By Mary McPherson

The opportunity to speak is a blessing and I feel privileged to do so.  I was told to tell you “how I view stewardship as it relates to my Christian journey”.  So here goes.

Most of you know I have a passion for bible study.  It began in my mid 20’s but really ignited when I was diagnosed with an “incurable” cancer 26 years ago.   Since then, I have relied heavily on my relationship with the Lord to guide me in every trial and every decision I make.   By the way, regarding the cancer, the support ECA was to me during those dark days, especially in terms of prayers is something I will forever be grateful for.

Having a passion for Bible Study means that, when it comes to stewardship, I am a “by the book” type person.  I know you all know what the good book says on this subject.  Give of the first fruits.  Tithe.  I’ll share some of my implementations/interpretations of these.

The way I have put this into practice is still evolving.  God is still speaking.  I realize I am speaking to a faith community which could teach me a lot, but I was asked to speak which I guess gives me license.

When I think, “give of the first fruits”, I think not only of crops or money, but time.  My best time of day is in the morning.  I am fresh, alert, and energetic.  My kids are now out of the house, so my mornings are my own.  After breakfast and walking the dog, I sit down with a cup of coffee and read my bible, study, and pray.  By doing this, I am giving to the Lord the best part of my day, and his abundance has been profound.  He shows me his miracles daily.  My gratitude overflows.

God makes known to me where he wants my energies focused any given day.  It was during our morning time together, he called me to lead a bible study here at ECA seven years ago.

Kate talked a couple of weeks ago about finding the place where our deep gladness meets a need  – well for me that’s a story in its own.  But let me just say, I have never done anything so effortless and rewarding as the bible study is.  In giving Him my best time, He richly rewards me with his close presence, and I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.  Where He wants me to be.

When God brought up the subject of giving several years ago, step one was to assess where we were, and it helped to not look only at church giving.

If you are like us, there are many causes God puts on your heart to give to in addition to ECA.  My goal became to give away 10% of what we bring in.  It didn’t happen overnight.  And I do have a husband to add to the equation.

I have found that whenever I consult with God He makes things easy.  (Including giving me an agreeable husband.)  There are a number of causes John and I feel especially drawn to outside of ECA.  Feeding the poor, preservation of the earth, social justice, cancer research, etc.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the requests, but making a plan of intentional giving makes it much easier for me to throw away an envelope or two that comes in the mail.

Another implementation is that I may not have tithed my whole life, and may not be able to ever “catch up” but a very easy thing to do was to put in our will that we want 10% of our estate to go to the church and our favorite charities.  That seemed like a no-brainer.  Obviously we won’t be needing it.

Lastly, I know most of you are probably familiar with this, but I’ll mention it just in case some one out there doesn’t know about it.  It’s the practice of stock donation.

Being early high tech people, HP and IBM, John and I have some stock that has a very low cost basis.  That is, we got it for much less than it’s worth now.  If we were to sell the stock, our gain on it would be taxed heavily.   By making a donation in stock, ECA receives the stock at its full value, we get to write off the full value, and no one has to pay the capital gains!

In closing, let me say that I am proud to be an Episcopalian, and a member of ECA.  There is no other church body I would rather be identified with.

I think we are on a great path with the leadership under Kate, and even beyond ECA, I admire the work of both Mary Gray-Reeves, and Katharine Jefferts-Schori.  I can’t wait to see what we can do when we put our resources together and the programs and outreach we want to have are adequately funded.