At Convention 2012, I announced the goal of reducing the assessment on parishes, a goal we can achieve if we improve our stewardship. So far, we have reduced the assessment by 1% and we have authorized the deduction of rent, which makes the assessment more equitable and helps a few parishes that in some respects are in the greatest need. But recently, we have hit some set backs in our efforts to bolster stewardship. Turnout for the excellent Stewardship Workshop in Las Vegas was disappointing. Then our stewardship facilitator for convention backed out. The message I’m getting from the universe is “this ain’t gonna be easy.”
But there are three parts of the life of the church that we have to mobilize for the sake of God’s mission in Nevada and for the sake of our own spiritual well-being: stewardship, evangelism, and community engagement. To give up on any of those three projects would be to give up on the diocese and just do maintenance work while the church declines. So we will persist.
We get a re-do on the Stewardship Workshop with Timothy Dombek, Arizona Canon for Stewardship and a nationally acclaimed stewardship facilitator. That will be March 21-22 at St. Paul’s, Sparks. The people who did attend the Las Vegas workshop reported finding it very helpful. And I will find another top shelf stewardship facilitator for our Convention.
Stewardship is essential to our spiritual health because it flips the switch from me first consumer spirituality to the joy of generosity. It is the triumph of faith over fear in action. It is the healing of shame and anxiety, both of which attach to money like leeches. It isn’t just about the church getting more money. It’s also about the church giving more money away. It’s a spiritual thing – the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death. Faithful stewardship of relationships, time, talent, and treasure makes us the kind of community someone would want to be part of. It is the essential foundation for evangelism. And it is essential to our ability to reduce the 24% assessment that is still a boot on the necks of our congregations.
There is also good news on the stewardship front. 35 Nevadans attended The Episcopal Network For Stewardship training last summer. Grace in the Desert graciously hosted our workshop and St. Paul’s will do so for us in March. 45 people did attend our workshop over the course of two days. That is a low number, but we can be grateful for the 45 people who did give their time and attention for the sake of their church. Plus we battle a stereotype that Latinos don’t do stewardship. Well, Latinos from All Saints and St. Luke’s were there.
Thanks in no small part to better stewardship practices, a number of our congregations had markedly better pledge drives this Fall than in years past. (Stewardship is not just about pledge drives – but they are one of the barometers of congregational health and vitality.) I see better relationships in many of our congregations than I saw a few years ago. Yes, this is part and parcel of stewardship. The first thing we are stewards of is our God-given relationships. So the glass is more than half full.
We are not giving up on this one. If the universe says “this ain’t gonna be easy,” ranching is not easy, mining is not easy, church is not easy. G. K. Chesterton once said “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and not tried.” Our job in Nevada is to insure that this difficult thing is tried – by us.