Our 2012-13 Stewardship activities begin this week, as we return to our perennial practice of gathering promises of financial support for Cedars’ coming year. The effort always seems to challenge us, but there is pleasure to be found in the doing, and we also always seem to succeed, as demonstrated by our 53 years of continuing history (which of course is a significant source of additional pleasure).
So, once again, what is stewardship and why are we doing it?
Stewardship is taking care of our beloved community’s ongoing viability, and the objective, simply put, is to set up the funding for our next church year. Our pledged or promised contributions then allow a realistic budgeting process. And as funding allows, that latter process provides an excellent opportunity to consider new possibilities in our programs (especially in our newly re-energized Religious Education/Exploration programs).
Our co-ministers’ column of two weeks ago set the stage for this year’s planned effort. With trustee Arlene Wade providing leadership of a board-based stewardship team, we’ve planned a new approach that will rely less on meetings and more on our growing abilities in cyberspace (or the email, internet, and social media universe where we increasingly find ourselves). We’ll begin the process with a special focus in this week’s Sunday service, then introduce a new stewardship website (where much of our personal activity can take place whenever it’s most convenient), and organize a couple of cottage meetings designed especially for those new to the process, wanting more information, or uncomfortable with espeak and the internet. We’ll subsequently follow-up with those who need additional help with what it’s all about, and celebrate our accomplishments in late April.
Words and concepts like viability, funding, and budgeting don’t have the magnetism of community, dream, and success, but the first set underlies the second. Our beloved Cedars community is here because of our stewardship over all those years. We have cared for the dream, and that dream has grown to become a significant part of our lives.
The positive energy in Webster Hall on Sunday mornings rises as our congregation gathers. We join each other in greetings, sharing, singing, and conversation afterwards. Our children assemble in front of us and then go off together in age-appropriate groupings while we remain together for what has been well-described as “spiritual recharging.” And the rest of each week includes the various activities and services of our expanded church life—programs and study courses, book and affinity groups, connection dinners and auction events, district and youth events, meetings and work sessions, even choir practice. Our Cedars community life embraces us all, and it’s getting better.
But behind the energy and vitality we all appreciate is an institutional infrastructure providing organizational structure and continuity. Here we are a non-profit corporation and an employer. Programs and professional staff need funding and salaries, meeting and office space comes with rental and supply expenses, and our UU identity means sharing in the costs of denominational presence. And because our contributions are our only source of funding, our vitality depends on our generosity.
Speaking personally now, Sally and I have long been active members of this congregation, and our relationship to Cedars has become increasingly meaningful as it has developed the organizational depth and institutional stability that we now enjoy. We no longer think of our pledging as giving, but rather as contributing toward growth and enrichment in our own and others’ lives here. We have lived better and more satisfying lives because of Cedars, and our pledging is a way of expressing gratitude as well as ensuring that Cedars will continue to be here for all of us. We hope you are coming to feel the same way!
Richard (& Sally)