We have been rehearsing the phrase “Stewards of Faith” since the Diocese of Rupert’s Land Synod 2016. The phrase seems new to most of us, and some of us have been unsure what it means; I still get lost in the deep images the phrase conjures up for me. But, I believe “Stewards of Faith” to be an increasingly valuable name for something we have always highly valued: Generosity.
Stewardship Development is part of a title I have been wearing for a few years. That title, like Stewards of Faith, is a bit of a puzzle for our diocese, in that some folks might think that my role is to enhance the flow of cash from pocket to plate and not a whole lot more. I, however, believe my role is to teach how God’s generosity patterns and reforms the Church each new day.
Exploring God’s generosity in ourselves, in our worshipping communities, and as the Church called and sent in our neighbourhood(s) has always been a matter of Christian faith. Thanksgiving for God’s generosity is central in our worship tradition, personal devotions, and blessings; our practices of fellowship and community projects all show God’s abundance in hospitality offered and accepted. The Church survives, grows, and flourishes because God’s generosity continually flows through it to care for everything else around it. God saturates us, and indeed all that lives, in generosity.
Stewards of faith are called to do nothing less than what the Anglican Church of Canada has set as its Five Marks of Mission:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
- To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers;
- To respond to human need by loving service;
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation;
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
God generously equips us to engage the continuous call to serve by giving us the strength of skill, imagination, and ingenuity through one another and our environment, our rich tradition, and the story of God’s saving acts through Christ. We accept the call to serve through our Baptism and life-long learning in the Church. We accept the responsibility of stewarding all that is entrusted to our care to further the reign of God.
So, how do we, Stewards of Faith, know we are responding well to God’s call? How do we know we are wisely utilizing God’s generosity to live out God’s mission?
Our present standards for measuring the health of Church communities are largely quantitative metrics – Sunday attendance and weekly offering. These metrics may have served us well in the past, but unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions, do little to aid Anglican faith communities in seeing their value and worth in God’s mission. What if, instead, we chose to reflect upon the quality of relationships we share outside of the buildings that house the Church?
For St. Paul’s, Fort Garry, I use a resource called the Electronic Vestry Book, developed by Brian Ford. It documents St. Paul’s vital mission and ministry happening in our wider community context. The software enables parishes to track, tabulate, and report various things a parish might wish to measure. For example, it can measure ministry and mission projects and initiatives, number of disciples involved, hours worked, types of donations, and how church buildings are used as a staging area for such work. The book can also include narrative(s), so that a running journal may show how we embraced God’s work and how we shared God’s story with God’s people. It goes a long way in showing us a clearer picture of who and what the Body of Christ is as a collection of interdependent relationships, and it shows me the good work we’re doing at St. Paul’s.
God uses our relationships in the Body to teach us about the skills and other resources that are available for us to do ministry and mission. As we “continue in the Apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and in the prayers,” we see the generosity of God perfectly enabled for this world through one another. As one Body we look into the world and realize that God is stewarding us to share our combined gifts and strengths for showing God’s kingdom. Each of our parish communities has a wealth of expertise and goodness, enough to positively impact the community that surrounds us. As we develop our relations within the Church, we build our capacity for sustained and vital ministry and mission in the wider world.
The Anglican Church is not a service industry, nor is it an exclusive members only organization that merely serves its own. The Anglican Church represents a significant Christian group that is very much alive in the mission field of God. Each steward of faith has an important story, which, once shared in community, looks sort of like a link in the chain of God’s Saving Acts. You and I are part of the product that God pours into all life everyday – God asks stewards to pour their lives out for others. God asks stewards to meet regularly to tell of the news of God’s work, to gain strength for one another, and to rejoice in God at all times and places.
A Church that wrestles and yearns to better understand the value and worth of each steward, is a Church that is actively yearning to hear God’s call.