Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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December 8, 2023

Sisters and Brothers,

One of the things that I was warned about by many of you when coming here was “talking about money.”

“We’ve gotten calls begging for more money.”

“We’ve been told that we can’t afford to (fill in the blank).”

“We’re just going to close, so we just need to save to hold out as long as we can.”

“We can’t ask people to give what they don’t have.”

Imagine my optimism upon hearing these admonitions, knowing that I was part-time with no Music Director and a long list maintenance projects. There was also the deep irony in all of this that y’all wanted me to be full-time and have a permanent musician and new carpet and the roof not to leak and to repave the parking lot…

 But, all of that seemed impossible because of what you have been told for years and what you began to tell each other about your life together. Anxiety and shame powerful feelings, sometimes they get a bad rap because like all feelings, they are the appropriate emotional response to a situation. Anxiety and shame, however, are often experienced when the situation doesn’t call for either. Further, while they are “situational” emotions – meaning they are reactions – they often linger long past their effectiveness. The cautions I was given around money early on were (and are driven) by anxiety and shame. They are accompanied by statements like:

 “We don’t have (fill in the blank).”

 “We are not (fill in the blank) enough.”

 “We need to (fill in the blank) and then things will be (fill in the blank).”

 Phooey. Bologna. Rot. Bah! Humbug. That’s what I have to say to all of that. Among the problems with Church Annual Stewardship Campaigns and Appeal Letters are that you’ve heard it all before. You’ve heard about the enumeration of true operating expenses and the appeal to reach a specific goal. You’ve heard the theological arguments about returning the first and best (fill in the blank) percentage of your income to God. You’ve had Vestries pass resolutions normalizing the passage of only “balanced budgets.” Another problem is that this is NOT how other non-profit institutions go about funding missional, programmatic, or capital priorities. Advocacy and appeals for funding are truly year-round, and they are not about getting blood from turnips or begging. Advocacy and appeals for funding are about aspiration, passion, commitment, relationship, and participation in the institution.

 So, together, let’s change our financial narrative from one of undue and unmerited anxiety and shame by living out our hopes, desires, passion for our life together here at St. Bart’s – a life lived before the face of God in worship, service, fellowship, and formation. That our life together carries expenses is only one truth, but it is a truth to take seriously. To do that, the newly appointed Stewardship and Development Committee has started their work of identifying Operational and Capital priorities. Their process will identify work to be done, process changes to be made to align St. Bart’s with best business practices, identify current assets and assess how they may be best utilized, and seek new funding opportunities. Please see their statement included on this email.

Finally, I will offer no flowery language about God’s abundance or God magically providing. I will offer no manipulative call about obligation or sacrifice or gratitude. (You’ve heard it all before) I won’t ask you for a penny. I will simply say that in the Christian life, very often, the best we can do is wake up, say our prayers, plant our feet and try our best. I watch y’all do that everyday in our life together, and I am so proud of you. You ARE more than beautiful/faithful/generous/smart/loving ENOUGH. You ARE more than creative/determined/resilient/passionate ENOUGH. You need not wait on God to magically provide. Set aside our anxiety and shame about money. God has already given us all that our life together needs to make St. Bart’s who and what she is called to be. I trust in your passion for and generosity to our life together, and I thank you, in advance, for your prayerful commitment.

Happy Advent. I am your brother,