Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, July 18, 2016

Outreach Giving FAQ - Rector's Rambling for July 17, 2016

Next Sunday we have a really big, and important, event happening at St. John’s.  On July 24, we will be issuing our first set of checks through the work of our recently formed Outreach Committee.  Thirteen organizations applied to the committee for grants, and are being issued checks ranging from $1,750 to $5,000.
Desiring to make some impact in our neighborhood, all organizations receiving grants do ministry here in Detroit, some of them as close as two blocks away from St. John’s.  The desire of the committee, which was commissioned and empowered by the vestry, was to find and support organizations doing work among the poor, with youth, in education, for the betterment of neighborhoods, and in the arts.  Most of the organizations receiving grants qualify on more than one of those goals.
There seems to be some confusion about the work of the committee, and the purpose of these grants, so I will attempt to address that here.

Q – Where is this money coming from?
A – In July 2015, we signed, with a subsidiary of Olympia Development, a long-term lease of part of our property on what is now our parking lot.  Eventually, a five-story apartment building will be built there, we will park in the garage now under construction behind the church, and we will have a greatly enlarged and re-designed garden next to the church for our use and enjoyment.  The income from that lease is greater than it was when we used it as a parking lot, and the vestry wanted to share a portion of that blessed increase with others.
Q – What do you mean by a portion?
A – We are giving away a TITHE of the income from the lease.  A tithe is the FIRST 10% of one’s income and is the biblical expectation for giving.  We hope that parishioners are working toward our Lord’s expectation to tithe of each person/family’s income, and the vestry is leading by example by also giving a tithe of this yearly windfall.
Q – Shouldn’t we fund our own projects around St. John’s first?
A – We have plenty of projects to do around St. John’s, and have gotten a good start on completing those.  But outreach giving is important because we need to learn to be generous with what God provides for us and allows us to have.  That is why God calls for the tithe of the FIRST 10%, not what is left over.  It is all too easy to be all inward looking.  But experience shows that those who are generous in giving reap greater rewards and blessings (not necessarily monetarily).
Q – Shouldn’t these people attend St. John’s?
A – We would love to have all people attend St. John’s, but we are not buying new members.  In fact, experience shows that those who are learning to be generous are also congregations that are growing.  The growth isn’t necessarily from those they are helping, but because they are learning to be generous, and loving, and faithful by giving, and that is a winning combination in attracting people into our fellowship.  Even if not a single person involved with these ministries ever joins St. John’s, it is okay.  God will be faithful to provide for us as he has in the past.
Q – Shouldn’t we help in another way instead of just writing a check?
A – This is not an either/or proposition.  We are doing BOTH.  We have received a financial windfall and it is our bounden duty to share of that bounty.  But we also are offered opportunities to come alongside these groups and volunteer!  On September 18, we will have an Outreach Opportunity Fair, where these organizations will be providing information on their work, and looking for people who might be interested in helping.  The commitment could be from as small as making sandwiches one day a month, to being trained to help with a weekly tutoring program.  Additionally, coming alongside these ministries we do not duplicate what is already being done by others, while we discern what external ministry God may be calling the parish to begin.
Q – What is the bottom line on all this?
A – The bottom line is that God loves a cheerful giver.  So let us be cheerful about giving of this financial windfall, as we learn to be generous in the giving of our time and talent as well.
Mother Teresa was once asked how she did such hard work, and she said she tried to see Jesus in every person to whom she ministered.  We are looking to see Jesus as we write these checks, and look forward to ministering WITH others in Jesus’ name.
A special thank you to Cathy Morgan for her motivating and organizing force behind this committee.