The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1
Good morning, everyone.
For any of you who may not know, Robin and I are the chairpersons of the Stewardship Committee. With our Church Council’s encouragement, we embarked on a new stewardship campaign in the fall of 2019 called Honoring Generosity. The campaign included bulletin inserts and mailings with a brochure explaining the campaign. We followed these up with individual letters asking members to consider their personal level of financial giving to the church.
Unfortunately, not long after the campaign launched, COVID introduced itself and the world, and our very lives and livelihoods changed in an instant. The campaign was temporarily paused (we hoped). In the interim, we were all asked to prayerfully consider how we might sustain our church and its mission in these challenging times. Our congregation responded back with generosity from the gifts that we ourselves had received.
Despite COVID, and without regular church worship, Robin and I were able to report in late 2020 that Atonement met the intended giving goal of the “paused” campaign. This church family continued to honor generosity throughout 2020 helping Atonement to meet its financial obligations and make it possible for our ministries to use the church building, cover expenses, and assist our community.
In a non-covid world, Robin and I would have given quarterly messages about stewardship sharing some of our church ministry successes and personal stories from some of you about how gifts of time, talents, and treasures have yielded rich rewards here in Wesley Chapel. Clearly, we could not do that as effectively as we would have liked. We are now late into 2021 and we wanted to give some brief highlights of what our ministry efforts have delivered in 2020 and 2021 with your generosity and with God’s help.
As an example, your support of our ministry efforts has strengthened our online presence and clearly shown our excellent livestreaming capabilities in providing a worship experience during COVID. Robin and I have had opportunities to access other online worship services and been amazed by the quality of what Atonement delivers and the professionalism of our tech team. We are truly blessed with a dedicated and professional volunteer staff.
In addition, our congregation has successfully supported our recent seminary graduate, Esthel Kane and shepherded her through the intern program. Her dedication and perseverance are a testament to her commitment to ministry. Our support of her throughout that process reflects our congregational commitment to help her share the love of God as a new pastor. We are all immensely proud of her and we should also be proud of our congregation for helping to make this happen.
No one should overlook that we have continued to operate a successful Food Pantry during this pandemic that ministers to our community in a very real and tangible way. The demands for this service during COVID have been significant and your Atonement members have given freely of their time, talents, and treasures to insure that people in our own community have enough food to eat. While the food pantry receives donations from the wider community, ALC pays the electric and donates the space to operate this service.
These are just a few of the things Atonement has been able to accomplish during COVID. As we go forward into the last quarter of 2021 and into 2022, we wanted to share with you where we are with our giving as a congregation. Giving year to-date through August 2021 reflects a sustained commitment to generosity. Total giving (excluding cash contributions) through August is up close to 10% compared to the same eight months in 2020. We are also on target YTD to meet or exceed our 2021 budget. We are excited to see that support of the church has remained strong even at a time when it is difficult to gather in worship together.
Going forward for the balance of the year and into 2022 we will need to continue to support our ministries. That might include things like online resources for Sunday School literature and Zoom gatherings for Christian education and Sunday School. Our Kids in Space Sunday School program has launched (pun intended) and we want to provide support for that effort.
Ministries thrive because of the contributions we give. Those gifts are reviewed every year to help with the budget planning process. Our Church Council is in the process of developing the budget for 2022 and we want grow our Christian ministry here in Wesley Chapel.
As we head into the last quarter of the year, there will be a four-session Bible study discussion starting October 20th entitled Thriving Beyond Covid. This will be an important spiritual discussion to help us begin to heal from losses and uncertainty that many of us have suffered.
There is also a special gathering planned for November 21st called Retro Spectacular where we hope to celebrate Atonement and our mission while also honoring those we have lost. There are numerous ways to help with this event so be sure to check out the church website for opportunities and more information as the date gets closer.
I started this talk with a Bible verse reminding us that the Lord is the keeper of the earth. We have nothing that is not His. God merely asks that we be good and faithful stewards of the world that He created. With God’s help, we can make this world a better place than we found it. So, as we consider our own stewardship, we should remind ourselves that giving back to God is a form of worship and prayer. As we honor Him with our gifts, we also prayerfully ask for guidance in our everyday lives and that our relationship with Him will be strengthened through our worship. In good times and bad, we ask for community with God to fill us with His peace. Peace be with all of you.