Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ask Not What Your Pledge to the Church Does for You...

I used to be afraid that my pledge wasn’t enough.   I thought I had to pay for church membership the same way I paid for Gold’s Gym and Sam’s Club, for the same reason: membership got me access to Stairmaster, wholesale prices, and Eternal Life.  But, as my pledge wasn’t a tithe, only the price of a movie for each two-hour service, would God accept it?  A tenor assured me that singing in choir got me off the hook, but I was still uneasy. 
Back then, I was afraid of a lot of things.  I’d whisper the Nicene Creed on planes during take-off to prove my faith in case we crashed.  I took communion to inoculate me against Hell.

Gradually I internalized what we pray every week, that God has “graciously accepted us as living members” of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.   Since we’ve already been accepted, membership doesn’t have to be about maintaining our own salvation.   “Living members” should be what Paul said, the hands, feet, eyes, and ears of Jesus.  As I felt myself a part of the church, pledging became a part of me; I’m just the kind of guy who gives time and a tenth of his income to the church.

But if we pledge only enough to maintain the church for our own use, then Christ’s body is inert, on life-support.   The body should be up and doing, continuing Christ’s ministry on earth, which was healing the broken, feeding the hungry, exposing injustice, and allaying fears.  

The good news is that St. James’ is a gracious host to many outside our walls who need attention, encouragement, and education, through healing services, Reach Out Mental Health, Wonderful Days, English for Working Mothers, Thrift Shop, Pathfinders, and Family Promise.  

The bad news is that both our pledging and these ministries involve a small proportion of our membership. 

I hope that some parishioners reading this message will now pledge more in money and time, to stretch the body of Christ beyond the corner of Church and Polk, to make a difference in our community and the world.  

This is one of a series of personal statements about pledging from members of the Vestry of St. James' Episcopal Church, Marietta, GA.   

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