Stewardship and All the Saints
The first weekend of November presents an opportunity - will your church hear the knock and answer? Each year the liturgical calendar calls for a day to acknowledge the Saints, those who have gone before us who now reside in the presence of the Eternal. It is a day of celebration, a day of solemn remembrance, and a day to give thanks for those who taught us through their own lives the death defeating love of God.
In the congregations I served as a parish pastor, we read aloud the names of those who had gone on to glory in the last year, lit a candle, sounded a bell (or organ chime) and paused to linger just a moment longer with those who had touched our hearts. It was a sacred time. A reminder that we are indeed “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” and that the faith that is in us is a gift passed to us from another.
All Saints Day is, at its core, about legacy and promise - what has been left behind by those who have gone ahead for us to build upon and the “blessed assurance” of what lies ahead for the faithful. That future includes a way of knowing and being known beyond this life, and how to live in faithfulness in the interim. It is one of my favorite feast days of the Christian Year.
While those who observe All Saints Day often include these concepts around the Communion Table (and appropriately so), not many realize that the moment for receiving the offering may also have a deep connection to this celebration. This is the opportunity you should not miss.
What is that connection? If your congregation has ever received a monetary gift in memory of someone, if you have a permanent fund created by gifts (or a single gift) from church members the earning of which support your ministry/mission, or if you have “dedicated hard goods” (such as a piano, communion ware, pews, stained glass windows, etc.) that came from a gift or was purchased with gifts solicited to honor or memorize someone - you have the necessary connection! The offering moment now can be used to lift up these gifts, the people who gave them, and the legacy they have created.
All Saints Sunday is the perfect day to celebrate both a person (or persons) who provided for the church in their estate planning, or to lift up a person whose life is being remembered through generous gifts given in their honor. It is a moment to mark specifically what ministry/mission the gifts support - and to encourage others to follow this example of leaving a legacy because we believe that what we do makes a difference.
I know of congregations who use this time every year to publish information about their permanent funds, what those funds total in principle and what is being done with the fund’s earnings - and never forgetting to mention the names of the Saints who practiced the stewardship of a final benediction - a gift at the end of life. You can invite others to remember these beloved by adding to the funds or think about what they would like to see continue as a ministry of the church through their own chance to give a gift with the measure of gratitude they have always wanted to practice.
The Christian Church Foundation can assist you with ideas, worship resources, and plans to create such funds if you do not have them in place already. They can also provide guidance in how best to steward the treasures already entrusted to you so that the donor’s intent is honored and their gift is appropriately preserved and nurtured. It is about stewardship - for all the saints. You can contact the Foundation at www.christianchurchfoundation.org. Members of the United Church of Christ should contact the office of Stewardship and Philanthropy at ucc.org/giving