Diocesan Stewardship Commission Meets in Johnstown
Christian Stewardship - A Way of Life
JOHNSTOWN, PA -- The Diocesan Stewardship Committee met with His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas at the chancery offices in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on January 22-23, 2010.
The Commission was appointed by His Eminence following the July, 2009 Sobor, during which Father Basil Aden offered a presentation on the concept of Christian stewardship generally, and more specifically in the context of financial support for our local parishes and diocesan apostolates.
This newly-formed Commission is chaired by Father Frederick Watson, pastor of St. Elizabeth mission parish in Woodstock, Georgia. Father Basil, pastor of Christ the Saviour parish in Rockford, Illinois, Deacon Steve Hall of St. Thomas the Apostle mission in Waldorf, Maryland, and diocesan Trustee John Bilanin of Holy Ghost parish in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania also serve on the Commission.
Metropolitan Nicholas opened the Friday afternoon meeting with prayer and by welcoming the commissioners. He expressed his view that the development of a diocesan stewardship program is now long overdue, and that he looks forward to fruits of the Commission’s labors.
The Commission began its first formal working session with a review of the work assignments that its members completed since its establishment in late July. The commissioners agreed that Orthodox Christian stewardship is a Christ-centered lifestyle – a way of life – which acknowledges accountability, reverence and responsibility before God. It is a call to all the faithful to share willingly and cheerfully the gifts that God has bestowed on them, including sharing these gifts for God’s work in His Church.
A draft set of goals and objectives aimed at promoting stewardship - this ‘way of life’ – were also reviewed and adjusted to accommodate the near (current year) and intermediate (second and third year) needs of our parishes and diocesan apostolates. These goals and objectives guided the remainder of the work of the meeting.
The Commission conducted a survey of diocesan parishes between October and December of 2009 in order to better understand the sources of financial support in the parishes, and the relative contributions among those sources. Thirty-three of seventy-six parishes (43%) responded to the survey. The results indicate that two-thirds of responding parishes use a dues (‘fee’) system for a portion of their income, and that half of these parishes use income from dues to support their general funds. A quarter of parishes are using a pledge system – an important step toward proportional giving, and pledges accounted for 90% of total income in one of these parishes. The percentage of pledging parishes was found to be much higher among our missions than among older, established parishes. However, there are also examples of established parishes recently moving to this form of stewardship. Detailed information on their new programs was provided to the Commision by two of these parishes. These ‘early adopters’ are recognized as potential resources for promoting stewardship throughout the diocese.
The Commission recognized that its focus in the near term must be to provide educational opportunities that will explain and encourage Christian Stewardship as a way of life, and that the educational process must be clearly rooted in the teachings of our Lord.
With the blessing of His Eminence, the Commission’s 2010 goals include the following:
• A presentation during the Priest’s Convocation during Bright Week (April).
• Preparation of a Stewardship booklet prior to the re-convening of the Sobor (June).
• A series of Messenger articles on Stewardship (July and following).
• Youth lessons on Stewardship for inclusion in the diocesan Summer Camp program (July-August).
• A presentation at ACRY Convention (September).
• A presentation at the annual Education Conference (Tentative – October).
• A presentation at the annual Deacons Retreat (December).
The Commission also agreed that our stewardship educational process must include the gifts of ‘Time, Talent and Treasure’ – all aspects of God’s generous gifts to us.
The Commission’s meeting closed on Saturday with prayer. The participants departed for home with their respective assignments, to work together toward the day that, to quote Fr. Basil, “Our giving becomes ‘Thankfulness-driven,’ and not simply ‘Expense-driven.’”