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"Gratitude opens the door to abundance."

I picked up a piece of jewelry recently that had this phrase embossed on it.

It spoke to me on several levels, but today I wish to address the dreaded fall topic of Stewardship.

Yes, it's that time of year again, the time we send you an upbeat letter and a commitment card and ask you to tell us how much you're willing to support St. Stephen's in the upcoming year.

Yes, you will be getting a letter and a commitment card. Yes, we will ask you to let us know how much you're willing to financially support St. Stephen's in 2023. But let's look beyond that.

First, filling out the commitment card is totally voluntary. There is no contract involved. If you "commit" to a certain amount and your circumstances change, no problem. Do what you can.

Second, the commitment cards help us plan our budget, but it's not the only source of income we're looking at when planning the budget.

So now that the pressure is off, let's look a little bit at gratitude and abundance.

It is with gratitude that I see the faithful people who attend worship service in person on Sunday morning. The abundance of your faithfulness can be felt by those who attend.

It is with gratitude that I see a wealth of volunteers in the food pantry who carry out the mission of St. Stephen's in the community.

It is with gratitude that I see Pastor Walters so faithfully fill the role of pastor for us as we go through the call process. During the last year we have never been without faithful guidance and leadership from the pulpit.

It is with gratitude that I see long-delayed repairs being made to the church. It makes a difference to the public what our building looks like.

It is with gratitude that we welcome Claudio to our organ pit. It's wonderful to have our great organ played again on Sunday mornings.

It is with gratitude that we see that Claudio has jumped right into his position and established a concert series in record time. The first concert at Peace Week was hopefully the start of a great partnership with Cab Calloway School and St. Stephen's.

It is with gratitude that we recognize that our small church congregation was able to host a successful Peace Week event, which brought in many people from the community.

It is with gratitude that I saw us interact with everyone at the Peace Week event, whether a community member or a food pantry client. All were welcomed.

Gratitude is never ending. I could come up with more items of gratitude, but I'm running out of time as I write this on Wednesday morning.

The gratitude that I and others feel toward St. Stephen's place in the community does indeed open a door to abundance.

Abundance of thanks toward the work that St. Stephen's does in the community.

Abundance of thanks for the community we have in our congregation.

Abundance of thanks for the faithfulness to Jesus’ message we are able to display.

Abundance isn't just money, it's service, it's recognition, it's emotion, it's just....more.

Our building repairs are thankfully covered by our Endowment Fund (with gratitude to Dorothy Davis whose bequest doubled the size of the endowment fund!). But we will face financial challenges next year. Full-time ministers cost money. We are a small congregation. But I have total faith that we can take the gratitude we have for the work we do and use it to open doors to new opportunities with a new pastor.

"Gratitude is a divine emotion: it fills the heart, but not to bursting, it warms it, but not to fever." Charlotte Bronte


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