In a month, we will begin our Annual Stewardship Campaign. Here’s how the whole process works:
Look over the proposed budget attached to the newsletter. Then, on your assigned Sunday (see the schedule that’s printed in the newsletter), show up at the presentation the Finance Committee will make in the common room of the parish house. At that presentation, the Finance Folks will highlight certain aspects of the budget and answer any questions you might have; they will also pass out the 2020 Commitment Cards.
You can fill the card out and give it to one of the Finance Folks after the presentation. You can fill the card out and place it in the Offering Bowl. You can fill the card out and give it to the priest. But we need you to be as specific as you can because we actually plan off of the information that you will put on that card. Also, this year, we are asking everyone to write their contact information on the card, so that we can make sure that our membership roster is up to date (street address; email address; phone numbers).
Once we receive the card, you will receive a thank you note via email. In the past, the priest has written all of those notes by hand, but he has developed a tremor in his right hand (nothing to worry about; he’s just getting old), so his hand writing has deteriorated. However, he will be sending you the thank you note via email. The purpose of the note is three-fold: to thank you for your generosity to our community, to confirm that we have recorded your commitment accurately, and to share with you the new sign-in information for the membership section of the website, which now changes each year.
If you miss your assigned presentation, you are welcome to attend one of the other sessions or one of the make-up sessions (again, check the schedule below). Nevertheless, we need all commitment cards to be returned by Sunday, November 17; that way the Finance Folks can adjust the budget in any way that might be needed. And when it comes to getting those cards returned, we are pretty relentless: In fact, we will send you a very polite and very discrete email each week until you turn in the card or until you say, “Go away. Leave me alone.”
Of course, we want everyone to fill out a card because having a card on file means you will continue to be an official member of St John’s. As an official member, you will continue to receive the amazing weekly newsletter, you will have ongoing access to the membership section of the website, and you will be eligible to vote in the Annual Community Meeting which happens each February.
Four times a year, the Finance Folks will send you a quarterly statement of your giving, and you will receive an annual statement at the end of the year. If you have questions about the budget or your statements, you can always ask the priest or any of the Finance Folks, but no one will ever, under any circumstances, pressure you about your giving.
That’s what the campaign looks like, and despite all the details, it’s actually very laid back.
Now for the real question that everyone wants answered: How much should I give?
If you are from a traditional Orthodox country where the Church is subsidized heavily by the government, you need to understand that things just don’t work that way in America. The only income our community receives is what we ourselves generate, so it’s extremely important that we all do our part.
If, in the past, you have been part of a parish which charges dues or that requires a minimum pledge from its members, that’s not how things work at St John’s. We do not have fund raising events such as festivals, golf tournaments, and banquets, and we do not charge a fee for things like Church School and parish dinners. Those approaches to finance are not drawn from Holy Scripture; those sorts of methods are used by civic organizations and sports clubs and school groups, and they are not appropriate for a parish.
Folks often refer to the tithe when they talk about giving to the Church. The tithe is an Old Testament concept; it literally means ‘a tenth’, and the idea is that you should give a tenth of your income to the parish. That’s not a bad goal, but Christ Jesus actually wants us to do more. If you want a clear sense of what our Lord and Master would like you to give, just look up the story of the widow’s two mites in St Mark (12.41-44) and St Luke (21.1-4). Most of the time, when we hear that story we take comfort in the fact that Christ Jesus praises the widow even though she wasn’t able to give very much at all. However, if you will look closely at the story what you will see is that our Lord and Master actually praises the widow because she gave everything that she could possibly give.
So that should be our goal: we should give as much as we possibly can. And that means, like the widow, we should be prepared to sacrifice in order to give more. We all need housing and food and transportation and clothing. None of us need a deluxe phone or an expensive cable subscription or overpriced coffee. We all have things that we can give up for the sake of the work of this parish, and, if we will do that, not only will our community be able to continue to bring Holy Orthodoxy to Central Texas, but Christ Jesus will also be very, very pleased.