This is that time of year that I am sure most clergy like just about as much as having a tooth pulled without anesthesia; it is that season when we endure the annual campaign to get parishioners to pledge their financial support of the church for the coming year.
Members of my parish will soon be receiving a letter and a flyer encouraging them to think about the “rainbows” all about us in our lives and in the church. The letter will suggest that they find the rainbows that encourage them to come to our church for worship and fellowship and celebrate those rainbows with their pledge … with the biggest pledge they have ever made.
In another week or so, the parishioners will receive another letter, another flyer, and a pledge card for 2008. This letter may also include a budget worksheet setting forth some of the possibilities and priorities of the vestry for mission and ministry (whether it does will depend upon actions taken at the vestry meeting on October 22, 2007).
When a Christian considers how much to pledge and how much to give to his or her church, the Episcopal Church teaches that the starting point is “the tithe” – the biblical call to return to God, through the religious establishment, one tenth (10%) of our earnings. In the July 2001 issue of Networking, the newsletter of the Episcopal Network for Stewardship, Terry Parsons (Stewardship Officer of the Episcopal Church), set forth these facts about tithing in an article entitled The Give and Take Connection:
Did you know that if Christians in the United States had tithed in 1998, they would have contributed an additional $131 billion to their churches? International organizations that deal with health matters estimate that $2.5 billion annually could stop an estimated 11.1 million deaths of children under the age of five that take place each year. These are the so-called preventable deaths due to things like starvation and the lack of immunization as well as what most U.S. parents consider ordinary medical care. That’s right. We could have prevented the deaths of approximately 30,410 children each day and still had $128.5 billion left over! We could have spent $7 billion providing primary education for the world’s children who are currently without it and doled out another $70 to $80 billion providing basic services for the rest of the world’s population in need of same. Still, we would have had a princely $40.5 to $50.5 billion or so to lavish on ourselves in the form of priests, musicians, youth leaders, lay leadership training and Christian formation, plus we could repair leaky roofs, wheezing organs and rusty plumbing, and then do new construction and assorted other maintenance and ministry needs here at home. Sounds downright miraculous, doesn’t it? And all it takes is a faithful ten percent from each of us.
Wikipedia reports the following about our city, based on the 2000 census:
The median income for a household in the city was $50,226, and the median income for a family was $57,435. Males had a median income of $42,437 versus $26,893 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,709. About 5.1% of families and 5.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.1% of those under age 18 and 6.2% of those age 65 or over.
Our parish has approximately 160 active member households. If each of those households earned only the per capita income shown in these data, and if each of those households pledged a tithe, the parish’s income from pledged contributions would be $347,360! If each of those households earned the per household median and tithed, the total pledged income would be $803,680.
That’s something to think about! It certainly demonstrates that what Terry Parsons wrote about is true in our church and our community!