Parish Vitality - Wise Investments
Over the past few years, we have become conscious of the dangers of accumulated debt: mortgage debt, credit card debt, student debt, budget deficits, national debt. After long periods of growth in our financial markets, we are beginning to see the results of years of living beyond our means. Now, many are feeling the pinch. In the world of finance, there is risk involved in any investment. So what shall we do? Pull all our money out of the banks and hide it under a mattress? Shall we retreat into the politics and economics of fear, or will we dare to find new, more worthy investments – while living within our means?
Jesus’ parable about three servants to whom talents are entrusted by their master makes the point that, in the spiritual realm at least, it is more risky not to invest. Too often, we underestimate our own talents. We don’t feel equipped to transmit the faith to our children, to bear witness to our faith in an increasingly secular world, so we say, “let the church take care of that.” We look around the parish and see all that needs to be done – youth ministry, hospitality, outreach to the poor and sick, upkeep of our physical plant–and can easily feel overwhelmed. Instead of developing the talents we have – our own experience of faith, our witness to the presence of God in our lives, our God-given abilities – we bury them. We don’t make them grow. And no one gains.
This weekend, many of us – pastoral team, wardens, pastoral council, and interested parishioners – have been participating in the diocesan Parish Vitality Conference. Led by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran, pastor and lay pastoral associate of the Church of the Nativity in Maryland, we are being invited to “rebuild” our parishes. How? By awakening the faithful. By reaching out to the lost. By fostering parish stewardship. Most importantly, by “making church matter”: shifting from a “consumer” model of the church as “religious service station” to a Church that forms disciples of Jesus, who are empowered to go out and share the good news, inviting others to become disciples as well.
Will this be easy? Will it happen overnight? Perhaps not. But Jesus says to us: don’t worry about what you don’t have. Share what you do have. Trust in my promise: “To those who have, even more will be given, and they will have in abundance.” Then, like the “capable wife” in today’s reading from Proverbs: an enterprising businesswoman who provides for her family, assists the poor, and is praised by all the community for the good use she has made of her talents. So let us rebuild our church together. Let us go out and invest our time, our talents, our treasure – in something that really matters. We will get a good return on our investment, for God will not be outdone in generosity