that stewardship is not really about balancing the church budget but is about how we are called to give beyond ourselves: "People give because they have a need to give, not because the church needs it. Give because you need to give."
And giving, he pointed out, is the foundational principle to our spiritual health as human beings. "Giving," he said, "is the essence of living." We are at our fullest when we are joyfully giving -- and that is a theme I hope we will be open to exploring more in the weeks ahead.
By the way, I highly recommend you read one of Dan's best talks on this subject (and it includes an anecdote he told today) by clicking: Our Mentality of Scarcity Among God's Abundance.