I vividly recall my first visit to St Paul’s some thirty years ago. I was a young church musician and had been invited by a friend who is a Priest to attend Evensong & Benediction. You can well imagine my surprise when, as one of our anthems says, "the house was filled with smoke" – not to mention when the lights went out! All joking aside, I can honestly tell you that I had never experienced more dignified worship. The beauty of the music and liturgy was transcendent. For me, St. Paul’s is, and continues to be, the "gold standard" for Liturgy and Music.
One will inevitably hear the phrase "joyful giver" at least once during a parish stewardship campaign. I must admit that I do not entirely know what it means to be a joyful giver. In the context of daily life, I’m anything but joyful in parting with my hard earned money unless it is a gift for someone special or a night out with friends. I still give. But why?
I know everyone goes on about stewardship and avoiding or repeating the words and concept. Sometimes I let the rhetoric just roll over me. I get uncomfortable at all the words about commitment and obligation, because they all press in on my sense of freedom of choice. I was reading one of the appeals with lots of “musts” and “should” and “intentions” and “returning unto God what he has given us” etc. But each year, I come to that request envelope. And I have my own thought process.
Stewardship is based upon the fact that all that we have and all that we are comes from God. We commit ourselves to stewardship as a way of thanking God for all his blessings; returning to him a portion of the time, talent and treasure He has allotted to us. Christian stewardship is an expression of basic discipleship; it is a way of life, not a program to be followed for a fixed period of time. Stewardship should be viewed as a sacrificial and sacramental offering. Guided by prayer, each of us must make a decision to live out the Christian life as good stewards.