September Letter by the Rev. Anne Turner

Dear Friends in Christ,         A long time ago, I came across this statement: Stewardship is all that I do, with all that I have, after I say I believe.     Most of us equate stewardship with  the annual pledge campaign, when the church asks each member to make a financial promise for the coming year.  Each of us gets a packet with information about the church’s needs—how much it costs to pay the light bill or buy Sunday School materials or order altar candles—and we are asked to respond accordingly.  It’s important, but, honestly, it can be a little hard to distinguish from the appeal of hundreds of other worthy organizations.     And yet, giving to the church is quite different.     If we do indeed understand stewardship to be a fundamental part of our life as disciples—all that we do after we say we believe—then it becomes clear that we don’t make a pledge simply because the church needs our money.  We pledge because we need to give, and because we need to say something about Jesus Christ in the process.  We who are created in the image of God need to learn to be grateful and generous, as God would have us be.     Our faith teaches us that everything we have is a gift from God.  Absolutely everything—our families, our homes, the food on our tables.  The beautiful creation that surrounds us, sunrises and rainstorms .  Our abilities, our desires.  Hope.  Love.  We created none of it, and we have earned none of it.   And yet these blessings keep coming.  If we can open our eyes to see them, the only possible response is, indeed, gratitude and open-handed generosity.     And yet, the truth is, most of us don’t wake up every day filled with gratitude.  Often times, we are so filled with anxiety that we can’t even perceive the goodness around us.  The conundrum seems particularly acute to me here in North Arlington.   We know we are supposed to be well-off.  Our homes might be worth upwards of half a million dollars; we are in one of the most affluent counties in the nation.  But it’s still easy to feel poor.  “Needs” creep up on us, and the normative level of affluence can seem perpetually just beyond reach.  Instead of feeling grateful, it’s easy to feel anxious and, ultimately, ashamed.       Our Stewardship Committee this year is addressing the subject by talking about what really matters here—not the need to keep the lights on, but the need to respond to God with generous and joyful hearts.  They are re-centering our pledge campaign around education and conversation.  To that end, they have planned a series of dinners in late September and early October, and I hope that each member of the congregation will make it a priority to attend one of those dinners.  They are also thinking beyond the pledge campaign.  If stewardship is more than just writing a check, it shouldn’t be confined to a pledge campaign in October.  I look forward to their continued activity year-round.     “All things come of thee, O Lord.  And of thine own have we given thee.”  We say it each time we prepare the table for communion.  I hope we can learn to mean it, and to live it.     Blessings,     Anne+