An Open Letter on Gifts and Givings

This is the text of a letter that went out to everyone who considers themselves to be a part of saint benedict’s table.  It is posted here as a way of sharing information and offering up a perspective, but really shouldn’t be read as a plea for funds from anyone who does not see themselves as connected to who and what we are!

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here is always a certain level of anxiety when anyone in a church starts to talk or write about givings.  Our usual code word is “stewardship,” which generally just means that there is a financial crunch, a building project, or some new ministry to support.

Well stewardship isn’t actually all that bad a word, as it does point to the idea that we are entrusted with gifts, and that we need to use them and share them and steward them well and wisely.  But you know, if we’re going to talk about gifts and givings, we might as well put that right up front.

The worshipping community of saint benedict’s table exists by the grace of God and because of the willingness of this little cross-section of God’s people to share of their gifts.  Some of those gifts are financial, but certainly not only nor merely that:  musicians sing and play; readers read and pray-ers pray; people with a knack for organizing draw up schedules or sit on our version of a church board or trouble-shoot decisions; artists make and share their art; the kids carry baskets of fruit for Agape Table but also come with the questions and energy of childhood (which, as Jesus was abundantly clear, is something very much needed in the Body of Christ).  Others help in the nursery, launch new ideas, dig in the garden up at St Benedict’s Monastery.  Some just come – maybe with doubts or hard issues or deep pain – and bear witness with us to the hope that is in this Christ who keeps inviting us to feast at the Table.

And we need all of these gifts – and more – to do and be what we are to be as church.  Yet in a society that measures so much by the bottom-line in our bank accounts, and which constantly suggests to us that we need more of anything and everything, it is not unimportant to be recalled to the wisdom of the Old Testament torah which reminds us that we actually find ourselves more free by freely divesting ourselves of some piece of those finances.

Let me be really clear here:  we are not experiencing any great financial crisis.  Our costs are relatively modest, and we’re in the rare position of not owning our own building with all the attendant bills.  We do give All Saints $15,000 each year as a way of sharing some of the cost of the building (by the way, that covers less than half of the heat bill…), we pay salaries or wages to four different people, and have a small armful of other costs related to worship, hospitality, and life together.  In general, the offerings we receive each Sunday night cover those costs.

In short, this is not a call to help us meet the budget.  It is, though, an invitation to be a part of the explorations of our future together, and one in which the bottom-line is not the determining factor for who we are and what we do.

So, some concrete ways in which to give financially…

  • Sunday by Sunday offerings, which helps make happen what already happens.  Be aware, though, that we are coming up to the fifth anniversary of our formal establishment as a worshipping community, and as part of that we are looking to do some exploration of where we might go next in terms of the shape of our ministry.  Should be exciting times.
  • Ever thought of yourself as a patron of the arts?  You could make a donation toward the cost of publishing our Book of Hours, which will celebrate the art, writing and music of our community.  The book will be a hard-cover, full-colour project, and is scheduled to be released in November, 2009.  If you wanted to offer a gift of thanksgiving or in memory of someone, that would be printed in the text of the book itself.  Contact us if you’re interested in getting involved.
  • You could make a donation toward the cost of running our rather unique summer day-camp.  We have 13 campers in place, including 4 from The King’s School Transitional Program, an extension of the Gateway Community Church. The Transitional Program welcomes refugee families new to Canada from war-torn lands to enroll their children in this faith-based transition to Canadian schooling and the English language. The students are predominantly from Africa, and many of them have been born in, or spent many of their childhood years in, refugee camps. Our day camp will provide these young people the opportunity to play hard, to learn new skills, to spend a week outside of downtown Winnipeg, and will bring them much laughter and joy. Each of them has a story to tell, and each needs to be free to be a kid. We are seeking campership funds for these 4 students. This includes their registration fee, as well as other supplies they will need – a bike, bike helmet, and perhaps such practical items as good-fitting shoes.  You can get more information on this elsewhere on this website, or you can contact us and we’ll get back in touch.

As for the sharing of those other gifts?  Of time and talent and energy and thoughtfulness and prayer and fresh ideas and new insights… and … and…   We should talk.

In Christ,

Jamie Howison

Trinity Sunday
June 7, 2009

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