During 2011, many congregations in Vermont read and studied a book by Anthony Robinson called Changing the Conversation. As a result of serious engagement with the book, and hearing him speak at the special convention in June 2011, a wide variety of conversations has sprung up around issues of being Church. Among those new conversations is a desire to deepen, strengthen, and open the frank conversation about money as a source of fear and anxiety in our lives and in our congregations.
Personally, I am more in tune than ever with the power that money has in my life. Having just turned 60 in late March, my thoughts about money have turned toward retirement and whether I can “afford” to retire. Answering “yes” to that question, without reservation and anxiety is not easy. Yet, I know that God has something to say to me about where my values are, where my treasure is, what seductive power lurks in the very question “Can I afford to retire?” I am very clear that the question invites spiritual discernment about “needs” vs. “wants”, lifestyle choices vs. discipleship, and a life of simplicity vs. consumption. The invitation is not a difficult one to accept. That is why the discussions around money, fear and anxiety are meant for the faith community and not for restless, sleepless, night alone.
Stewardship resources that will appear on this page and come to you via email will focus on these kinds of questions and discussions. God wants us to be free from the bondage of money – the constant, often painful “push and pull” guilt-ridden choices between what we want for ourselves in this world, and what God wants for us – both in this world and in the life to come.
So the change in conversation begins now. Hopefully the conversation will at times be filled with holy humor as we learn to look at ourselves and laugh. At times it will be sobering and other times downright hard! But we are all in this together as people of God trying to understand what God asks of each of us in our own particular circumstances. First we learn about God as giver of all that we have and all that we are. Then we develop our yearning for a deeper relationship with God and open ourselves to hear what God has to say to us about material wealth and possessions. And lastly, we enter into the realm of joyfully celebrating God’s generosity towards us by extending that generosity to God’s work in the world and to others in need.
We are all learning and growing in understanding what it means to be created as a steward of all of God’s creation. I encourage you to regularly visit some of the wonderful resources on the web for stewardship growth: www.tens.org; www.luthersem.edu; www.stewardshipoflife.org; http://www.generousgiving.org
The Rev. E. Angela Emerson, Minister of Stewardship Development, Episcopal Diocese of Vermont. May 2012.