Grace and Peace to you from God,
Every Autumn, we begin another year of programming in our parish home, at schools, and in our lives. For us in the Church, this means gathering and sharing about what the church has been doing, what it will be doing, and an invitation to continued giving of both fiscal resources and time. In 2020, this rhythm continues to shift as we move through the covid-19 pandemic that interrupts each of our lives in very real, powerful, and often painful ways. It is with that knowledge that we enter again into this time of more in-depth stewardship discussion. This also necessitates a more direct approach here in my message for stewardship
When we came into 2020, our budget was met by carrying over a balance from 2019, and it is looking like we will have a small amount at the end of this year, as well. Important to remember, though, are the breaks we have received through government and diocesan relief. Through the Paycheck Protection Program, we saw roughly $14,000 in relief, our Diocesan Assessment was reduced by roughly $2,500 and we also received a pension relief of roughly $3,600 we did not have to pay.
So, while we are in a good financial position compared to where we would have been without the continued generosity of parishioners and those who have joined our digital community, as we enter this season of planning, we must acknowledge that we cannot count on similar relief for 2021. Our preliminary 2021 budget, with pledges based on 2020 levels, shows an operating deficit of roughly $25,000.
Christ encourages followers regularly to give of themselves, both in material and non-material ways, and continually provides the Scriptural support for such giving. This year, as our Scriptural base, you are invited to reflect on the Great Commandment from the Gospel of Mark, which also includes portions of the Hebrew Shema prayer. Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. [And] you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (NRSV).
I invite you, as always, to reflect either solely or as a family on how you can continue to show this gracious love in the world through your giving to St. Stephen’s. If you are able to give at the same level as this year, or to increase your pledge, it is perhaps more vital than ever that you do so. Know that no matter what you are able to pledge for the coming year, you are a beloved member of this community.
Many of the different ways you can be involved in the life and leadership of St. Stephen’s are highlighted on the included pledge card. If you are interested in any of these areas, which will continue to meet via video conferencing primarily for the time-being, please mark them so we can reach out.
As you reflect, know that as soon as it is safe, we will return to the strong fellowship, formation, and Christian Education that are such a part of our DNA at St. Stephen’s. Know, too, that I am here pastorally, to call or chat in new ways, or to meet at the church or in a common space where you live, masked and distanced. If you find yourself in a situation where you are in need of services from St. Stephen’s, whether food or something else, please reach out to me. We will do a physical and digital ingathering of these pledge cards on Christ the King Sunday, November 22, 2020. You are invited to send them in early to be included at this time.
If you have questions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 12. We will have a Zoom discussion on November 15, 2020 at 11:00 am to discuss submitted questions.
While this time feels like no other, we are still St. Stephen’s, and our love continues from a distance. Remember, always remember, our love endures.