By Rev. Raymond Hodgson
Stewardship homilies/articles/workshops can be unpleasant experiences for the writer/presenter. There are times when I’m convinced that I can hear an audible sigh whenever stewardship is mentioned. What now, what more, how am I not doing/giving enough? This isn’t about that, so relax.
Stewardship isn’t always, or even mostly, about more. There are times when it is supposed to be about different; there are times when it is supposed to be about less. And the more that I think and pray about where this time of pandemic has led us, the more I am convinced that this is precisely one of those times.
More is not always better. One of the important aspects of Sabbath is that it takes us out of the need to be productive, and helps us to recognize our value as separate from our ability to do work. Our true value is connected to our relationship with God — not making, not doing, not earning.
Programs and activities have a way of taking on lives of their own. “We have the X Dinner every year during October, and the Y Bazaar in November, and the Z Tea each January…” — insert your own names and activities, and I think that you’ll be able to identify a pattern of activities that has shaped our parish lives. And these have been wonderful events and have built relationships and meaning into our communities.
Not having been able to follow that pattern for a full year allows us a special opportunity to ask if these activities still serve God’s People and God’s Mission in this time. What does not always get considered in our all too frantic efforts to maintain these traditions (do it three times, and “we’ve always done it that way” becomes our mantra) is that sometimes God calls us to set things down. Instead of “who’s going to organize the bazaar?” it becomes “who decides not to have a bazaar?” and “what are we going to do instead?” Sometimes good stewardship means redirecting the time, effort, and resources towards new things, new ministries, new ways of serving.
For everything there is a season… (Ecclesiastes 3)
In the midst of the grief and the anxiety, there is also anticipation. I am curious about what new things will arise when we give ourselves permission to respond faithfully with the things that God has entrusted to us without carrying the burden of “we’ve always done it that way”. Because now we haven’t. Maybe the X Dinner becomes meals for shut-ins and the Y Bazaar becomes lap blankets for dialysis patients, while the Z Tea remains what it always has been. Or some other combination of old and new arises. All wonderful ways for the community to gather and share and serve.
We don’t know where God is calling us next. But I am confident that God continues to call us to use our time, talents, and treasure in new and creative ways. I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Rev. Raymond Hodgson is a member of the Diocesan Stewardship Committee and the rector of St. Bartholomew's, Sarnia.