September 14, 2021

From the Rector…

As many of you know, I have taken up running again after two plus years of illness and injury that prevented me from being very active. It has been exhilarating! My runs are more satisfying now than they have ever been. (That may be because of my new running buddy, Cutty, though he has a squirrel issue that constantly distracts him in Old Cloverdale!) I am upping my mileage and my time and though the run can be tough at times, it is always worth it.

I’ve been using an app with coaching to get back into running. The app has pre-recorded routines and there are lots of choices of coaches and workouts. I have a couple of favorite coaches but they all have a two-fold purpose in their coaching style—getting you running with good technique and upping your mental game. On a recent run entitled, “Feeling Invincible”, the coach reminded me that it was not the what or the how of my running that was going to get me to the end of my workout or push me to do my best. It was the “why”.  

Why we do something is the most important motivation for anything we want to accomplish and succeed in doing. We can think through all the what’s and how’s of a thing, but until we understand why we are doing it, our motivation may well drag. The more important the “why” is to us, the more likely we will accomplish our goal. That is no less true in stewardship than it is in running.

Stewardship season is upon us. And every year at this time, I am reminded why I give to Ascension. It has a lot to do with transformation. I give to Ascension because it is the way I give back to God from all that God has given me. I do that through first fruits, proportional, sacrificial giving which leads to a transformed life.

Many years ago, Steve and I attended a Stewardship workshop with Bishop Stough, a now deceased past bishop of Alabama. In his talk, Bishop Stough emphasized transformational giving—first fruits, proportional, and sacrificial giving. Steve and I were inspired. We went home and figured out how much we were giving. The Bible says that the standard of giving is the tithe or 10% of your income. We were giving a little over 2% of our income. We decided we would add 1% a year to our pledge until we achieved the tithe.  

It was hard in those first years to increase our giving and remain faithful to it. We struggled and found ourselves at odds with how we should spend money on plenty of occasions. But we stuck with it, and what we thought would take us seven years to accomplish, we did in five. The amazing thing was that though it had started out so challenging, by the end we were doubling and tripling up on our percentage of giving and it felt like a runner’s high. We felt great—our relationship with the church and one another began to change as did our relationship to money and the things we spent it on. We were walking down a path of transformation and couldn’t even tell you when we made the turn.

Though we identified how we were going to change our giving and what we were going to do to reach our goal, we would never have been successful without a reason why. We wanted to grow closer to God, to not allow the things of this world to matter more to us than the promises of the next one that God had made to us. We did not want money to control our lives but instead the ability to control our money through love.  

The mission of the church, broadly speaking, is to partner with God and one another to do God’s work in the world. The mission of Ascension is to share love and grace with God and one another. I think those two things are knit nicely together. Why stewardship? Through our giving we connect with one another and are transformed as the Body of Christ. That connection and transformation are the powerful ways we share love and grace in that partnership with God and one another. That is how we do kingdom work. Sure, we need your money to continue the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church of the Ascension. But more importantly, God desires your spiritual growth and development that brings about transformation and encourages growth in God and the hope he has promised us.

Our stewardship kick-off is this Sunday as we remember how we are Loved Into Being at Ascension. I hope you will come to hear a message about that love as well as pick up your stewardship packets. Each Sunday during the campaign, you will also find a reflection in your bulletin from a parishioner as to how they have been Loved Into Being at Ascension. There are also short stewardship videos that will be released on our social media each week and in your Tuesday email. And don’t forget our Wednesday night series with past clergy from Ascension who are coming home to share with us how they were Loved Into Being in this place.  

Light and Life,