Insights by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty
There is so much need in the world and I am personally inundated via email and phone on a daily basis with requests for financial support. I am shocked that so many people and organizations reach out to me when I am barely able to have the resources to make an impact, but I try with what I have to be generous. I remember reading somewhere that those that reside at or below the poverty line are, based on proportion, some of the most generous people on the planet. They give and give and give even though they have so little. I would venture a guess that the “poor” are only poor in monetary means and wealthy where it counts most. I am not poor but I am inspired by the commitment to such acts of generosity. Personally, I have to triage the requests I receive for financial, emotional and physical aid in a methodical way because my heart could bankrupt me if I let it run rampant. At times I fantasize that I use discernment like a fine surgeon deciding on why, how and where my financial support will be most effective. I wish that I was able to fund every single campaign and cause that comes my way but it is impossible to balance all of the requests and needs. I wonder why and what it is that affects me when I am making such impossible decisions about where to send money and spend time and what I should refuse? It is hard to refuse even the inebriated homeless person on the street who pulls at my heart strings. But it is true that I have to be judicious with my generosity. My methodology begins with the obvious… I try to first act locally with friends and family and donate time and treasure to those I love, then I expand out my reach to those organizations and people who can make a difference in the lives of those in my town, county and state. Lastly, I donate to organizations that have a global impact with regard to racial, Identity and economic equality, environmental justice and animal rights. This strategy does not preclude sponsoring someone participating in a fundraiser for a good cause, such as last week’s concert for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at First Parish.
So where is the spiritual in generosity and stewardship? When we are touched by the needs of others we make a choice whether or not to respond, whether to care enough to be compelled to give of our time and treasure. The ideals that we lean on in that moment of inspiration to give, and to give till we feel it, is a spiritual act of caring and commitment for something outside of our self and our closest loved ones. If we give till we feel it we are reminded of the importance of our connection to what we are called to support and believe in, this is what makes our intention and commitment more meaningful.
As pragmatic as I wish I could be about generosity and stewardship I ultimately turn to my heart, I turn to my spiritual self to help me make informed decisions about how and what to give myself over to. The reason that I am writing about generosity is because March is traditionally the time of our annual canvass at First Parish of Sudbury. As members and friends of First Parish I hope that you feel compelled to share your talents and treasure with this community that is literally yours. It is true that just like every other non profit we contact you frequently asking for your support: can you do coffee hour, usher, greet, serve on a committee, build a habitat house, walk in a fundraiser, come and donate to the auction, make soup or help with the Harvest Fair and share your talents once again?
This month we will be asking for your annual commitment for financial support. Regardless of what you like about First Parish: Sunday service, Religious Exploration, Social Hour, Craft Group, Meditation, Salon, Seekers Gatherings, AA or a program that we have not yet conceived, First Parish is an important part of our weekly experience. Last week, as we brought new members into our community I asked what it is that you like most about First Parish and invariably the answer always is, “you like one another.” First Parish and its members and friends are what should inspire us to be generous. The membership of First Parish supports all of the work and programming of the volunteers and staff of the Meetinghouse as well as the actual cost of the maintenance of the historic building and grounds. Together with a small staff (your guides) we adventure into this life mindfully with an open heart as our covenant calls us to do. We operate with a financially conservative mindset, we run on a very lean budget and we need friends and members to share your wealth so that we may carry the load of this community together.
This year the leadership and I are going to ask you to be a bit more generous. Our strategy calls for us to expand the hours of a specific staff member in the coming year 2017-2018. First and foremost we are hoping to offer Chris Scheller, our director of religious exploration, an increase in hours to 35 per week (he currently has 25 hours per week). The Religious Exploration program has been consistently growing and we expect it to continue to grow in the coming year. We would like to engage Chris in continuing to lead an adult meditation class on Tuesdays at 12:00 and we would like to offer more staff-led adult exploration experiences in the upcoming year. There is also some painting that needs to take place on the Meetinghouse and of course we really would love to do an update on the Parish Hall kitchen. You will hear more about our plans as we share them in the upcoming month of March.
Therefore, I ask you to be generous to one another this year as we endeavor to grow and continue to evolve as a community.
One last point, we do not have a large membership, we do not receive funds from some guiding ecclesiastical body, we do not have some ancient endowment in large measure we are on our own as the stewards of First Parish and we are planning for the long haul. So when you think of giving this year remember that organizations such as Amnesty International or the American Cancer Society need our donations, however, what the general public offers is a drop in a very big bucket, very large donors are truly their focus. These non profit organizations have large staff needs, program and event budgets. For First Parish to continue to exist, survive and thrive we need each and every member and friend to participate because we are such a lean “sharing the love” machine. We need one another to show up and give till we feel it because at the end of the day we are the ones who support our needs and journeys and acts of spiritual care and kindness.
Thank you in advance for your continued commitment and generosity for this community of reason, hope and love.
Be The Light!