In the summer issue of Tapestry, which will be available around the church in a couple of weeks, we asked some of our children and youth the question: How are you going to stay close to God this summer?
Instead of asking you that question, I thought I’d suggest an answer I plan to consider: By focusing on stewardship.
Not the stewardship campaign, which each fall asks us to decide on the financial commitment we’ll make to God’s work in the year ahead. I’m not even talking about fulfilling that commitment during months when we may be out of town or focused on family time—although we hope you’ll do that, too.
As important as our financial commitment to God’s work is, there is more to stewardship than pledging and giving. God also asks us to give of our time and talent.
In the summer, our routines are disrupted. We may be distracted by travel, by the pool, by summer concerts, by more family time, even by the luxury of time just to relax. I’m pretty sure those welcome distractions can make it harder to fill some of our community’s ongoing needs. God’s call to serve during the summer months could be even more urgent than usual.
Here are some ways FPC folks could answer God’s call to be good stewards this summer.
Picnic with Westerly Hills families on Sunday, June 10, at 3 p.m. Food will be provided and all are welcome to this opportunity for fellowship at The Core Church, 2300 Alleghany Street.
Give the gift of life by donating blood when the Bloodmobile is here at the church on Sunday, June 10, from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Watch this video to hear what Parish Nurse Kristin Foster and member Alex Ayer have to say about this year’s blood drive, then sign up to give from our website.
Deliver sandwiches to the Men’s Shelter, 3410 Statesville Avenue, by 11:30 on Sunday mornings. You are also welcome to help distribute the sandwiches and have lunch with the men. Sign up online.
Help out with Vacation Bible School the week of June 25-28, 9 a.m.-noon. Contact Tammy Winchip, Director of Children’s Ministry.
Stay strong this summer by helping out at the Loaves & Fishes Pantry. The Pantry needs of volunteers who are able to lift loaded crates, to bend and stoop as needed, and to catch loaded crates coming down the delivery chute. Contact Mary Scott Peterson to learn more.
Stay strong, part two, involves three hours once a month to deliver furniture for someone transitioning out of homelessness into a safe, comfortable home. This happens on the second Saturday each month, 9 a.m. until noon. Not everything is heavy, so don’t stay away because you can’t lift a sofa. This is a great service and fellowship opportunity for middle school age youth through adult. Sign up online.
Experience the joy of helping our BELL scholars. For six weeks, June 18–July 25, we will host 60 young scholars (rising first through third graders). They will work on reading and math skills in the mornings, then experience a wide range of field trips and enrichment activities—yoga, Lego robotics, dance and swimming—in the afternoons. Your time and talent makes this possible. Sign up here.
Worship needs volunteers to serve as sound board operators during the 11 a.m. worship. You’ll receive training. Contact Jesse Hite.
Those are just a few of the immediate ways you can focus on stewardship this summer. Keep your eyes on the Now@FPC page on the website, which is continuously updated with more ways to serve your community and your church.
Oh, and for those weeks when you are out of town, you can also visit the lower right of any page on the website to keep your contributions up to date through the summer. And you can attend a church where you’re vacationing, as well as watch us on TV or via live streaming on the website.
I hope you’ll join me in an unofficial time-and-talent stewardship campaign this summer. If you give this a try, let me know how it works to keep you close to God.
When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors…and you drink from wells you did not dig…take care that you do not forget the Lord… (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)
Frank was a farmer.
Cotton was his crop. In the fall he would always tell me to pray for no rain. Rain and cotton don’t make for a good harvest. Some years Frank had success, other years he had to stretch to make things work. The farm had been in his family for three generations. In spite of the advice he’d heard to get out of the business, farming cotton was what Frank did. So he kept at it.
Frank was generous with the church. He was one of the first people to get his pledge in during stewardship season. The amount of his pledge ebbed and flowed—which is what a tithe does when it is tied to the fluctuating annual income of a cotton farmer.
And then one year, they found natural gas under Frank’s farm. There’s more money in gas than there is in cotton. The gas company asked for permission to drill a gas well on Frank’s land. They paid him handsomely for the right to do, and promised more money for the gas that would come out of the ground.
All of a sudden Frank didn’t have to stretch to make ends meet anymore. When the lawyers and the accountants had squared away all the details, Frank was in my office with a check for his pledge and for a gift to the building campaign.
Frank knew that it wasn’t his well.
He had a lifetime of spiritual discipline around how to approach the gifts that God put in his hands that sprung from the ground.
October 8 is Commitment Sunday at First Presbyterian. Within our congregation, some have developed the spiritual practice that I saw evidenced in Frank. Others are just starting on the road. I hope you will participate—whatever your stage in the journey—by making your financial commitment to the church and its mission your first priority.
Welcome to summer! I hope you’re enjoying a slower pace in some way, maybe spending more time with family or even thumbing through a good book.
I wanted to share with you my thanksgiving for the ways God is using the stewardship dollars so many of you committed last fall to support our church’s mission and ministry.
Through the end of May our members’ pledge payments exceeded our budgeted amount by $96,675. I celebrate that First Presbyterian Church is a generous congregation, and that generosity continues to spill over!
The committed pledges of individuals and families allow us to plan confidently to do many things in Christ’s name:
feed the hungry
teach a third grader about the gift of God’s word in Scripture;
support our partnerships in Haiti and Mexico and Russia;
provide support for those who are grieving, and
lift our voices in praise through the gift of music on Sunday morning.
In all areas of our ministry we are doing the work of the Kingdom.
In 2017 one particular area of focus from our stewardship campaign was to respond to a call to support our local teachers. Charlotte Mecklenburg Superintendent Ann Clark challenged the faith community to support the recruitment and/or retention of excellent teachers by providing money to help them with child-care expenses. Superintendent Clark helped us see that too many teachers were choosing to leave the classroom because they could not afford daycare on their salary.
I am happy to report that First Pres stewardship dollars will be used by three teachers, all of whom work at our partner school, Westerly Hills Academy. The need for this help in retaining excellent teachers was so great that principal Malacy Williams decided to grant one teacher a full scholarship and split the second scholarship 50/50 between two additional teachers. One of the recipients teaches second grade literacy. The second recipient teaches second grade math. The third recipient is an instructional coach for six teachers in K-5 literacy.
My gratitude overflows: for your generosity, for God’s faithfulness, and for the ways our church serves as an instrument for grace and healing and good in our community and world.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this summer, and appreciate so much who you are as a member of Christ’s body here on 200 West Trade Street.
I give you a new commandment: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you ought to love one another. (John 13:34)
Our focus and goal in this year’s annual stewardship campaign is to increase our commitment to care for our neighbors:
through a commitment to support Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools;
providing more affordable housing for families in danger of falling into homelessness;
supporting a medical clinic in Bayonnais, Haiti;
an investment in the Villa Infantil de Maya in Mexico;
sponsorship of mission co-workers in Havana, Cuba;
and upgraded infrastructure for Friendship Trays as they provide meals for the homebound in the Charlotte area.
In order for us to meet these goals two things have to happen: you and I need to share our financial resources with the church, and the church needs to trim the amount of money we spend inside our gates. Our leadership has a plan to achieve the latter (trimming our expenses). It’s up to you to deliver on the former (by making a pledge).
This Sunday (October 30), you are invited to bring your pledge card with you to worship. During the final hymn, you’ll be asked to make your financial commitment by placing your pledge card in baskets on the communion table. (We’ll also have I Pledged cards for all who have pledged already by mail or online.)
What I want you to know is that when you make that commitment this Sunday it is about a whole lot more than making sure our church meets its budget for next year. It is even about a whole lot more than our desire to increase our commitment to outreach.
At the core, committing to give your money for ministry in Christ’s name is how you demonstrate your trust that God can and will provide…for you and for your neighbors.
One of my favorite teachers believes the great test of life and of faith is for us to decide what narrative we will believe: a narrative of scarcity—that there’s not enough to go around—or a narrative of abundance—that God provides us with more than enough.
The reason Lindsey and I make it a point to stretch ourselves a little bit more each year around stewardship season is because we have found joy in discovering—again and again—that our God is a God of abundance.