By Mike Schmidt
George asked me a couple of weeks ago to talk for a few minutes about how I feel about stewardship as it relates to my Christian journey. Without going into a lot of detail, after a long straightaway, my Christian journey has taken some unexpected turns. I became a Christian when I was 18, and was very active in a pretty conservative Baptist church, for the next 30 years. It was a growing and exciting church, the place where we raised our family and invested our lives. And for most of that time I assumed that things would just continue in that same way for the rest of our lives. But we gradually changed and began to feel uncomfortable and out of place. And through a series of events and realizations, we unexpectedly found ourselves leaving that church. We thought we’d quickly find another place where we felt more comfortable, but we didn’t, and we spent the next 15 years of our lives as somewhat disillusioned “semi-believers,” skeptical about much of what we had formerly believed so easily. I still considered myself to be a Christian, but that was about as far as I was willing to go.
Nearly 2 years ago, we first visited ECA. Why? There was some spiritual hunger and some loneliness there. Why ECA? We had learned a little bit about the Episcopal Church. We understood it to be tolerant of a wide range of spiritual beliefs and personal choices. The three-legged stool concept (scripture, tradition, and reason) was appealing to us. Why did we continue attending? People here were very welcoming. You kept inviting us to various events, breakfast, and into your homes; and we were hungry enough spiritually and socially to accept. We were invited to the two meetings where the whole church met and tried to envision the kind of church they wanted to be, at the beginning of the pastoral search process, and we were attracted by the collective heart of ECA. You envisioned a spiritual community that loves God, looks after one another, and reaches out into the greater community.
So what about stewardship? To me, stewardship means that as followers of Christ, we wisely and faithfully invest the abilities, time, and money that God has given us. Look around you at ECA. ECA sits on a great piece of property, we worship in a beautiful sanctuary, the arrangement we have with our partner church through Joint Venture is very unique, ECA is involved in some great ministries, ECA had the wise foresight to invest in a rectory, there have been youth groups here that helped raise your children into caring, productive adults–these are all things we enjoy today because of the wise and faithful stewardship of others, including many of you.
So what does stewardship mean for me personally? For now, it’s the realization that if I’m going to be here, and benefit, I need to do my part. What should I do? I should be open to opportunities that arise, and say “yes” to a few of them, which I’ve tried to do. What should you do? The same thing–be open to opportunities and say “yes” when you can. How much should I give? That’s a little trickier, because there’s a history there for me. Last year I settled on giving a little more than I was comfortable with, and this year an increase. How much should you give? I wouldn’t presume to tell you. But I think perhaps more is expected of us when we’re giving out of a great abundance. I don’t think of myself as rich, but when I consider how most of the world lives, it changes my perspective. There are a lot of good things happening here. It takes all of us, giving of our abilities, time, and money, for those things to continue and increase, which is what we all want.