“Called ‘To Be the Church – Part Three”
September 24, 2017 – Year A – 16th Sunday after Pentecost
2 weeks ago, Sarah gave a wonderful testimonial as to why she supports the church financially. She identified the diverse programs and activities the church offers. She went on to talk about the many user groups who meet at our church and how bereft they would be without a safe meeting space. She encouraged us to support the Mission and Service fund, reminding us that the leadership training events, the support to global partners, and the grants to outreach programs like First United Church in the downtown east-side of Vancouver are all supported by our donations to the Mission and Service fund.
Last week Gordon told us about his 3 years of working amongst the people of Bella Bella. He pointed out that the Mission and Service fund gave an operating grant to the medical and dental clinic that he and Luanne worked at. Without that financial support, the people of that Northern community would not have received the preventative and restorative dental care that Gordon offered. He talked about the float planes bringing in patients to the clinic, all thanks to the Mission and Service fund.
Both Sarah and Gordon shared why they continue to support the Mission and Service fund. Any one who has been to Naramata Centre has experienced first hand the benefit of a Mission and Service fund support grant. Naramata Centre has re-opened after being closed for a few years. This past year it was able to operate with a small profit. The grant from the Mission and Service fund ensures that leadership development receives a high priority in the United Church of Canada.
Any Minister trained at a United Church theological college has been the beneficiary of the Mission and Service fund. The support given to theological colleges ensures that students are well trained in the various techniques, biblical understandings, United Church ethos, and ministry skills in preparation to pastoral and educational ministry.
Approximately 1/5 of the nearly $25 million raised each year supports global programs and justice work. Helping partners on urgent issues such as water security, access to human rights, and justice initiatives, as well as responding to humanitarian crises, all come from yours and my donations to the Mission and Service Fund. Emergency response to the Caribbean disaster has happened thanks to the M&S fund. As soon as needs were identified, the United Church sent immediate aid to the devastated areas. Donations designated specifically for hurricane relief will be over and above the early response of the M&S fund.
If you are a student away at a university likely you have seen a sign on the wall inviting you to a group sponsored by the Spiritual Care department. The chaplain on campus works with students helping them to find community, support, and grounding. Some of the chaplaincies across Canada are M&S fund supported.
Indigenous and non-indigenous persons experience M&S supported programs of advocacy, food security, employment training, and summer camps. A number of indigenous United Church congregations receive Mission Support grants, which come from the Mission and Service fund.
Support to congregations that are seeking to change is enabled through a program called EDGE. Coaches, mentors and resource material is available. As we are in a time where the existing way of being church is not working, new initiatives are necessary. The EDGE Network and the Embracing the Spirit program is available for churches who are willing to risk trying new ways of doing ministry. Financial grants and programming support are available, thanks to the Mission and Service Fund. Many congregations who recognize that they will not be in existence 10 years from now are turning to the EDGE Network for help in redefining themselves so that they might have a vital, new ministry long into the future.
The Mission and Service fund supports 13 Conferences as they provide leadership and resources to presbyteries. BC and Toronto Conferences have generously returned their M&S grants so they can be shared with the 11 other Conferences. BC Conference has been richly blessed with many bequests, and therefore can support many courses and events with reduced costs and grants to participants. All the work of BC conference including the cost of staffing is covered by the money held in trust.
So, why do I donate to the Mission and Service Fund? I donate because I believe in the work it supports. I am proud to know that in the event of a crisis in some part of the world, the United Church immediately releases money from the Disaster Relief portion of the M&S fund and directs it to the Mennonite Central Committee for fast response. I have attended probably close to 100 United Church sponsored workshops. They would have been much more expensive had they not been partially funded by the Mission and Service fund. I was educated at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon, a theological education site of the United Church of Canada. I have served on Presbytery, Conference and General Council committees – all which have been supported by the Mission and Service fund. Half of my offering goes to the local church fund and half goes to the Mission and Service fund. That is how much I believe in it.
One of the many reasons I chose to apply and subsequently come to this church as your Minister, was its strong support to the Mission and Service Fund. In 2010, the year I came to minister among you, we gave just under $27,000 to the M&S fund. Our total givings that year was $251,139. We gave 10.75% of our givings to the M&S fund. That is impressive! I knew I wanted to be part of a congregation that had the broader church as its priority.
I want to now share a couple of clarifications from the last 2 weeks sermons. From 2 week’s ago I mentioned about the cost of gas and electricity. It is $102 per person for the year. When I calculated the amount, I multiplied rather than divided, giving you an inaccurate number. And last week, in taking about tithing, folks were talking at coffee time and wondered if including donations to other charities could be included in one’s calculation of a tithe. My response is most definitely. Today, many charities are doing the work that previously was done only by the church. It seems reasonable that we include the donations to other charities in our tithe. At this past week’s study group, some of the participants felt that the emphasis on tithing over-shadowed the point I was trying to make concerning intentional giving. I was trying to say that we are challenged to look at our offering in an intentional way rather than simply giving the loose change that is in our purse or pocket.
With those clarifications made, let’s look at our gospel text and discern its truth as we are called to be the church. As you listened to Patti tell the parable of the landowner and the labourers, you likely found yourself thinking, “heh, that’s not fair.” The question of just what is sufficient and what is abundant permeates this story. In the commonwealth of God, everyone receives enough because God’s grace, not human effort, is the source of blessing and life. This is the philosophy of the Mission and Service fund. Grace upon grace is poured out to those in need.
The large church in downtown Winnipeg that reaches out to the LGBT community, the Newfoundland education initiative, and the part-time mission among the Aboriginal of the West Coast all receive M&S grants. Perhaps it seems unfair that the grants are not larger. However, the grace of God is so amazingly radical that all are blessed. God’s generosity along with your abundance brings Good News to all.
This 3 part look at stewardship has enabled us to examine some of the facets of our giving. Next week we will celebrate. There is much to celebrate. So, stay tuned. Amen.