As you attend a Stewardship Meeting (One was held October 2. Two other opportunities to attend are on October 9 and 16 from noon to 12:30.), you will hear that the parish leadership is asking for a 10% increase in pledged giving this year. We make this large request because our giving has been flat for the past 8 years. Our expenses rise each year but our giving has not increased in a long time. If we are to continue offering the worship and programs that we are all grateful for, and which attract new members, we simply have to have more income.
In addition to that bold request, you’ve also heard the bold promise that as we increase our giving our faith grows. As we learn to give sacrificially we learn to trust that we will be provided for. We agree to give a significant amount of our financial resources away and live with less. As we live with less we discover that we don’t need all our money for ourselves. There is enough for us to live well. And there is enough for us to give to God’s work through the church. Until we make that kind of sacrifice we really don’t know that there is enough or that we will be provided for. As long as we are spending all our money on ourselves, we don’t develop a trusting heart. The only way to become generous is to give generously. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6.21).
Two weeks ago I shared that I expect wonderful things at St. John’s but I sometimes take it for granted that things will be wonderful. Lately I’ve seen that I need to practice gratitude. Last week I named that the awe and wonder of our worship together is something I am truly grateful for. I need to thank you and God for that more often.
This week I want to thank you and God for the remarkable financial giving that has gone on here. Yes, we need a big increase this year, but I want to share some figures that reveal some very significant giving in the past. While I tend to focus on what we need to do together in the years ahead, I think you will be as amazed as I am at the giving the parish has done.
In the past 15 years our parish has given $27 million in our annual stewardship drives. Of that amount we have given $4.8 million to ministries outside of St. John’s. That amount includes $1.6 million in Outreach Grants. That’s downright amazing! Years ago St. John’s began with $5,000 in Outreach Grants. This year our Outreach Grants total $120,000 and each year it is tempting to use that money to do something for ourselves but you have been clear with your parish leadership that outreach is very important. We’ve also given $425,000 to Holy Cross School in that 15 year period. And $2.2 million to the Diocese of Alabama. Your individual annual gifts add up to a huge sum and good things are being done with that money.
In addition to that annual giving of $27 million, in the past 15 years parishioners have given $14.5 million in our Building Campaign. To refresh your memory, we added 20,000 square feet of new space and renovated 20,000 square feet of old space. Utilizing our entire city block we expanded our parking and provided green space and gardens. We built a labyrinth, rebuilt and expanded our organ, replaced the 100 year old roof on the church, and furnished our new space. Our total indebtedness now is $530,000. It’s downright amazing that a parish our size could handle a $15 million dollar project, maintain our annual giving as well as we have, and still only have manageable debt. Maybe you just take it for granted that our facility is simply the best but some of you remember the physical limitations we used to have.
So today I am grateful for all that you have given. That giving has not been provided by a few wealthy among us. It has been provided by hundreds and hundreds of faithful parishioners. We enjoy financial health and an incomparable physical plant. And we give away 20% of our income each year to ministries beyond ourselves. Thank you for your generosity. And thank God for continuing to inspire us.
As we inform you of the need for a large increase in giving this year, imagine what your giving will provide for the future. Faithful parishioners and the grace of God have provided wonderful things for St. John’s for 182 years. Our gifts are put on top of so very many faithful parishioners in the past. As we give sacrificially at this important time in our history, good things will come to the parish and to us as we give.
Continue to practice gratitude. Give thanks for what St. John’s is to all of us. Give thanks for the sheer grace of God. Give sacrificially so that we may move into the future God is calling us to enter. Each of our gifts is so very important and so very necessary for our common life.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.