Last Thursday morning we packed up two cars from Canterbury, and your Rector (me), our Vestry Sr. Warden (Joe Lane), our Vestry Jr. Warden (Dorothy Treadwell), our two elected convention delegates (AnneMarie Werner-Smith) and our elected convention alternate (Warren Smith) headed down to El Paso for our Annual Diocesan Convention. After only a few mishaps (like your rector getting pulled over by the cops, and not knowing where her husband keeps the registration in his mini-van) we made it safely to the El Paso Marriott for the Convention.
What happens at Convention? Lay delegates (the Jr. & Sr. Wardens from each congregation and elected delegates) and clergy delegates (all the canonically resident clergy in the diocese) meet with the Bishop and his staff for two days of fellowship, formation, and business.
FELLOWSHIP: It's pretty fun to take a road trip with your fellow church members. I learned all sorts of things I never knew about the Canterbury delegation in 8 hours in the car! It's also a treat to get to spend time with and get to know clergy and lay leaders from other congregations throughout the diocese.
FORMATION: We've had fascinating plenary speakers at convention for the past three years: Richard Rohr (2015), Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (2016) and this year theologian, scholar, and storyteller Megan McKenna.
BUSINESS: The "business" of convention involves electing clergy and lay persons to serve on various diocesan committees and delegations; approving the diocesan budget for the coming year; receiving reports on various diocesan missions and ministries, and voting on various resolutions pertaining to the life of the Diocese. This year we passed two major resolutions, one recommending an annual commemoration of military hero Ted Howden each December in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and one urging all congregations and diocesan institutions to complete a church disaster plan prior to the 2018 convention. The Bishop announced that, upon his death, the majority of his estate will be gifted to the Diocese to support the eventual construction of a Ted Howden Memorial Chapel at the Bosque Center (our Diocesan Office & Conference Center in Albuquerque.) The most controversial item on the agenda was the proposed budget, which will include a modest increase in the "Fair Share" each congregation will pay to the Diocese. In 2018 Canterbury's "Fair Share" payment to the diocese will equal 14.75% of our total income (~$25,000 for Canterbury for the year.) Opposition was fierce. Don't be surprised if the Bishop wrangles me into serving on the Diocesan Budget Committee in 2018. That's what happens when you stand up and speak out.
Our next big diocesan event will be a special convention at St. John's Cathedral on May 5th, 2018, at which certified clergy and lay delegates will elect the next bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Our new bishop will be consecrated on November 3rd, 2018.
Church governance and politics were all completely new to me when I was ordained almost 8 years ago. I had never served on a vestry. I had never attended a convention. Heck, I had never even participated in Student Council! But I'm slowly but surely getting the hang of it and beginning to understand the value, importance, and even beauty of "taking my place in the councils of the church."
If you'd like to learn more about church governance first hand, I invite you to consider offering your gifts as a candidate for vestry, deanery representative, or convention delegate at our next annual meeting at Canterbury. (NOTE: We like to have our slate of candidates in place by December 1st in preparation for the annual meeting in January, so if you're interested in running, please talk to Joe Lane, Dorothy Treadwell, or Sylvia+ ASAP.)
I may get in trouble with the vestry for saying this, but I don't think that stewardship has anything to do with church budgets. I believe that stewardship is the way we respond to God's love for us-- using our gifts. All of our gifts. The gifts that Jesus most often spoke about to His followers were financial gifts. Giving back financially to the temple, to widows, and to other people in need. One of Christ's phrases was "God loves a cheerful giver." If church members give because they've been brow beaten to give more for the budget, they're probably not cheerful. Christ also talked a lot about tithing, by which he meant giving 10% of your income.
That is a scary thought. If your budget looks like mine did when I began to increase my giving, suddenly jumping up 10% just won't work. However, every one can give a little more than they're giving now. Even if it's just two dollars a month. The point is that God will take care of you, if you trust him. As someone who sits in the same pews you do, I can tell you I have never had to do without anything I needed, because I increased my giving. (I didn't get some "wants", but I lacked for nothing I needed) This type of giving--slowly increasing the amount-- helps you to increase your trust in God.
God has never let my husband nor me down. It takes trust in God, to tithe. I suspect that's why Jesus was so adamant--He just wants us to trust His Father. Each time you increase your giving and discover you don't fall flat on your face; you learn that you can trust Him a little more. The more you trust Him, the more He sheds his bountifulness on you.
I have a memory of a gentlemen named Buzz in one of churches we went to many years ago. Buzz always got nervous as we approached the Sunday of the parable of rich young man. Folks who know me know that I can be rather outspoken. This trait has been described in other words, but "outspoken" is perhaps the most polite. Anyway, in an adult forum Buzz, never a happy person, asked "Was this 10% before or after taxes?" I responded "Buzz, It doesn't matter because you don't pay 10% after taxes so why worry about before taxes."
Why on earth would I include this snarky story? Mostly because I want to tell you that of the many people I know who tithe "after taxes", most of them eventually change to "before taxes" because they are giving joyfully. Isn't that the goal of the Christian life. Joyfulness through trust/faith.
How can it hurt to include our Church budget in some of the money you give joyfully--it doesn't have to be all of your donations. Our beloved Canterbury deserves our best. But I don't think stewardship has anything directly to do with church budget. Increasing the budge is merely a byproduct. I believe in a stewardship where we happily, weekly respond to God's love for us.
-Candy Porter, Canterbury Member (10AM)