Our Pledges are Grounded in Love
Unlike many of our congregation, I did not grow up in central Virginia, nor have I always been an Episcopalian. Born outside of Cleveland, I was baptized into the Anglican Church and subsequently attended and joined Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational (UCC) and Episcopal churches. When Mimi and I re-located to Richmond from Massachusetts in 2004, we abstained from joining any church for 2 years. We were extremely busy and felt we needed a break from our very active involvement in our previous pre-revolutionary church in historic Concord, Massachusetts.
Our first real connection with St. James’s was back in 2006 with the Mardi Gras cooking team. They fried oysters and catfish in the alley directly behind our West Avenue home. Oysters and beer in the alley…. hardly a way to be introduced into a church! But as it is said, the rest is history. Since we joined the church in 2007, we have come to love everything that St. James’s represents. It has really become our second home in so many wonderful ways. Worship, music, education, service to others, fellowship and the genuine care that this church offers is truly remarkable. I think we ALL appreciate this about St. James’s.
Pledging our financial support to the annual operations of St. James’s is just another expression of our belief and faith in the legacy, work and future of this extraordinary parish. In my almost 70 years as a church-goer, I have never, ever witnessed such vibrancy and commitment to the work of God in our lives, families, community and world. It is not a duty to pledge, it is our honor to do so.
Think about your promises and pledges. Most of us make promises every day – to ourselves and to others. Pledges are different. Our pledges are grounded in love, belief, faith and honor. Our annual pledges to St. James’s express our love for our church community, confirm our belief in God’s presence in our world, extol our faith in St James’s ability to extend His presence and honor our desire to be Doers of the Word. Jesus Christ asked us to pledge our faith and resources. Can we do anything less?
Co-Chair, Annual Giving
St. James’s is One of the Best Blessings We Have
I grew up in Petersburg, Virginia, where my family and I attended Christ and Grace Episcopal Church. On Sunday mornings I would see my parents prepare their envelopes to be put in the offering plate. I never thought much about it and never thought about the meaning of giving back.
When I married Jim fifty some years ago, I learned from him what giving back truly means. He believes so strongly that when we joyfully give back to our church and to those in need, much more comes back to us in many blessings.
St. James’s is truly one of the greatest blessings we all have. Just look at our beautiful sanctuary, our inspiring clergy, our incredible music, our dedicated staff, and all the “doers” in our midst, and it is here for all the stages of our lives!
This year the annual giving committee decided to approach annual giving with peer-to-peer personal calls to let parishioners know that the annual giving season is upon us and to share any feedback or questions they might have. Eighty folks volunteered to help with this approach! We were amazed and thrilled with the response. But Suzanne Hall smiled at our amazement and remarked, “After all, it is St. James’s!”
Yet, we cannot become complacent. We need to continue to think beyond our church walls and increase our capacity as we reach out to those who are left behind in our community and in our world. And, yes, we need to increase our capacity to maintain and improve the planning and maintenance of our building and grounds and to offer competitive salaries to our talented staff. This is why we have the annual fund to meet these needs and why it is so important that we increase our number of annual pledges. Every pledge counts!
As you consider your pledge, pray for our church and pray that we all may be faithful stewards of all the blessings and gifts that God has given us. Pray that we will fulfill our mission…to live as Doers of the Word worshiping God and serving others to build Christ’s Kingdom.
Co-Chair, Annual Giving
Pledging is Important for Many Reasons
To reflect on my life at St. James’s is to go back to the day I was born at Stuart Circle Hospital next door to the church. My mother told me that at 12:15 p.m. the chimes at St. James’s were playing the hymn “ROCK OF AGES” as she went to the delivery room. I was later christened, confirmed, and married at St. James’s. Through the years I have been active at St. James’s I’ve taught Sunday School, served on the Altar Guild and participated in the work of Chapter 10. My husband and I were volunteer assistant treasurers, and I continue to serve. Both of us served on the Vestry and other committees of the church.
On a Sunday morning sixty years ago, trying not to be late, I was hurrying down Monument Avenue with my two little girls (ages 7 and 4) in the back seat of the car. I was stopped for speeding. When the policeman asked me to produce my driver’s license, I had only my church pledge envelope – no license. He started to write up a ticket and the girls began to cry. I told him my husband would kill me if I came home with a ticket. He relented and instructed me to show my driver’s license at the Police Department on Monday morning. Saved by a church envelope!
I have been saved many times over during my years at St. James’s. It has always meant so much to me that taking part in the things I have been involved in has made my life richer. I have been given an eye opener concerning the many activities and services that are available, but so often it is easy to think they come at no cost. But there always is a cost. I believe I have pledged every year since I was about five years old. Our pledges enable the church to know how much money they can expect to budget during the year. The spirit is certainly with us all at St. James’s. I plan to make my pledge as always and I hope you will also.
Alice T. Spilman
Pledging with Gratitude and Love
Like many in our church, Shelton and I live busy weekly schedules. I often work too late, and Shelton’s day regularly starts too early with the waking of our children. While we try to eat meals together and carve out time to spend as a family, we are unfortunately less successful than we hope. Even when we do find time to sit together, our minds still race with the happenings of our individual days, and we catch ourselves eating dinner around each other as opposed to with each other. But each Sunday, the ritual of going to church helps to reconnect us. As we sit together in the pew, the worries of the week fall away even as we juggle our very vocal baby, Margaret. And as the service progresses, I look forward to retrieving our two-year-old son, Ford, from the nursery so he can join the family for communion.
There is no time in my week that I feel more connected than when our family of four approaches the altar collectively to receive communion. I am reminded of our wedding day at the altar, of Ford’s baptism at the font, and we look forward to Margaret’s upcoming baptism as well. Church is a place and time that binds our family in love – both for each other and for St. James’s.
Each year, when we consider groups and organizations to which we will pledge financial support, St. James’s is a no-brainer. This is a place that gives us more than we can repay in comfort, support, and, most importantly, the faith that links us as a family to this vibrant community of believers.
As we once again make our pledge to St. James’s, we do so with gratitude and love. We are thankful for this place and the community it nurtures. We consider ourselves fortunate to have found St. James’s. We recognize our obligation and the spiritual opportunity to pledge so that the church can continue to serve us, our children, and the wider world.
The Church is the Pillar of Our Foundation
There are a lot of great Ministries in Richmond, but giving to our church is essential for several reasons:
The Church is a Connection Point in Christianity. The church is a place where we are all welcomed and nurtured – a place where we engage with others, make new friends and serve our fellow parishioners. It’s a place where we share ideas, enjoy and appreciate each other, and commune together as God wants us to do. It’s a place where we can all love and be loved. In order to provide this sustenance, the church needs your financial support.
The Church Identifies Those in Need. The church is a place where many people go for help when in great need. It welcomes those who are in need and can provide help to those who require emotional or financial support. The church is experienced in determining how best to help in each situation as they all are different and require different solutions. Providing many different ministries and outreach to those in our community and outside of our local community requires management, time, talent and financial resources. Our outreach program is one of the best in Richmond and in order to continue this work the church needs your financial support.
Your Church Serves Your Community. The church is a building that is not only used by its members but is shared with the community. We allow many local groups to use our facility in order to conduct meetings, gatherings, etc. In order to make this possible, we must maintain and take care of the property and beautiful, historic buildings so that we can share with others. It is our duty as Christians, and in order to do that the Church needs your financial support.
Your Family Deserves Your Support. The Church is your family. Your family must be taken care of and provided for in many ways through emotional and financial support. The church NEEDS you and you NEED the church. Giving to your family and church is essential as it is the pillar of our foundation.
Mary & Dick Fowlkes
Giving Back to God
How do stewardship, the Holy Spirit, and finding our new rector have anything in common? When asked to write a reflection, at first I found myself at a loss to see any connection. Is opening your heart to the Holy Spirit about any of these things really helpful? This task presented the opportunity for me to reevaluate the Holy Spirit in my life and to recall the many times He has been there “front and center.” As I sat down to make a list, I was humbled.
Before moving to Richmond, my husband Tom and I lived in New York City and attended Marble Collegiate Church where we heard Norman Vincent Peale preach so often about giving back to God. After all, as James tells us in chapter 1: 9, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” So, how are we going to give back to God? Our life, talents, family, health, prosperity, homes – you name it – we have, by the grace of God.
This stewardship business was a learning curve for Tom and me! We were working to support a family on a limited budget, and did not know how to really “give”, and thought that we would have less if we committed to a pledge.
After prayerfully considering our commitment, we ‘stepped up to the plate!” However, little did we really trust the Holy Spirit to enrich us, as we were giving away our money when we didn’t have a lot! We were fearful, but moved forward. As each year went by, we realized the increased abundance in our lives. Not to sound Pollyannaish, but increased abundance in many forms appeared: family relationships grew closer, friendships, and opportunities, just to mention a few. God was training us to trust him through the Holy Spirit, which has helped us both through many difficult trials in our life.
As Randy told us in his farewell sermon, “We” are the church, not the rector or staff. We are the Body of Christ. Let’s all allow the Holy Spirit to move within our hearts and souls, freeing us to know that God’s love will prevail and we will be given many blessings. God never fails us. He has ways to challenge us, deepen our faith and grow. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, 9:6: “Let’s honor the Lord with our giving.”
Blessed be the Ties that Bind
A few nights before I wrote this, I stepped out in the late evening to coax our dog outside before bed. The thunderstorms of late June still haunted her and the neighborhood Fourth of July fireworks were not helping. Like her master, she was not particularly brave to begin with, but the summer of 2016 may have broken her for good.
Standing on the porch watching fireflies in the treetops, I was struck by a remembrance of my grandmother, now twenty years gone, so strong and immediate that it almost brought me to tears. Memory is a funny thing. I’ve walked out the front door with my spooky dog on hundreds of summer nights, yet on this one it would not have surprised me to hear my grandmother call me in from the kitchen, where her rocking chair sits today. Of course she didn’t, and instead I sat in the dark with my silly dog and the creak of tree frogs, feeling loved and a little lost, and a bit silly myself.
Paul tells us that we are clothed in love, but it’s equally true that we are bound by memory. Bound to our past, bound to a place, bound – if we are fortunate – to each other. There will come a day this summer or fall when I will feel Randy’s absence acutely and perhaps sit a bit lost, again, in the sanctuary. But then I will remember Dana, and later Doug, holding my infant sons with infinite care over the baptismal font. I’ll remember opening our doors to Richmond’s homeless and helpless. I’ll remember teaching our children and learning from them. I’ll remember cooking with some of you and serving bar with (and to) others. And I’ll remember Randy saying “Hey, bud…” before asking me to undertake some horrid task that somehow manages to become one of the very best things I’ve done, and it will be ok.
If love is the warp of our faith, these shared memories are the weft. Each flows with and into the other, and from them a life in Christ is made. This year, what new memories will we weave together?