Beloved Members of St. Martin’s,
The season of Advent has just begun. It is a time of anticipation, of hope, and of preparation. That applies to our financial lives as the parish of St. Martin’s. We, your vestry and clergy, pray that you have been spending time these last many weeks considering the importance of this parish in your lives, and how best you can set it on a firm financial footing for years to come.
Advent is also about preparation for impactful, meaningful giving – giving back to ourselves as well as to our communities. In doing so, we can identify our actual capacities to give. And as Christians, especially, we cannot be afraid of the topic of money and how we can use it as part of our witness to the world as followers of Jesus.
Today is also “Giving Tuesday”—a day when so many worthy organizations ask for your support so that they can do their good work for the coming year. This suggests a chance to assess how and where we all devote our expenses. Spending creeps up on all of us, which is why it is a good thing to stop and be mindful of expenses as a percentage of our income. How much of your income do you spend on something simple like coffee over a year? For the average American, that amount in 2021 was over $2000 a year. How much of your income do you spend on memberships to health clubs (total cost $800 a year, according to CNBC) or country clubs ($12,000 a year, excluding initiation fees, in St. Louis)? The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that the average American spends nearly 6% of their income on hobbies—an amount that increased during the pandemic.
But how much do we give to sustain this parish? Unlike the Catholic Church, we do not have centuries of accumulated wealth to help pay for parochial needs. Some evangelical Protestant churches expect their members to tithe—to give 10% of their income to their faith community. In the Jewish tradition, synagogues charge a membership fee. In the Episcopal Church, as in most mainline churches, the average pledge is between 2-3% of income.
St. Martin’s is made up of people in all stages and walks of life, and of course this affects what people are able to give, both positively and courageously. We include people who worship with us in person, and people who worship with us online because this is part of our call to share the good news of Jesus as widely as possible. And we are grateful for the support we receive from each and every one of you.
The fact is that the average pledge in the Diocese of Missouri was approaching $4000 a year in 2019. St. Martin’s is NOT an average parish—we are creative and innovative, yet also practical and clear eyed in identifying needs and finding the means to address them. We need the average pledge at St. Martin’s to be at the level of $4000 a year in order to meet our expenses and continue our ministry to our families and our communities. There is nowhere else to cut expenses or staff. Our income must grow for us to thrive, and it can grow if we commit to a culture of gratitude and thankfulness for all this parish and this community means to us.
We have among us more than enough to merely make sure our beloved parish has the resources it needs to not just survive, but flourish. Through God’s grace and our faithful response, we have more than enough to support our developing ministries which embody love of God and love of neighbor.
As always, we give thanks for each and every one of you who work so lovingly to support this faith community, and to witness to the abundant love and activity of God in the world. We join with you in praying and seeking to be the boldest witnesses of Christ we can be.
In Christ’s love,
The Vestry and Clergy of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church