Dean Letter: Why give to church?

Hello St. Paul’s,

From time to time people wonder why we ask you to make a financial pledge to the Cathedral community’s general operating fund. It may be that you come from a faith community where that isn’t the practice, or maybe you’ve heard that we have a large endowment fund that supports our operations, or maybe you believe that the sale of the land next to the Cathedral has put us in a position where parishioners no longer have to provide financial support. So here are some basic principles about giving to the church.

The first and most important point is that giving is good for the soul. Living in gratitude is a healthy state of mind and heart. We give back to God a portion of all that God has given to us, out of gratitude for all our blessings and particularly for the blessing of being loved by God. This is a different motivation from giving to a worthy cause such as the food bank or the opera: it is a spiritual discipline of gratitude directed to God, and the way we do that is by focusing our giving on the faith community where we most directly encounter God.

Pledging and giving to the church’s general fund is a gesture of commitment to the community as a whole. It says that you trust the elected leaders of the parish, the Dean and Chapter, to determine how best to use our resources for the good of the whole church. It is wonderful when people make donations to the pastoral needs fund or the music fund, but we need to remember that we cannot offer any of our ministries unless we are first able to keep the lights on and the staff employed.

Pledging for the year ahead (and then fulfilling that promise!) allows us to plan and have confidence in what will come in during the year, so that we can give our employees some security and work towards a common vision.

For those who are unfamiliar with the governance of the Episcopal Church, we do not receive funding from the wider church; on the contrary, each fall we are required to pledge a minimum of 10.5% of our annual income to the diocese, and the diocese in turn pledges a percentage to The Episcopal Church. Other than an occasional grant from the wider church for a specific purpose, we receive no outside assistance.

Thanks to the generosity and vision of past parishioners who included the Cathedral in their estate planning, we have some invested funds, which are sometimes referred to as an endowment. Some of these have been designated by the givers for specific purposes such as outreach or music education. The endowment committee oversees the stewardship of these funds, which are actively managed by professionals. Similarly, the proceeds of the sale of the 525 Olive parcel yielded funds that have been invested. There is some discretion as to how much we draw from these funds, depending on the needs of the Cathedral, but our policy is to draw no more than 5% annually from these funds.  Chapter’s priority is to preserve the capital of these funds so that they will continue to yield income for the long-term future of the cathedral.

While the policy allows us to draw up to 5% from our invested funds for the support of the operating budget, currently we are drawing 4.4%. This allows the fund balance to keep pace with inflation and grow, providing income to support our mission for years to come. Together, the income from both funds this year provides about 25% of the annual operating income of almost $1.5 million. Individuals’ pledges account for about 67%, so individual donations are extremely important.

About six weeks from now we will launch our 2022 pledge campaign, and you will be hearing a lot about why people give and the difference your gifts can make. I hope you will prayerfully consider making a meaningful pledge for the year ahead, in gratitude for all that God has given you. Every gift counts! Thank you for your generosity and commitment to St. Paul’s.

See you on Sunday!

Your sister in Christ,
Penny

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1 thought on “Dean Letter: Why give to church?”

  1. Thank you Reverend Penny for this clarity and transparency. It’s very refreshing. Especially important is your first point — that giving changes the giver, and that is the real reward. This is a principle I have seen at work many times in my life as a speaker and performing artist. Free talks and free shows draw a light crowd, and tentative engagement. Charge a small entrance fee, and voila, suddenly, the crowd swells, and because of the heightened buy-in there is a communal expectation of value. And guess what? Value happens. Money is a symbol of time, energy, and talent. When we offer it freely, we experience an in-flow that is at first counter-intuitive — baffling even. But after a while we deepen into the realization that this is how EVERYTHING works, and we have simply stepped into an ancient river of continual abundance that belongs to no one and everyone at the same time.

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