During my first year in seminary I attended a local Methodist church weekly.
The pastor gave thoughtful and well-delivered sermons. The music, though not overwhelming, had a certain sense of beauty and devotion to it. The fellowship was strong – intergenerational, interracial. The piety, for lack of a better word, was strong too. People cared about their faith formation; they studied together, served together, and grew together. I loved the church for what it offered, and I attended regularly because I discovered that I needed it.
That time after college felt particularly fragile to me. I wasn’t clear about whom I wanted to be or how I wanted to make my way in life. I was newly on my own in the adult world, studying theology without a definitive path, and trying not to panic over what would become of me. The church gave me a grounding I could find nowhere else. It took me out of my many fears and uncertainties and placed my life firmly in the context of God’s faithful and abundant love. Church reminded me on a regular basis that I belonged to Christ and that I was in God’s hands. Later, when that church hired me as their seminary associate, I discovered that God’s hands also worked through mine; God’s voice spoke through mine. That church gave me gifts of such value and meaning that I could easily take them for granted. The church’s gifts to me were so big and foundational that I could easily think that they weren’t the sort of thing one needs to fund.
In fact, when the Treasurer handed me a pledge card one year I had no idea what to do with it. The money they paid me went to my educational expenses. I had a little money to spend, but for the most part I was broke. So, I never returned the pledge card even though it was suddenly more clear to me that for the church to be the blessing that it was it needed financial support.
However, when I make my pledge these days I remember that church. I remember how it held me during unstable times, how it formed me in faith, and how it cultivated my call to ministry. I remember that the generosity of those who were able to give blessed me when I wasn’t able to give. I remember that the very formative gifts the church gives us often sink in slowly and grow us in ways that aren’t immediately quantifiable.
So, I give to the church now knowing that God is at work in profound ways through the life of our congregation too. God’s Spirit is forming us, placing our lives in the context of God’s love, and blessing others through us as we continue to build the church. God is changing lives through the life of our congregation, and so I stretch to give as much as I can, and I invite you to do the same.