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FROM THE C.O.O:
“The conflict between the narratives of abundance and of scarcity is the defining problem confronting us at the turn of the millennium. The gospel story of abundance asserts that we originated in the magnificent, inexplicable love of a God who loved the world into generous being. The baptismal service declares that each of us has been miraculously loved into existence by God. And the story of abundance says that our lives will end in God, and that this well-being cannot be taken from us. In the words of St. Paul, neither life nor death nor angels nor principalities nor things — nothing can separate us from God.
What we know about our beginnings and our endings, then, creates a different kind of present tense for us. We can live according to an ethic whereby we are not driven, controlled, anxious, frantic or greedy, precisely because we are sufficiently at home and at peace to care about others as we have been cared for.”
An excerpt from “The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity”, by Walter Brueggemann, as it appeared in Christian Century, March 24-31, 1999.
“…a different kind of present tense for us”. A present tense where we step closer to that place of being “sufficiently at home and at peace” to care for our own diocesan community as God has cared for us. Where we recognize ourselves as part of something larger, part of a community already abounding in eruptions of God’s love and Spirit-filled connections with His mission for us in the places we inhabit. Our Diocesan Convention last week raised up, I believe, just such a different kind of present tense for us.
We created five separate sacred spaces of listening and engagement with each other around each of the Anglican Five Marks of Mission. Within each of those sacred spaces we heard from our Bishop about God’s call to us in our own culture and context to live into those Marks, and about some of the transformational ministries already doing so. We watched videos and heard stories from some of the many people involved in those ministries.
Then we had the opportunity to engage with each other in small group conversations about other ways we see those Marks being lived out in our own communities. Our responses, as they were shared with the larger group using PollEverywhere technology, were captured in scrolling detail on the screens in front of us and also turned into “word clouds”right before our eyes.
What’s more, all of this amazing activity was recorded, and now appears in its own special section on our website entitled The Five Marks of Mission, and can be found here. Please take time to experience it, especially if you were not able to attend or would love some material for Lenten reflection that’s close-to-home and powerfully relevant.
That this sacred space of celebrating abundance was bookended by consideration of how we resource this incredible community we call the Diocese of New Jersey was not lost on me. In fact, it resonates deeply with the core of my ministry each and every day. It’s the place in which we found ourselves as we debated the canonical changes designed to memorialize last year’s Marks of Mission Giving resolution. It’s the place where the liturgy of abundance comes face-to-face with so very many myths of scarcity. Or, as Canon Rob Droste likes to call it; “where the rubber meets the road”.
In that place of holy tension between missional and material, between faith and fear, I often find myself, like Brueggemann, hanging on to Paul’s reassurance that “…neither life nor death nor angels nor principalities nor things — nothing can separate us from God.” Only we can do that to ourselves – by forgetting who our God is, and not recognizing who immediately steps into that void when we forget.
We can choose. God made us in His image and gave us that gift. We made some inspired, faithful, missional choices last week, rooted in that new present tense of abundance we experienced. Let’s take that forward in faith to an even more fruitful future, following in Jesus’ footsteps out into the world, to places we can’t begin to ask or imagine!
Now Go and Do:
Immerse yourselves in this new present tense. Re-visit the Marks of Mission section of our website early and often. Watch the videos. Read the text. Meditate on the word clouds. More than once. Individually, in small groups, as a congregation and together with other congregations in your region. Then send us your reflections so we can keep the conversation going, via the form below.
Just finished preparing your 2017 W-2 forms? Then this is a great time to complete the annual Clerical Compensation Report which was due to the Standing Commission on Clerical Compensation by March 1st. To use the dynamic Excel Spreadsheet on the Diocesan website, click here. To have a member of the Commission assist your congregation instead, click here to go to the 5-Question Response survey. Any questions, email the Commission at SCCC@dioceseofnj.org.
From Your Diocesan Finance Office and Diocesan Finance & Budget Committee
Living into our learnings from our Discerning Our Common Call process about the importance of communications between our Bishop and his staff, committees and commissions of our Diocese and our congregations, we hope to bring you actionable ideas on a periodic basis, and invite your feedback, questions and topics for future newsletters.
News You Can Use (and share with members of your congregation!)
Can parishioners increase their retirement income while also providing a future gift to their church or the Diocese? You bet they can!
This month we delve into the topic of CHARITABLE GIFT ANNUITIES.
What is it? Through a charitable gift annuity you can make a gift to your church, diocese or another Episcopal organization and guarantee yourself, or a beneficiary you name, an income for life.
How does it work? The annuity is a contract between you and the Episcopal Church Foundation which guarantees a fixed payment on your gift, for life. You can fund your annuity with cash or marketable securities.
What are the advantages of a Charitable Gift Annuity?
- You receive a guaranteed periodic income that is not affected by the fluctuation of the marketplace.
- You receive an income tax deduction in the year that you establish the annuity for the gift portion of the contract.
- You receive a portion of your annuity income free of federal income taxes.
- You generally are able to prorate any capital gains taxes over the expected life of the annuity payments.
- You are free of concern about money management.
How do I find out more? The information above was excerpted from the Episcopal Church Foundation’s booklet titled “Charitable Gift Annuity: Guarantee An Income for Life”. To read and/or download a copy, click on this link.
Next month, we’ll look at some specific examples of how parishioners can benefit from the use of a charitable gift annuity.
Here are a few interesting things we came across since our last issue.
Have you ever done a search for lost or unclaimed funds? It’s as easy as typing your name into the search box at missingmoney.com. The site looks for that name among the unclaimed funds programs in some U.S. states, territories and Canadian provinces. All types of personal accounts can be found including uncashed dividend checks and forgotten safe deposit box contents. At usa.gov/unclaimed-money, you’ll find more help to locate Department of Veterans Affairs life insurance proceeds, foreign claims, pensions from now-defunct companies or plans, and tax refunds, among other items. (Info excerpted from Consumer Reports, Feb. 2018)
Ever wonder why you work better in the morning than the afternoon or night? The science of “chronobiology” might help explain it. You can check out a new book by Daniel Pink titled “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing”, just published January 2018, to learn the optimum time of day for your best decision making.
UNTIL NEXT TIME—
This month we leave you with a 1922 quote from Albert Einstein on his Theory of Happiness:
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”.
Upcoming Diocesan Events
Diocesan Calendar through late winter 2018..
Save the Date!
NEW JERSEY COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Opioids: The Next Step
PART-TIME ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT POSITION
Send a resume to The Rev. J. Connor Haynes by email or mail to 145 West Broad Street, Burlington, NJ 08016.
ABOUT ELECTRONIC GIVING
St. Francis, Dunellen, is exploring setting up an electronic giving system If your congregation is using such a system, please contact them with the following: Name and contact info of the service you use, fees/costs involved for parish and/or donor, rough percentage of households that use this option, pros and cons, anything else we should know.
SEEKING LEVAS II
Proclaiming Christ in the Garden State
We are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement in the Southern 2/3 of New Jersey.