Sunday, October 24, 2010

To be an instrument of God's peace, to serve and to give to others

We are in the midst of our annual giving season ("stewardship" in church lingo). Gwynn Crichton, who is an amazing human being on so many levels, gave this talk at St. Paul's last Sunday and I share it with you:
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Hi, I’m Gwynn Crichton. I’ve had the great pleasure of serving on the stewardship committee led by Virginia Ritchie and I am honored to be up here today to talk to you about what St. Paul’s means to me and why I pledge and give my money to the church.
I started coming to St. Paul’s about 10 years ago after I first moved to Charlottesville and immediately felt at home. Soon after, I met Janean and she began to attend St. Paul’s with me, and we’ve been here every since. I really began to put roots down in this parish when I got involved in activities outside of just attending the Sunday service. I have enjoyed serving the parish as an usher, Eucharistic Minister, and member of the altar guild. I coordinate the Gay-Straight Concerns Group, am a member or Integrity, have participated and organized events for the Green Team, done CROP walks, helped with PACEM, and now serve on the Stewardship Committee.
Through my involvement at St. Paul’s over the years in activities such as these, the many gifts I have received far outweigh any of the time or energy I have committed. I have been blessed by coming to know and love many of the wonderful, talented, intelligent and kind people who attend St. Paul’s. I find myself part of a warm, vibrant, loving community where Janean and I feel safe, accepted and supported. I am grateful for the diversity of ministries, our able clergy, the educational and outreach programs, Community night, Shrinemont, and for the opportunity to come together in communion to worship with you all each Sunday.
So it is easy to tell you why I give money to St. Paul’s--I give money because I love St. Paul’s mission, ministries, and community and I believe that what we do here is central to our common purpose here on this planet. But it is not just my gratitude for St. Paul’s that motivates my giving. Sharing my abundance and my wealth is one of the princple ways God calls me to express my love and gratitude for all of the blessings of my life and to help others who have so much less than me.
Every week I return here, I am reminded of and humbled by God’s will for me which is to love as lavishly and generously as he loves the world. My purpose is to be an instrument of God’s peace, to serve and to give to others in order to make this world a better place. Giving my resources to St. Paul’s therefore is a key opportunity and discipline essential for my spiritual growth, one I must devoutly heed on my journey in Christ.
About 80% of my charitable giving goes to St. Paul’s because I believe I can make a biggest impact in this way rather than dividing my donations among many causes. Each year I increase my pledge to St Paul’s and try to also give on top of my pledge throughout the year in the Sunday offerings. I make sure to give of my first fruits when I budget rather than what is left over.
But make no mistake, giving is also a spiritual struggle for me--I struggle against the selfish desires to close my fist, to clutch and hold back, fearful I will not have enough or that my needs will not be met should I give too much money away.
However, God has shown me time and time again that I’ve never missed anything I’ve given away. Instead of being hard, in practice giving is remarkably easy. And by giving away even a tiny fraction of what I have, I am transformed and renewed. Giving makes my heart bigger, it frees me from fear and my own self-will. There is always enough.
Does this mean I give away enough? I am ashamed to say no, I doubt I ever will but I ask God to help me with this and pray about it because I know that giving away my money, as hard as it may be sometimes, brings me closer to the generous and loving person God calls me to be. That is why I am here and that is why I give to St. Paul’s “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every-where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” Amen.

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