Over the centuries the Christian Church has produced a sizable, serviceable, and sometimes sesquipedalian vocabulary that is unique to itself. Here are some very ‘churchy’ words, ones you hear only at church: Reredos, antependia, ubiquitarianism, clerestory, infralapsarianism, crosier, triduum, zucchetto, and monophysitism. If you knew the definition of all those words without consulting Wikipedia, I owe you dinner for two at Alinea; you must have once worked at the Vatican or attended seminary.
‘Stewardship’ is a commoner word and easier to understand, but it’s still a fairly ‘churchy’ word; it’s one you rarely hear outside of church. The secular world has its own words for the same concept: ‘philanthropy’, for example, a noble word from the Greek language meaning simply ‘love for human beings’; or ‘charity’, which is just Latin for ‘love.’
When the Christian Church thinks about the generosity of those Christians who have chosen to take responsibility for their congregation through the judicious and magnanimous deployment of their time, talent, and treasure, it uses the term ‘Stewardship.’
A steward manages an estate for the estate’s owner and never forgets that he, the steward, is in fact not the property’s owner but is caring for it on behalf of someone else.
If it helps, remember the now-unfashionable term ‘Stewardess,’ who cares for the cabin on behalf of the cruise ship’s owners or the airline’s passengers. Actually, that probably doesn’t help much.
Like the steward of an estate, the steward of a congregation manages valuable resources for others: as an agent of the owner–God–and for the benefit of the customer–the congregation, its community, and, actually, the whole world, whom Jesus gives the Church responsibility for.
So, how is our 2015 Stewardship Campaign going? Bad news and good news. The bad news is that as I write this on Wednesday afternoon, 567 families have pledged so far, which is 84 fewer than had pledged as of this date last year, or a decrease of about 15%.
The good news is that that smaller number of families has been extremely generous. As of Wednesday afternoon, you have pledged $1.683 million, an increase of $55,000, or 3%, over last year. A 3% increase is very modest, but when you stop to think that it came from 84 fewer families, that’s pretty impressive.
Now, if we can get families who pledged last year to recapitulate their generosity this year, we will be in pretty good shape.
I love the way Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings puts it to Lord Denethor, Steward of Minis Tirith, when the city is in grave danger: “The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”
Good people step up to become stewards when worthy things are in peril, and one of the best ways to protect imperiled worthy things is to support the church.
Thanks to Ann Carey and Laura and Bruce Linger and their intrepid crew for running a powerful, efficient, and transparent Stewardship Campaign, and thanks for all you do and all you give.
Grace and Peace,
William A. Evertsberg