Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Thank you for allowing me to share with you some brief reflections on stewardship and The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS) at our Special Meeting of Convention on March 4. As a parish priest, I had to overcome a lot of obstacles–both personal and pastoral–to be able to talk about stewardship with any confidence.
Part of this lack of confidence on my part was because I was operating out of a place of scarcity. I was worried that because I wasn’t a “tither” (a 10% giver) that I had no right or reason to talk about stewardship; that my financial contribution to the parish was insignificant. But as I worked with my bishop, as I learned from TENS, as I spoke with other clergy in the area, I realized that my contribution was right along the national average for my income and household expenses–I’m a 5% giver. After some serious conversation and prayer, I came to accept that I was not living in scarcity, but I was living in abundance. And as a result, I felt freer to share my time, talent and treasure with my community.
Now, let me unpack these concepts of “scarcity” and “abundance” with you.
Abundance is about really living as a Christian–about knowing that we are called to be partners with God in making the world a better place. Abundance is about seeing the world around us as a gift from God that it is freely given out of a place of love. Abundance is about accepting the gifts from God that we have been given, and then sharing those gifts with others. We can’t outdo God’s generosity, but we can share God’s love with others.
Scarcity, on the other hand, is about believing that you don’t have enough. It’s rooted in fear and a sense of loss. Scarcity is also about control. When we feel like we are losing control of things, we start grabbing at anything not nailed down, and ultimately we decide we don’t have enough. Scarcity is the opposite of abundance (which may seem obvious), but really it’s the opposite of receiving the gifts freely given to us by God.
For me personally, the shift from scarcity to abundance was also about accepting my identity as a beloved child of God and of being created in the image of God. Which means that the abundance of my life is meant to be shared with others; not kept only for myself.
As you think about stewardship, whether for yourself or your congregation, I invite you to consider how you live abundantly. Where is the spirit of abundance rooted? Is it in your care of your neighbor? Is it in your sharing of your talents and skills? How are you sharing your abundance?
God’s peace be with you all,