Gracious God, grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, Amen
In the last 35 years of marriage, I have found from time to time, that I have been an irritation to my wife. I realize this is very hard to believe. In recent years one of the issues comes in wet weather when I leave my gardening gloves (there are several pairs) to dry out in the bathroom near the forced air outlet. This year I tried a new plan which was to leave the gloves in the dining room on some newspaper. This seemed to work quite well until the dog that lives downstairs came a calling once or twice and decided to shed not the gloves but the newspaper into very small pieces. This all seems like a conspiracy to me and after all, I was trying to do was pick up some orange leaves so that we don’t disappear under a gigantic pile of them at which time no one would be able to even find our house.
Over the last month, we have been actively thinking about Stewardship. We were greatly inspired by Kathryn telling us about what the Rosary means to her and those who gather three times a week at Epiphany to pray together. Doni then outlined some of the wonderful achievements that we have worked on in terms of outreach, the thousands of water bottles in the summer and the $1000 to SFB at Thanksgiving. Next, Jevon, chair of the Building Committee, took us on an adventure with cartoons, still on view in the narthex, of the trials and tribulations of the new building project. And last Sunday, Shelley, one of our Wardens, gave an inspiring address about all that is going on to keep our life as a community fresh, active and forward-thinking.
As Shelley reminded us Administration is a spiritual gift, outlined by St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. For the life of the Church to flourish and grow we need sound financial and governance structures that allow us to make decisions for the community in an open and transparent way. We have been extremely fortunate in my time at Epiphany to have an outstanding group of people willing to work with me, as Wardens, Treasurers, and Council members, who, as the name suggests, take Council for the parish in making decisions about our common life.
Shelley also reminded us of all the support we have received from the Diocese as a whole in terms of forgoing apportionment, two months of the rector’s salary, as well as enabling us to draw on the Government Wage Subsidy Program in 2020 and 2021 which has made a huge difference to our bottom line. In addition, we obtained grants from the Diocese to build our new website, buy equipment to operate Zoom, as well as ongoing support to enable us to employ Albert and Talal as translators for the parish so that English speaking and Arabic speaking peoples can understand each other.
At the heart of stewardship is the idea we give back to God for all that we have received from God in the first place. God gives us life, education, family, friends, our Church, and gifts of experience and other skills that are vital to the life of the community. In this we don’t rely on one or two people, we rely on everyone, to offer their gifts, including time, energy, as well as financial resources, to enable this house of prayer to be worthy of its name, the Church of the Epiphany.
At a time when our church has been closed for many months, when we can meet for worship with safety precautions in place when some have remained at home on Zoom yet still join us each and every week. When our social life has been limited, with no Coffee Hour at Church or regular meals together …
And yet in spite of these challenges and the trials that all of us have faced since March 2020, our giving from the parishioners, from you and me, has not slowed, is not static, but has increased.
This is deeply humbling for me as a spiritual leader of this community and reminds me, as if I needed to be reminded, of why after all these years I am still rector.
Being a follower of Christ requires us to know Jesus Christ and to be part of an active and life-giving community. I am deeply honoured to be rector of this Church and I give thanks to God daily for all the love and support, the work and the energy that members of this congregation make to better and further our common life.
So today in a few moments we will offer our pledges for 2022 to God. We will do so in thanksgiving, with reverence and in hope for the future as well as the present of this Church community.
As some of you know I’m heading back to the UK this evening to visit my mother; see you Wednesday mother. I do so with a joyful heart, pleased to reconnect with my immediate family in the UK who I haven’t seen for two years. I do so knowing what a great community I have the privilege of leading, knowing the work will carry on very well in my absence. And as I go, I also look forward to being back here for the end of the Church year (the Reign of Christ) and the week following Advent with our Advent Study and preparations for the yearly celebration of the birth of our Saviour.
When I’m in England I won’t miss the orange leaf pick-up; that will be a relief. But I go knowing that we are surrounded by so great of witnesses, those whom we loved and see no more. And I go knowing that we have a wonderful and inspiring community, working for the kingdom, working for one another and the local community, working to be saints, who dedicate and offer their lives to the Saviour whom we follow, Jesus Christ.