When congregations speak about money—spending, giving, or saving it—we communicate how we work as a community to live out the dreams that we hope to see realized in the world. Every line of the budget expresses a value of who we are as a religious people. We do not have a theology that relies on a higher power to provide or to see a hope come to fruition. We believe it is within our own power to provide those resources for change. What a powerful and important understanding of faith, all communicated through the work of stewardship, all through the often avoided conversation of money.
But stewardship is not exclusively about finances. Becoming a member of a faith community carries with it expectations and benefits: We will marry you to your beloved. We will bless your babies into this world and you into parenthood. We will officiate the memorial services of your spouse or friends and, eventually, care for you in your time of passing. Stewardship—or being a good steward of the congregation—is the recognition that it is one’s responsibility to care for the present and future of the community, and that, in turn, the community will care for the individual or family. It is giving for the generations—in leadership, in monetary generosity, and in spirit.
Speaking about money is difficult for many of us, especially in a place that is meant to feel worshipful. And yet, stewardship is the work of a religious community, if done with care.
Learning to be generous with our finances requires a realization that we are interconnected, that our possessions are not only ours to hold fast to. Stewardship is a practice of expressive gratitude for what is and what can be. Stewardship allows us to remove the shame and secrecy around a topic that is shared by all, no matter if we have extra to give or struggle to keep afloat.
To quote Jenny Weill, director of stewardship at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas,
If we can talk about Our Whole Lives, we can talk about money!
Indeed, and how powerful this can be.