“Summer is Here!” Come the end of May, I always think to myself, “OK…I am on the glide path to summer relaxation. There won’t be a lot going on in the parish. This will be awesome.” Every May I suffer from the same delusion. The truth is that there is a lot that goes on in the parish, especially as it pertains to planning for the coming “new year,” which begins in September. The summer is also when there is time to begin to flesh out ideas, programs, and initiatives for the fall.
Last summer, we did all the final research, groundwork, planning, briefing, and more “behind the scenes” work which led to the parish initiative we call True North. Later in this bulletin there is a half-page about the True North Vision. Over the next several months you will see that same space used to provide regular updates on the details of the Vision and its implementation. I will leave you to read the section of the bulletin each and every week. That vision is one part of a larger set of changes the parish needs to consider.
Last summer as we held parish listening sessions, and as we continued to talk with parishioners, it became clear that (a) our vision would need to evolve over time as we began to see how the downtown, Tampa Heights, Riverside Heights, South Seminole, Wellswood (…and more) neighborhoods actually developed. And that measured pace was good, because it was also clear that people did not want to do a capital campaign but wanted to grow organically – or more concretely said, “Pay as we go.”
With that in mind, we unveiled our “Vision: True North” campaign in October 2018. Part of that was the desire to take steps towards becoming a full Stewardship Parish. One of the things we announced was that we would not campaign for the Annual Pastoral Appeal (APA). Lots of people were surprised when they received the APA letter from Bishop Parkes – “I thought we weren’t doing this anymore?” It was evident we did not communicate well. The APA assessment is not an option but taking 3-4 weeks to campaign for it is optional. A Stewardship Parish would give generously in order to fulfill the obligation as something that is ours to do. In a parish where stewardship is not a way of life, the pastor has to be the marketing manager of what is essentially a mini-campaign that takes lots of time and energy. That is not our goal. We want to shepherd the Vision: True North to reality as we become more and more a Stewardship parish.
Over the next several weeks, I want to share some thoughts about what it means to become a Stewardship parish. And at this point if some of you are thinking, “…here it comes, the pitch for money,” I would tell you, “No, this is a pitch for a spirituality in the most practical of terms: how we stand before God.”
So, what is Stewardship? Stewardship, in its simplest terms, is the act of putting God’s priorities before our own. Stewards do four things…
- Receive God’s gifts gratefully
- Nurture God’s gifts responsibly
- Share God’s gifts justly and charitably
- Return those gifts to God abundantly
OK, now he’s gonna’ ask for money… No, I am going to ask you to consider Time. Are you a good steward of your time? A true understanding of stewardship begins with taking care of and sharing the gift of time given us. We only get so much time. Look again at the four points about what a good Steward does. Can you say those are your attitudes and perspectives about time? Receive, nurture, share, return – do you do those things with the time given you? Do you nurture and share your time with family and friends and bring balance across work, rest, play, and… prayer? Are you a good steward of time so that you are a good steward of your physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual lives?
You have all heard that as Christians we are called to tithe 10% to the Lord. I knew it! Here comes the money part! No, here comes the part that says tithing means to give God the first and the best. In tithing we recognize that: God is the owner, and we are only the managers of his time. We are asked to give back ten percent –– a tithe –– the first and the best of what we have of our time. Here is that part when I explain that a tithe is not a what’s left over at the end of a long and busy day – it is supposed to be the best portion, the first portion. It is the sign of our love to give the first and the best to God. Are you a person who is a good steward of God’s time?
Each of us is given 168 hours each week. I am not asking you to spend 16.8 hours of the week in ministry, but I think it is fair for you to ask yourself how are you returning those 16.8 hours to God? Prayer? I hope that is part of the accounting. Quality time with family? That too. Time for exercise or relaxation (some kind of self-care)? I hope so. And the list goes on.
This is what it means to begin to live life as a good Steward of the time God has given you. It is a way of living in the midst of our incredibly busy lives to take account of this gift of time so that we are people who receive, nurture, share, and return that gift to God.
The start of Sacred Heart being a Stewardship Parish is for each one of us to be good Stewards in our own lives.