On Sunday, September 15th, Vestry Member Sean Carpenter continued our 2015 Stewardship Conversation 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 Mr. Carpenter's presentation is included below.
Stewardship - Sean Carpenter
"Christ makes a way for us where there is no way, so we walk confidently into God's future with our hearts & bodies washed in the water of baptism."
These words from our summary of today’s readings ring such truth in my life. It’s funny that as a kid, at times, I thought I would become a Catholic priest. As the youngest of 8, my family occupied the entire 2nd row at St. Joseph’s Church. My mother thought it best that if we mis-behaved, the priest would see us and we would have to answer to him! I guess that means that I always wanted to be the one that I feared! However, I think this may be the only time in my life that I have been invited to speak from the pulpit.
Years later, I would stray away from church and eventually discount religion, spirituality and faith. And the words of a hymn I remember well summarize my return:
I, the Lord of Sea and Sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in Dark and Sin
My Hand Will Save
As I stand in this sanctuary I need to reflect back on my journey that brought me over the parish Threshold in April 2014. In fact it was April 13, the anniversary of my father’s passing, and I was in a new stage of my life , seeking some sort of spiritual connection. At 10A.M. I crossed the parish Threshold for the Eucharist service. And as I did, the entire congregation lined up behind Fr. Eric and left the church. I have such a great ego, I assumed it was me. Turns out, it was just Palm Sunday and the congregation was processing. (As I told Eric as we sat at Diocesan Convention yesterday…I do believe that God has a sense of humor!)
In all reality, there was a sense of warmth that came over me as I sat down in the back row ….where all the newcomers are triaged. As I sat in quiet meditation, I felt right, I felt good and I didn’t fall asleep during the sermon. Although this was the first time I came into the worship space of the church, It was Not my first time at St. C’s. In fact, my introduction to St. Chrysostom was through the meetings that take place regularly downstairs. Those meetings have helped to direct my thinking away from a drink or a drug for just over 2 years. Again a saying comes to mind:
God saw fit to bring me to my recovery
My recovery brought me closer to a God of my understanding.
My journey of recovery may someday become an anecdote in my life’s story, but I can’t help but think of the impact that St. Chrysostom’s parish has had on my family. A month after I walked through these doors, God graced Lisa and me with Samuel James. (The name Samuel is Hebrew, meaning “gift from God!"). What a wonderful gift we received. We were also able to provide Sammy a gift from birth; a sanctuary, a safe place. A place of worship. A sanctuary, if you will, of God’s grace.
Just as Lisa and I were received a month earlier, Sammy was received immediately with love and excitement. The happiness that he brings to us as a family, and to so many of you each Sunday, is truly a great Gift from God. This journey continues to brighten my once dimmed understanding of faith. The hand of God saving me from my own failures through pushing me through our parish Threshold.
SO what if our parish Threshold did not exist?
Although I have not experienced firsthand some of the dark financial history of this parish, it is clear from previous reports that this sanctuary, too, was saved by the hand of God. And the work to maintain our existence continues each day.
Over the last year, as a vestry member, I have enjoyed a front row seat to some major capital projects in this building. Visionary projects that assume a long term viability of the parish. We have done much without breaking the bank. We have utilized donor funds efficiently, effectively and frugally to maximize the return to the parish and to protect this sanctuary.
We have enjoyed a growth in attendance that makes that vision very real. But, when you see the financials next week when Fr. Eric opens the checkbook, you will see what I have seen: we have not arrived yet.
I can imagine what my life would look like if our parish Threshold didn’t exist. I may have tried to go somewhere else, or maybe not. The experience of community, the abundance of happiness filled with the joy from the incredible music that echoes through this space, would fall to silence.
We need this sanctuary…I need this sanctuary. We need this safe place to remind us that we are fallible, to provide us a spiritual presence and to ground us in our faith. I am eternally grateful for the gifts I have received from this community of faith. And as such, after thoughtful prayer I will pledge to support this community in any way I can, spiritually, professionally, and financially.