“Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
Dear church leaders,
Matthew 6: 19-21 tells us “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Wait a minute—surely, they didn’t know there would be a Coronavirus pandemic—could Jesus have known there would be shortages?Should I be tearing down my barn to build a bigger barn, so I can stockpile my toilet paper?
In these extraordinary times, your diocesan Stewardship committee offers you the following information and inspiration to help you navigate these uncharted waters. We recognize that the former ways of understanding stewardship may not be what you need for these times. This document gives you tools for stewardship as you navigate your parish’s course ahead and emerge from the pandemic. Please use any or all or just a few of these ideas to help your church not just survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but thrive and grow into the church of the 21st century: the church you might not recognize, and the church that continues to be the body of Christ.
We have been inspired by the creativity of your leadership during these uncertain times and by the generosity of your congregations. Together, you are developing innovative ways of being stewards of God’s gifts to you. We pray that this document will be a blessing and a help to you.
Your CNY diocesan Stewardship committee
Staying in touch—stewardship is all about relationship
First of all, email, text, and your favorite messenger service are all great and you should use them to stay in touch with each other; a personal phone call is even better! But for a much more human touch, think of video-calling: by offering your face and your voice, you are as close to being with your loved one as current restrictions allow.
There are many apps for smartphones, tablets, and computers which have excellent video call capability; pick one you are familiar with, and which your family members and friends also have. You may find that some of them strongly prefer one service over another. You may find that some of them are tightly tied to iPhones, while others are tightly tied to Android phones. Your best choice of action is to live with that. And yes, you may need to install several apps so you can stay in touch with all of your loved ones!’
If all your family and friends are on iPhones, Apple’s Facetime is likely your video calling app of choice.
Otherwise, particularly if you need to bring iPhone owners together with Android phone owners, you might try Microsoft’s Skype, or Google’s Duo, or Zoom. These work quite well on all smartphones and even computers. Please note: there are other unrelated apps also called Duo; look for one which is described as “Google Duo – High quality video calls” or similar. If you or your loved ones aren’t already tightly tied into another video calling app, these are the ones to try.
Make it easy to donate from your website or Facebook page
It is always important to provide members and guests with the opportunity to give. With so much of our worship online, and so many people sheltering at home, our online services may attract visitors who might not walk through our doors in more ordinary times. For these reasons, having the ability to take donations online, and providing an easy and obvious way for people to donate is more important than ever. If your parish already uses one of these services, great! If you don’t, now is a great time to start, and it can be quite simple. The cost of receiving online donations varies, as does the ability to integrate into your church management or accounting software. PayPal is widely known. Tithe.ly is recommended by The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS) and offers special rates to Episcopal churches. Other vendors, such as ACS and Realm may offer slightly higher rates, but include additional services such as giving by text message, and may directly integrate with your church management software (Less data entry for contributions!). You can even direct people to the diocesan website to make a donation to your parish, at cnyepiscopal.org/give-to-my-parish.
Once you have selected a vendor and set up the account with your bank information, you should expand your reach by including information about online giving in your parish publications, prominently featured on your website and Facebook page, and wherever else people may encounter your church. Vendors usually provide detailed information about how to do this. Here’s sample instructions from Tithe.ly.
PayPal also appears to have very clear instructions for adding a donation button on their website.
You can also add a button to your website that directs users to the diocesan website’s page online giving page. The link for that is cnyepiscopal.org/give-to-my-parish.
Adapt this paragraph to fit your congregation! A big shout-out to Trinity Memorial, Binghamton for this awesome template!
In our beloved congregation, Fr. Glenn is leading our online services; if we have your email, you should have received email updates, including Sunday Service Bulletins from Arlene – if we don’t have your email, would you please call the Office and leave a message so we can add you to our messages? Tim is busy working on music for our online services; Jeff is making sure that our buildings are safe and sound; Chris is keeping up with bills and payments; Rayleen is staying in touch with as many people as possible. And you might guess, our sudden shift to online services has caused us to invest in some new technology, and build on several volunteers’ time and generosity to record and prepare the services for broadcast – thank you, Tina, Greg, and Rick, Rob, et. al.!
So, we ask, that you please continue your generosity:
- You can always mail in a check – the Postal Service will appreciate your business!
- You can instruct your bank to send in a check on your behalf – if you prefer to do that, you could even set up a regular, recurring gift.
- (If possible) set up your online payment to reoccur automatically.
- Set a weekly timer on your phone as a reminder to pray for this church, call a parishioner you miss, and give if and when it’s possible.
Adapt to match your congregation! You can use (your church’s) new online giving facility – just go to our website: (insert your website) click on the Donate! button, which will take you to the tithe.ly service, and follow the prompts.
The spirituality of stewardship and some spiritual practices
God is the source of all life, and all creation is held in God’s grace and love. From this space of love we are invited to offer up our lives and pour out ourselves for God and others as Jesus has done. Seeing and following the Risen Christ, we come to find the peace and true joy in living beyond our small selves which so easily can become bogged down in fear, worry, and self-focus. We are Easter people called to awe and to love beyond all measure.
As Easter people all year long, our spiritual lives can deepen through stewardship of the gifts of our lives and possessions and in care for the earth. When we live in fear and a sense of scarcity, it can be so difficult to know the peace God desires for us. When we remember God’s abundance, hold our possessions lightly and see our oneness in Christ, we can discover perfect freedom.
Gratitude and generosity in spirit are practices to cultivate. We offer a few simple practices to begin to open our hearts and lives to stewardship and its spiritual gifts.
- We try in this and all times greeting the new day with the words: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Starting out with this phrase puts an open and thankful perspective on the day ahead whatever it brings.
- We join with Dolly from “Hello Dolly” and recall that money is like manure: it doesn’t do any good unless one spreads it around. That may sound funny in the discussion of spirituality, but it can truly help us see what we have is meant to be out and around doing good.
- We remember the sacredness of creation and take time to consider the much cleaner air and return of animals to once abandoned places such as Venetian canals. While walking about or observing from our window, we can consider how our actions affect plants, animals and the air around us.
There is no season for stewardship or spirituality. It is the stuff of our very lives each day and each year and is the path of Life. God shows us the paths of life (Psalm 16) and in the Risen Christ we have a living hope. Knowing this we pour out ourselves, respect the holiness of all creation and increase our spiritual joy through conscious stewardship of God’s gifts to us.