On Sunday, November 8th, St. C Warden Eleanor Fox kicked off our Stewardship conversation for 2015. The conversation continues on November 15th & 22nd as we celebrate the growing life at our parish and also highlight important areas for giving & service in the coming year. The full text of Ms. Fox's presentation is included below.
Stewardship – Eleanor Fox
For those of you who might be keeping track, this is the third time I’ve spoken about stewardship at St. Chrysostom’s. The first two times, the inspiration for my talks flowed freely. This time, inspiration has been elusive. I scrapped several ideas that seemed really good in theory but that simply fell apart when I started to write. I finally found some inspiration not in places where I might typically look, like the Bible or the Prayer Book. Instead, I found some inspiration in the dictionary when I looked up the word "stewardship."
The dictionary defines stewardship as the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving. For such a hum-drum, low-tech tool, the dictionary says a mouthful. Responsible. Protect. Care. Preserve. And just like the dictionary, stewardship is accessible to everyone.
Stewardship is something that takes place week in and week out, made up of gifts large and small, visible and invisible; gifts of, in stewardship-speak, time and talent and treasure. Gifts offered freely and joyfully. Gifts accepted gratefully. We practice stewardship by signing up to bring food for coffee hour. Volunteering in the thrift shop. Painting the fence. Maintaining the grounds. Reading a lesson. Singing in the choir. Putting an offering in the plate. Making an annual pledge.
Thanks to an immeasurably generous display of stewardship, we were able to undertake not one but two major projects this year: the restoration of the exterior of the church, including a large swatch of the façade and roof; work which not only helped to return the building to its former beauty but also protected it from further damage. And then we installed a lift, for the first time making the building accessible to every one of us. These gifts – not only on the part of the donor but also on the part of parishioners who devoted significant time to ensure their success – have transformed our church.
Stewardship in action, accessible to us all.
In 2015, we collectively pledged $118,000 to St. Chrysostom’s, an amount that exceeded our goal of $115,000. The last five years have seen a marvelous upward trajectory in pledges, evidence of our shared desire to preserve and care for this place. Despite this upward direction in pledges, though, St. Chrysostom’s remains a deficit operation. This year, we will draw on our reserve funds to the tune of about $20,000. Granted, this is a huge improvement over the $100,000-plus deficit we had just five years ago but nonetheless we are still in the red; our total expenses exceed our total income. We can sustain this for now but not forever. In order close the gap we must continue the upward trend by increasing not only the total amount of money pledged but also the total number of parishioners who make a pledge.
On a Saturday morning in July, the vestry gathered for a half-day retreat. During a discussion about some of the very positive things that have happened at St. Chrysostom’s over the last year, one vestry member said that we need to start thinking of St. Chrysostom’s not as an institution on the brink of failure but rather as an institution on the brink of great success. I think everyone in the room sat up a little straighter at that moment. I know I did and I hope you will, too, because St. Chrysostom’s is a great success story, a story that at its core is very the definition of stewardship. Responsible, protect, care, preserve. Stewardship in action, accessible to us all.
Halleluiah and amen.