Posted: Feb 3
Stewardship and Lent
As we near the Season of Lent, lay and clergy leaders are busy planning how we will honor this season, and strengthen formation opportunities for our people. As members of a liturgical tradition, we understand the importance of this season in the life of our congregations. Among the many opportunities this season provides for us, it also gives us many chances to broaden the discussion of stewardship.
Lent is traditionally a season of penitence and reflection. It is a time to turn away from the concerns of this world, and focus our lives on the Christian Vocation: proclaiming the good news of God's reign come near. In our world, which is so driven by consumerism, greed, and wealth, this season calls us to turn away from these, and look again to the one true God. Penitence involves both a confession of past sins, and a change in behaviors and actions. How might you invite your congregation into these conversations? Here are some ideas:
1) Create a Lenten Giving Program:
This could take many forms. You could create a list of specific items and projects needed around the church, and invite people to give toward those specific projects. You could ask people to give bricks to the rebuilding of the Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which was so heavily damaged during the Earthquake there. You could identify needs in the mission projects of your congregation in you area, around the country, or internationally. The fundamental goal of such an effort is to encourage generosity as part of the Lenten practice.
2) As a parish Lenten project, create something to enhance your worship space:
A couple of years back, Good Samaritan Church in Sammamish, Washington, created mosaic Stations of the Cross during Lent. Working with an artist who designed the basic forms, the congregation gathered in work parties to create the mosaics. The results were amazing, and led to a whole series of other projects to enhance their worship space. This is a great example of members of a congregation using their creativity and their hands to create something for God's work in the world.
3) Consider Environmental Stewardship Efforts:
Lent reminds us that the world as it is is not the world as it should be. In our penitence, we are called to join with God in recreating the world. Environmental degradation is a prime example of how our focus on consumerism and wealth has harmed the God's creation. Taking on projects such as raising funds to reduce the use of disposable products (coffee cups, napkins, etc.) at the church could be a prime example of small projects which can have a significant impact. Another example might be to sell reusable shopping bags, encouraging members to stop or reduce usage of store bags, and give the funds raised to some type of environmental renewal project.
As we near Ash Wednesday, we once again are invited to walk with Jesus through the wilderness. We are asked to deny the distractions of this world, and focus on God's reign. This denial, and this refocusing, are instances of stewardship: in our lives, in our church, and in our world. Take advantage of the gift of Lent to help further the discussion of stewardship in your community of faith.
The Rev. JR Lander is Vicar of St. Columba's Episcopal Church, Kent, Washington, and vice-president of the board of directors of TENS.