When I was asked to share my personal stewardship story, I had to laugh. I thought, “doesn’t God have a great sense of humor.” Asking me to write about giving is like asking Achilles to write about his heel. I am the financial worrywart of our family.
Deep down to my core, I know that everything on this earth and above is God’s. When I think about how God’s goodness and provision are continually evident in my life, it brings me to tears. Yet, when the time comes to make a financial commitment, I feel those “what if” questions worming their way into my mind and feeding on my fears.
“What if I lose my job?”
“What if we have a life changing medical diagnosis?”
And after years of navigating these reactions, I wish I could say that I’ve discovered the perfect spiritual thought-stopper—I haven’t—but, I am better at recognizing the “what if” spiral and lifting my anxieties up in prayer before they gain momentum.
I once heard that “money is the repository of misplaced anxiety.” That stuck with me. When on autopilot and without even realizing it, I find my sense of security and control increasing or decreasing in correlation to the level of financial buffer I have. The act of giving jolts me out of autopilot and causes me to take notice. I see it now as a vitally important time to reflect and check in—like taking a turkey thermometer to my heart. How warm or cold am I in connection to my faith or to Christ? Who (or what) am I trusting? The practice of giving has slowly become a welcomed chance to course correct and embrace this holy act with a heart full of gratitude.
Coco & Peter Hein
We came to St. James’ to form a family together.
When we first arrived, we were not yet engaged, but we knew that was coming soon, and it was important to us to find a church home where we could worship together and one day, God willing, to bring our future children. From the first service we attended at St. James’, we could feel ourselves being called to grow in our faith together.
We could also feel ourselves being welcomed. The practices that St. James’ follows to reach new members—simple things like meeting by the bell, or the ‘Start Here’ cards—were effective invitations to get to know the church better. As we spent time with Zack, Marisa, and other members of the clergy and community, we gained a deeper appreciation of what a life of faith could mean to us, and the ways God was already acting in our lives.
This September, we were married at St. James’. Looking ahead at the life we hope to lead together, we see that God’s presence in our future will be even more imminently felt than it has been in our past. The possibility of children, their health, our health, eventual old age and death—all of these things are much more immediate to us now than they once were. Choosing to start a family is an act of hope, a leap of faith—an act of trusting in God’s plan for us and for our world.
To us, making a financial commitment to St. James’ is part of that act of hope. It is about participating in the mission of the church by enabling it to welcome others and do for them what it is doing for us. Whichever chapter of your life you are living at St. James’ today, we hope that you will see how your stewardship can contribute to sustaining a church that enables you to take your own leaps of faith.
In the early years of my life at St. James’, stewardship discussions always seemed to include the phrase “time, talent, and treasure.” Of my time and talent, I was a cheerful giver—I was excited to have found a church home in New York (for however long I might find myself in New York), and even more excited to discern and develop whatever talents I might have. Also, I was fresh out of grad school and working freelance, so had a lot of time to give.
Treasure, however, was a different story. Just thinking about my tenuous financial situation made me queasy. How could I make a financial commitment to the church under such circumstances? I didn’t want to “default” on a promise to God, so I promised just a little and breathed a sigh of relief when the promise was fulfilled.
Even after my circumstances improved, my squeamishness in giving remained, convinced that my employment could end at any time. And end it did, a full decade later than I’d anticipated—two months before my daughter Virginia was born. But in these past eight years, I have seen firsthand God’s ability to accomplish, as Paul says in Ephesians, more than I could ask or imagine. In response to God’s abundance, I am striving to fear less and to trust more in all areas of my life—particularly the ones that make me squeamish.