21 March 2011

Stewardship Conference

Welcome to the 8th Stewardship Conference of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee. I am Bill Collins, and I serve as chair of the Stewardship Commission; this place is the Church of the Ascension, the Rev. Dr. Howard Hess, Rector, and on behalf of the commission I thank him for accommodating us.
I want to thank Bishop Charles vonRosenberg for his support of the conferences; it's 1 of 15 diocesan missions and ministries. Charlie has a stewardship vision, and he has implemented it, and I believe his vision, embodied by eight conferences, is part of his response to God’s call. Please listen to what Charlie has written,
“. . . Our relationship with God does indeed call us to reconsider ourselves and the ways we live relative to God
. . . as members of the Church, we are parts of a larger whole - what St. Paul called the Body of Christ. Our responsibility is to perform functions that can benefit the entire body, using our gifts and talents for the good of the whole. Such an understanding is fundamental to a healthy and responsible Christian life lived in relation to God. We do have responsibilities for the body by virtue of membership within the body. Our lives - our actions, and our words and our deeds - do have consequences for which we do have responsibility.”[i]
I began intentionally responding to God’s call after I became a Daddy, and I felt church attendance wasn’t enough. I wanted my Godly life to go beyond bricks & mortar, and one response was to start to live my question, “How do I act out God’s call?” I’m guy who reads the book, how to Be a Monastic and not Leave Your Day Job. I’m the guy doing The Book of Common Prayer daily devotion, and I’m the guy practicing and singing in the choir, and I’m the guy on Vestry or Finance Committee, and I’m the Stephen Minister. I’m the guy who was employed as a church secretary for 8 years. I’m the guy who introduced a parish-wide planned giving and end-of-life-planning conversation, and I’m the guy who’s trained as a stewardship mentor, one of nine in our diocese. I'm a guy who does stewardship.
I believe each one of us is responding to God’s call, and each of us is trying, as best we can and as we are able, to do the question, “How do I live God’s call?” Or as Charlie suggests, how one performs services that can benefit the entire body, using our gifts and talents for the good of the whole.
Our guests and leaders are the Rev. Lance Ousley and the Rev. Terry Parsons. Lance will speak to stewardship linked with our liturgical calendar and offer tools to shape and integrate stewardship into daily liturgical life. Terry will speak about practical tools to help us give our selves permission to cultivate and witness bits and pieces of our stewardship story.
Stewardship is you ~ doing your life ~ in response to Christ’s call. Stewardship is the tithe and the annual giving campaign, and is funding the diocesan ask, and is end-of-life-planning, and is leaving a bequest to your parish. BUT it’s NOT just fund-raising. Stewardship is storytelling, and stewardship is cultivating your narrative story skills and being Christ’s representative. What do I mean? Check out Charlie’s story in the stewardship link at the diocesan website, and see and hear what I mean.
So what’s the result of all this? We build God’s kingdom, and we sustain Episcopal Church traditions, and in turn, and in hope, we nurture our children and our church’s future.
Welcome to the 8th diocesan stewardship conference.

[i] Sermon: "Trinity's Call"
 The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, Third Bishop of East Tennessee, May 26, 2002, Trinity Sunday, St. Thaddeus, Chattanooga, TN. Gen 1:1-2:3 II Cor 13:5-13 Matt 28:16-20

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