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2017 Stewardship Stories, Part 1

October 8, 2017
08 Oct 2017

Where does the time go?

Lori and Sean Hunter

As I began reflecting on St. James’, the reality of having been members of this incredible place for almost 30 years set in.  I was born & raised in the Episcopal Church, but like so many, had fallen away from regular attendance in my college years and 20’s.  When a neighbor invited Sean and me to come check St. James’ out one Sunday, we easily said yes.  Our first child Matthew was two and we knew we wanted him to have a Christian education and foundation.  But we had no idea that St James’ would become our life-long spiritual home.

During the past 30 years, we have witnessed so much here… the good, the bad, joys and heartaches.  Our children have been baptized, educated and confirmed here and this year, our daughter was married here in this beautiful Sanctuary.  We’ve attended funerals of parishioners who became dear friends and we have laughed, cried and prayed with so many from St. James’ over the years. Through all of it, what we have seen is Christ’s love in the faces and actions of all of you who walk through these doors.  At every turn in life, St. James’ has woven its way into the very fabric of who we are.

As many people here know, it was just five years ago when we lost almost everything we had in a fire.  I have thought about those days many times.  We were living in hotels and out of suitcases during the holidays.  The glaring part of the memories from those days is that it was the people of this parish who lifted us up. It wasn’t our lifelong friends or even our relatives for the most part.  Rather, it was the people sitting in these pews every week.   We were prayed for, loved and fed.  We were invited into people’s homes for home cooked meals and fellowship.  As we managed through that difficult year after the fire, we ended up feeling so blessed.  Not sad, not questioning “why did this happen to us?” but instead truly blessed.  To get to know how deep the love of Christ is through the actions of people of this parish has been one of life’s biggest blessings.  Our eyes were opened and we realized that the clergy and people of St. James’ give like this on a regular basis… for people in the parish, people in the South Pasadena Community and for complete strangers.  Stewardship… that is what it is called.

When we began attending St. James’ in the late 1980’s, we did not understand about pledging as part of stewardship.  Of course, pledging was talked about during Stewardship season, but we didn’t know how much to give.  We were a struggling family with one child and another on the way.  It was tight to make our house payment every month, so we could not imagine giving 10% of our income to the Church.  At that time, we looked at our pledge as if we were “paying dues”.  We valued the worship and the education our children were receiving, and we valued the friendships we were developing in the community, but we didn’t really “get it”.  Then one Sunday, we had a Stewardship speaker from another parish who some- how got through to us.  He told a story of how he was once wealthy, but had lost everything…every- thing except the love of God.  Sean and I started reflecting on our priorities…..when we realized that our monthly car payment was more than what we were giving to the Church; we realized we really had things upside down.  We finally understood that all that we have and all that we are comes from God and that it is our pleasure and privilege to give back in thanksgiving.  Stewardship is about responding to God’s generosity with a glad, grateful, and generous heart.  Stewardship is about being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.  And stewardship is something that blesses the giver more than it does the receiver.

This year, the St. James’ Church is calling stewardship season “Fearless Generosity”.   It is a constant journey and one that we learn about from our family, friends and other church members.  We are all givers and we are all receivers.  Doesn’t it feel so much better to be a giver?

 


Because St. James Pledges Itself to Us

Clay and Elizabeth Wilkinson

Stewardship season.  It can hit you with the grace and subtlety of the PBS pledge-drive.  It can leave you one subject short of the church-money-politics trifecta.  It can remind you that baseball season is over.  And it can be a time to reflect about the meaning of a place and a community in our lives.

One stewardship season, not too long ago, a St. James’ parishioner spoke from the pulpit about St. James’ through the years.  He said that for over one hundred years, people sat in St. James’ pews and knelt at St. James’ altar.  Our pews and our altar.  Generations of mothers and fathers knelt in prayer when their children were called to serve their country.  They wept rapturous tears when their children returned home and searing tears when they did not.  All in the space St. James’ created.  A poignant and holy space.

St. James’ is a place where you can hear a reflective sermon about the publican and the zealot having a meal together, and where everyone has a place at the table.  St. James’ is a community living into conciliation, though times may be turbulent and divisions deep.

St. James’ nourishes the soul.  At St. James’ you can find contemplation, faith, tradition, innovation, music, community, solace, sanctuary, integrity.

St. James’ is family.  We pledge because St. James’ is poignant and holy and conciliatory and nourishing.  We pledge because St. James’ is family.  But most of all, we pledge because St. James’ pledges itself to us.

Elizabeth and Clay Wilkinson have attended St. James since 2012.

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