Recently, a UUA staff member attended a service at First Parish Brewster, Unitarian Universalist, in Brewster, MA. This congregation happened to be leading a service about happiness and its connection to giving. For congregations who are struggling with ideas on how to incorporate these types of discussions into their church service in a creative way, First Parish is a great example of a congregation who is using creativity to start conversations about stewardship.
Here is an excerpt from First Parish’s sermon, which built a connection between personal happiness and giving generously. In this excerpt, Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz discusses a few ways to practice compassion as a means of finding your happiest self. Compassion and happiness are linked with stewardship in a story about First Parish’s own church community:
“…Find a community to practice with – a group of people who are mutually committed to each other’s practice of compassion. A lot of the small groups in this church partake of this happiness. In Small Group Ministry, six to 12 people come together with a mutual commitment to listen to each other, to hear one another’s stories non-judgmentally, with compassion in their hearts. If you’re not in one of these groups this year, please consider whether you might be able to join in the fall.
The happiest people I’ve met in this church were in a group that met only three times. This was a class gathered by Judy Jollett to consider a practice of giving one gift a day for 29 days. People report that this helps them to focus on what it is they have to give and not on what their limitations are. The third meeting of that group, not quite a month ago, virtually rocked with joy. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. People reported finding joy in the most ordinary things – large and small ways they had discovered that they could give to someone else. Like taking the time to look in the eyes of a harried checkout clerk, and smile, and say, “Don’t worry. I’m in no hurry.” When we take the time to pay attention to what we have to give, our hearts overflow with generosity. Giving becomes a way of life, a path that leads to happiness.”
There are also members of the congregation who have gotten involved in stewardship conversations in their church. Here is an excerpt from a testimonial, titled “This I believe,” which was written by lay leader Kevin Lowey.
“I know we are capable of this type of abundance. Here’s just one sign of our changing prosperity. Last year our open plate collections totaled $14,000. Guess how much has been collected this year to date?…If you guessed $28,000, you’re right!! There’s a growing momentum and a renewed vision here at First Parish. If we can put the same spirit of generosity and abundance into the commitments we make this spring to support our church, it will allow our leaders to build a budget that will make good on the potential that I think all of us are feeling. I know I’m feelin’ it!”
While each congregation may approach stewardship conversations differently, this blog was meant to illustrate how thoughtful church members and staff can be when discussing stewardship. Special thanks to Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz, Rev. JD Benson, Allison Beavan and Kevin Lowey for their permission to highlight their work on our blog.