STEWARDSHIP

Stewardship Sunday Holy Trinity Church

On this Stewardship Sunday, the first thing I want to say before anything else is Thank you. Thank you to all of you who have helped care for this church, been part of the Trinity Cafe', been part of the life and worship of the church in the weekly services, PCC's, vergers, the grounds, the list goes on. The fact that in recent months many of you have stepped up to help with the cleaning and supporting of the various events, tells me that you care about this church and community and that you feel there is much to be thankful for.

In 2013 when preparing to come across for my interview as Rector. I was handed the Parish profile of both churches. The one for this church had a picture of the choir and members of the congregation standing outside the church. Underneath the words were something like this. We are a church that appreciates our traditional style services and worship. We are an ageing congregation who recognises that we need to make some uncomfortable changes if we are to flourish in the years to come. We are praying for a Rector who will help us move forward so that we might have a church to serve this community for future generations. A place of worship to flourish and grow.

I was licensed on the 25th November and the 100 Year celebratory Centenary service took place here with Bishop Martin on the 27th November. A moment of history. One might say a wonderful occasion except I think we all know that prior to that service both the Archdeacon and the Bishop had given this church an ultimatum. You need to find a way to change, look outside your doors or you will either close or at best struggle on over the coming years. For me that change isn't really anything to do with the services or the next best idea it is about the heart. To respond with thankfulness to God. As St Paul says as he writes to the church in Corinth. I am not commanding you but I want to test the sincerity of your love. Each of you as a heart response to God should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

Here we are three years later and we are still here and I feel hopeful on many fronts. We can look back with a sense of gratitude to God for his faithfulness to us for allowing us to continue being stewards for this church in this community in this 21st century. It is a responsibility.

Like all those mediaeval churches still standing (notably Hartfield) our church was built with the intention that it should last for a very long time, reflecting the eternal nature of our faith. Holy Trinity is our inheritance and our very substantial reserves are our endowment. It is our responsibility to manage both the inheritance and the endowment, to ensure the continued stability of the structure and its setting during our own lifetimes and preserve it for the benefit of those who follow, so that in another 100 years it will still be standing as a beacon for the community and a testament to the faith - and the foresight - of those of us who are here today.

There are projects that we are working on which will use some of that endowment to deal with our short-term needs, like the much needed improvements to the churchyard and Trinity Hall. And we will also consider ways in which it can contribute to the needs of our local community.

What we must not do is become dependent on the endowment, built up over many years, and needed for our long term future, for the everyday running  of the church. We must nor allow it to dribble away, filling the gap between our income and expenditure as has happened out of necessity over the last few years. But a long term programme for the sensible use of our endowment will at the same time help in relieving the pressure on everyday income.

It is easy to think that growing numerically is the most important factor as we think about Stewardship. After all surely a growing church is a healthy church. But actually it has been proven that isn't necessarily true.

Stewardship sounds very formal but actually stewardship really means that have been entrusted with resources and the care of everything—Creation, gifts and talents, money, time, the gospel—for the sake of God's purposes in the world. Every time we offer and use our gifts to serve God and each other, we are being good stewards of all that he has given us.

 

In the stewardship pack you will all receive as will the whole of the electoral roll. You will find me drawing your attention to the highlights of 2016. Trinity Cafe; New teddy Tots toddler group, more involved with the community, joint services, better management of the grounds and fabric of the church.

I want you to turn in your pews and look up to the back of the church. We read the words 'all things come from you O Lord and of your own do we give you'. 104 years or more ago, those words would have been inscribed by those who built this church, who laid the foundation stones, made the sacrifice to see that a church here in Coleman's Hatch was a priority for the spiritual and moral fabric of this area. A place to come and worship.

That was their legacy to us here this morning.

I want us to consider, what is the legacy we want to leave from our own lives. All of us want to do something that marks our space.

The reading we had today is St Paul writing to the church in Corinth. It really is no different from the letter I am writing to you today all those centuries later. Just posher paper.

Over the past few years our income has not kept pace with expenditure and it has often been necessary to draw on reserves. The PCC feel we should have sufficient income to cover normal costs. We can't keep on digging into our reserves, we need to use them, to spend for the future of the church. It is time to consider our giving in relation to the rest of our lives, to work out where our love and gratitude to God fits in with other priorities in their lives.

 

We need to separate out the day to day housekeeping if we want to keep the church and faith community flourishing for the next generation. You may not realise this but in order for Holy Trinity to flourish, we need St Mary's to flourish and vice versa. If we want to preserve the legacy we have here for future generations. We need to work together.

In his letter, Paul says these words ' This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. In January our PCC is having an away morning to talk through and plan for the next three years.. We will do this under the leadership of Rob Dillingham who works with the Diocese. He will look at our strengths, what are we able to do with out current congregation and is it possible to encourage a new generation to come through those doors. I want to invite as many of you as possible to join us on that morning. It will give us a sense of purpose. To look at possible prijects for the next 3 years.

As I look back over this past year, I do so with a sense of gratitude to God. In a world where the moral and spiritual fabric of the world is uncertain, the church is needed now more than ever. We have the opportunity to leave a living legacy for the next 100 years.

So please when you open up your stewardship letters and response forms, don't rush it. Do what you would do with any other important consideration. Spend time reading it. Pray about it. Think about how this church and the Christian faith have blessed you in your own life and how important it is to make sure we are not included in list of statistics of closures in this diocese and across the land.

We know we are an ageing congregation but it doesn't stop us from spending money in other areas of our lives that we enjoy and bring us fulfilment. I do believe that this is our moment to take stock and decide if we believe the inscribed words that were given to this church over 100 years ago. Are we prepared to give cheerfully, taking into account where we can make small sacrifices in other areas of our lives to make a big difference for the sake of the Gospel and the faith and worship for future generations. Our dedication Sunday will be the first Sunday in Advent a moment to bring back our response forms as we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world. As St Paul says, this service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lords people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. Amen

Sermon 6th November 2016 St Mary's

On this Stewardship Sunday, the first thing I want to say before anything else is 'thank you'. Thank you to all of you who have been part of this tremendous year within the life of this church. As I say in the Stewardship leaflet, as I look back over the year, I do so with a sense of gratitude to God for all the resources he has given us at St Mary's. For the answers to prayer, the care and love that has carried us through in good times and in the more difficult. For the provision of Katrina and Lee to grow our children's and youth work and to the teams of people who bless this church through their areas of service, prayers and commitment.

I want to thank all those who have contributed to the life and mission of St Mary's and for the way the good news of Christ reaches out to our community.

When you open up your pack, you will see I have highlighted some of the areas of growth in our church. From our children's and youth work, to our spiritual growth and discipleship. Our pastoral care and involvement in the community. We then move on to looking at our outlook for 2017. You can read that later on in your homes.

Tim has given us as he called them, the humdrum practicalities of the stewardship pack and now, for the next few minutes mine is really an expression of thankfulness to God and to you his people who make up this church. Stewardship sounds very formal but actually stewardship really means that have been entrusted with resources and the care of everything—Creation, gifts and talents, money, time, the gospel—for the sake of God's purposes in the world. Every time we offer and use our gifts to serve God and each other, we are being good stewards of all that he has given us.

In 2013 when I was preparing to come across for my interview as Rector. I was handed the parish profile of both churches. I was really taken with the vision statement.

Our vision is to build a dynamic vibrant church sharing Christ's love with people of all ages in our 21st century rural community. At the time this church was already making good strides to reaching out beyond these walls at the same time with a longing to grow.

There was a sense of longing to grow not just in number but in faith, in your outreach, especially to the younger generation. Here we are three years later and all of us here this morning have heard something of this work that has grown and flourished. St Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth, reminds us the service you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but it also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

Paul in verse 7, says but seeing as you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge and in the love we have kindled in you, then see you also excel in this grace of giving. Don't forget why we respond with thankfulness.. remember the gift of Jesus Christ who came to earth, died and rose again for us so that we might have life, He is the reason we want to respond with hearts of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Stewardship is not primarily about money it is about our response to God's grace and an expression of thankfulness in action. To offer ourselves to serve using our time and talents, to recognise we all need to play a part in the day to day and bigger picture of what makes up our church family life together. For instance, We do need more help with our teams who make sure our Sunday's from the setting up of the chairs, the welcome to the coffee at the end are a real blessing.

The reading we had today is St Paul writing to the church in Corinth, it really is no different from the letter I am writing to you today all those centuries later. Just posher paper!

Paul uses words to remind us of why we should respond with gratitude. He reminds us of what is central to our faith, let me read verses 8 and 9 from Corinthians. and then again reminds us that generosity should be encouraged. Ch 9: 7 and 12.

I am so encouraged and thankful but as you heard from Tim and as you read the material for yourselves there is much for us to consider prayerfully in terms of our financial giving and our areas of service.

This is an opportunity to consider our giving in relation to the rest of our lives, to work out where our love and gratitude to God fits in with other priorities in our lives.

At the moment if I am honest, we will not be able to continue all the wonderful things we are doing and hope to do, if we continue with the level of giving we are currently receiving. Like any family, the church family has to decide what are its priorities. It may be you haven't reviewed your giving for a while or perhaps this is the first time you have thought about giving in terms of time and money. As we have grown and flourished, the bigger the responsibility, which is exciting and challenges us to dig deep and ask God what he wants us to do.

This church was built over 700 years ago with the intention that it should last for a long time, reflecting the eternal nature of our faith. In a world where the moral and spiritual fabric of society is longing for the church to lead the way, we are already making a difference. As I look back over this past year, I do so with a sense of gratitude to God. In a couple of weeks we will be sharing with you the bigger picture for the many building projects required to make St Mary's fit for purpose in our 21st century. That faith building project will be a separate campaign to the one we are talking about today.

We have an opportunity to ensure that the next 100 years in the life of this church flourish and grow. We are grateful to past generations for the prayerful way this church has been sustained and now it is our turn to think about the part we are to play in God's Big Picture here in Hartfield. To give God as our reading from Chronicles reminds us, all that is rightly his in the first place.

We are invited to do this by prayerfully considering our support through prayer, giving generously of time, talents and financial resources. To look at where perhaps small sacrifices in other areas of life could make a big difference to St Mary's, our church family and community.

So please when you open up your stewardship letters and response forms, don't rush it. Do what you would do with any other important consideration. Spend time reading it. Pray about it. Give thanks for the way this church and the Christian faith have blessed you in your own life and respond in the way Jesus encourages us to respond, each of us should give what we have decided in our heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver. For the service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Our dedication Sunday is on the first Sunday in Advent, its the moment when we will dedicate our gifts and talents for the coming year as we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world with the words of Paul as our heartfelt thanks. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift, Jesus Christ.