October 13, 2009
Grace & Holy Trinity Church in Richmond, Virginia is one of a plethora of healthy Episcopal Parishes in the capital of the Confederacy. I have been privileged to be their visiting stewardship preacher and workshop leader for this year. They offer a variety of opportunities for worship that are enjoyed by an average of 300 people each week with more like 375 appearing at this time of the year: a quiet Rite 1 Eucharist with sermon at 7:45 a.m.; a lively 8:45 with plenty of children who leave for a homily at the time of the sermon with music provided by organ, piano and a band of guitars and other instruments; a traditional 11 a.m. Eucharist replaced by Morning Prayer once each month led by a wonderful choir and on the day I was present a quintet from the local chamber group. At 5 p.m. there is a service attended mostly be students from Virginia Commonwealth University that like Georgia State has grown significantly in quality, size and stature in recent years and has grown up around the church in downtown Richmond. This service drew nearly 30 people and was led by clergy and student leaders who receive a tuition scholarship. The music is simple—mostly praise style—not always unsophisticated and often quite beautiful even if the theology is sometimes lacking. That congregation engages with the preacher in some discussion during the sermon. There is something real and lively going on there.
I have not always enjoyed being a ‘visiting preacher’ but did on this occasion. It gave me great sympathy for those we invite to join us to help us engage the spiritual practices of generosity that we encourage during our annual appeals.
I emphasized the spiritual practice of generosity, especially with regard to sustained and sustaining giving. When I wrote to All Saints’ earlier in the fall and in preparation of our annual appeal, I Made some of the same points, suggesting in particular that giving $1 each week would probably be more beneficial than dashing off a cheque for $50 with the pledge card. What I did not make clear and wish that I had was that we are extremely grateful to all those who make a single gift each year and find other ways to engage and express their sustaining love for this community week in and week out.