The reason I pledge annually to St James’:
I grew up in a family that was connected to church. My grandparents and my parents were active and involved in the church community and held positions of Lay leadership. We were members of a faith that experienced a split over polarizing social issues near the end of my high school years. The division resulted in my family leaving the church we had attended and moving to another. I was young and spiritually immature. My adolescent wisdom led me to conclude that I never wanted to be a part of church politics. I was spiritual and wanted to continue to be but disillusioned about the affect of political divisiveness on my church and the effect it had on me. So I didn’t disconnect spiritually but my connection to the church was on the periphery.
After leaving home for college, my involvement in church was for the most part when I went home for holidays. My own independence was my higher power.
I was casually introduced to the Episcopal Church by a college friend during lent and was immediately attracted to the liturgy and the way of worship. So while living in Jackson during college and graduate school I regularly attended St. Andrew’s mostly by myself. I vividly recall a sermon by the dean of St. Andrews’ on stewardship Sunday that convinced me even more that I was in the right place. I’ll share what I recall him saying a bit later. At any rate I continued on in faith between God and myself playing itself out in the nave of an Episcopal church. The liturgy suited me, the architecture and music really suited me, the order of service suited me and I felt as much a part as I wanted to be.
I read and educated myself about Episcopal Church history, doctrine and so on. I wasn’t confirmed for many years however I identified with the Episcopal Church as my faith. There were periods when I didn’t attend church much and periods when I attended regularly.
When I first visited St. James’ there was an interim rector and a search was underway for a permanent one. The church itself situated right in the middle of a neighborhood was sort of magical. The strength and commitment of the members of St. James’ that I perceived attracted me to the communion here. But still I was comfortable on the perimeter. My friend Sheila who is a single mom and I started attending and bringing her son, Sam as a toddler. The church recruited a rector and we kept coming back. We felt welcomed. The clergy were warm and welcoming as were the parishioners.
When we decided to have Sam baptized at St. James’ he was a little older than the usual age for baptism. We reached out to the clergy and they reached back. He was baptized and I am his Godmother, a role I take very seriously. We were confirmed and he was confirmed and our family became a part of this communion. He has grown up here. Soon he will leave for college to find his independence and St. James’ will have a lasting impression I know on his spiritual development…. such a beautiful thing! Thanks be to God.
For me, I treasure my relationship with St. James’. I have gently discovered deepening of the mystery of faith here. The dean of St. Andrew’s left an impression with his sermon that Fall morning a few decades ago when he said that to him “giving in the Episcopal church was not opening your purse until it hurts, but giving until it feels good”. I’ve experienced that and it is real for me. For years I didn’t pledge. I gave, but did it anonymously when the plate was passed or when a special need arose. I do pledge now …not because I feel like I should or because I feel guilty. What I give makes me feel good because I am giving back to a church and to a faith that reached back when I reached out. I would welcome anyone who would like to talk to me to email me personally or call me. I would love to tell you more.