Weekly Update | November 12, 2023

Last week during our wonderful gathering with The Rev. Eric Law, we heard members share stories and feelings, and we listened so that we could learn. Thank you for showing up, your active participation, your courage and voice, your open mind, open heart, and willingness to hold the fullness of experiences by generations of members over many years of worship, prayer, music, service, community and love.

While perhaps there is still work to do, I also heard that transparency is important to you as a community, which is important to me as well. This brings me to a needed conversation about the financial health of our Cathedral and stewardship. Next Sunday, 19 November, is our Celebration of “Gratitude & Generosity,” and In-Gathering for pledges at both 8am & 10am. The coffee hour after both services will be hosted by our Stewardship Committee, under the leadership of Rosalind Vernon and her wonderful team.

Learning from best practices is always good. The best practice for a church is for the congregation to give 60-70% of the operating budget. Over years, it appears that the St. John’s community has been able to give 20-25% of our budget, thus making us heavily dependent on rental income from the land we have acquired with gifts to the church.

Then prior to this calendar year, three rental partners left for various reasons. Such departures happen, and left us with a shortfall of $145k at the start of the year and an unbalanced budget. Also true in the past, we have drawn up to 5% of endowed funds to close gaps in funding. This year, these funds were simply not enough. Thus, simply put, what we give next year will determine what we have to spend. If we give more, St. John’s will have more options and possibilities in the future.

Among the topics of conversation will be staffing. St. John’s has gone from two Deans to one, with no paid Associate Priest. While there could have been money for an Associate, resources were needed elsewhere last year. Since the 80’s, the leadership of St. John’s has known the importance of having a Dean and an Associate to serve this community engaged in ministry.

As a result, the Rev. Mel Soriano has graciously and generously been gifting us his time since ordained as a Transitional Deacon. In January when he is ordained to the Priesthood, it is my hope and prayer that we will have the funding for Rev. Mel to stay with us, and continue his work with young adults, children, youth and families, as well as pastoral and spiritual care. Mel is a blessing to us. I hope you will consider your hopes and dreams for St. John’s as you prayerfully discern your pledge next year.

This brings me to giving with gratitude and generosity. There are among us a few members who give abundantly, thanks be to God. For the rest of us, I imagine we could give much more. I gave only a quarter pledge since I arrived last March, and I am not certain how long I am called to stay. Could I give more? Sure, I can.

For each of us, I imagine that there is a wish or want tied to our money. If I like the new Dean, I will make a pledge. If we celebrate the traditions I hold dear, I will give more. If I am inspired by sermons, if I can sing in the choir, if only we sang a greater diversity of music, if only we continue to worship as we have in the past, if only . . .  then I will give generously to God! This is how we order the rest of our life, isn’t it? We spend money on the things we want and value, when we want them.

Friends, this is not what giving to God is all about. It is not about us. It is about giving thanks to God for all the blessings of life – including life itself and God’s presence in our lives. We believe that God is working through us in ways that may not always be clear. This gratitude is why early Christians pooled their resources to support their communities of faith, and to do God’s work in the world, caring for each other and their neighbors. It’s also why those with means gave the first fruits of their labors to God. Giving to God was not what was left. Giving to God came first, and everything else followed.  

I believe that if we give abundantly, there will be more than enough resources for all our hopes and dreams to become known. This beautiful church that we call home was given by members who gave back to God years ago. How are we being called to be God’s church today, in this time and place? This year, let the fullness of our gratitude be known to God with generous hearts, sharing what has been given graciously to all of us.

With love and blessings,