Anyone who attends services at St. Luke’s with some regularity, who is a “giver of record” (someone whose annual giving is able to be accounted for by the treasurer) and who has notified the administration of the parish that they wish to be included on the rolls is a member. This also entails registering their baptismal information with the administrator, and if not yet baptized, engaging in conversation with the rector about their membership and faith journey.
Each Episcopal parish is self-governing and self-funding. Members of the parish are entitled to vote at the annual meeting each January for new members of the Vestry, which is the church’s lay governing body. As members and regular worshipers in this community, we are charged with not only maintaining the integrity of our facilities, but also with budgeting for the compensation of our clergy and staff professionals, supporting the diocese and wider church, and committing resources for community outreach and social transformation. To do that each year, the lay leadership of the parish puts together a budget, in line with the resources and values of the membership.
In order to responsibly budget for our ministries, we encourage those who support them to discern a fair annual pledge based on their income and resources, which can be broken down into weekly, monthly or annual installments. Each fall we budget for the coming calendar and fiscal year and receive the bulk of our pledge commitments; we then have a responsible idea of what resources will be coming our way and can better prioritize our spending.
While undesignated open plate offerings are a blessing and most appreciated, they are inconsistent, unreliable and unhelpful for planning purposes. We have been blessed over the past few years, to have consistently increased our pledge base, so that the majority of our expenses are being covered by pledge contributions. Many members have been consistently giving beyond their annual pledge estimates, which has put us “in the black” each month and annually for quite some time.
We also know and understand that there are those people whose financial picture is uncertain and unsteady, and who may have a hard time discerning what an appropriate and affordable pledge might be. To them we say, ‘Give it your best shot.” We all know that life circumstances change and sometimes we are unable to fulfill the pledge we dreamed. There is no shame in coming to the parish leadership, either treasurer or rector, and revising your pledge expectation. All financial matters are kept in strictest confidence.
In the Christian tradition, the tithe is a spiritual discipline of giving, toward which we strive as followers and proclaimers of the Good News. It means giving a tenth of one’s income for the support and mission of the church and it has its roots in ancient Jewish law. Tithing is a process and a calling, not a requirement. The church’s love and support is unrelated to one’s ability to give any particular amount. Some who tithe do so on their gross income, some on the net income. Some tithe entirely to the church and others commit to share 10% of their annual income across a combination of charities, church and non-profits. Wherever your spiritual journey leads you in generosity and fearless giving, we are here to celebrate that with you, not to judge.
When Monrovia couple Amy and David Tolemy decided it was high time to find the right church, they took the most obvious step. They googled it.
Raised Lutheran and Catholic, Amy and David had no relatives nearby and were looking for a spiritual family for themselves and their young son, Jake. They had been attending a Presbyterian church, but found it too conservative socially and politically. They’d also tried out a megachurch, but felt it lacked a feeling of community. “We were seeing too much pretension and not enough connection,” David says. Other items on their wish list included an active child ministry and an inclusive approach that welcomed everyone, including the LGBTQ community.
Their online search term was pretty inclusive, too: “Monrovia churches.” When St. Luke’s showed up in the results, it piqued their interest. “We knew about the Episcopal Church’s reputation for inclusivity, and the idea that they welcome you ‘wherever you are on your journey of faith,’ Amy says.
From their first visit to St. Luke’s, the Tolemys felt accepted – and they’ve quickly found a home there. “This place has renewed my spiritual life,” Amy says. “Bringing that life to Jake as well has helped in my parenting.” David admires the way Father Neil works to balance a reverence for tradition with a focus on relevant messages that align with Jesus’s teachings yet go beyond the written word. And both appreciate Father Neil’s gift for drawing on each parishioners’ unique gifts, like David’s acting background and Amy’s skills as a Children’s Program volunteer. Both now serve as ushers, lectors and oblation bearers, and David was confirmed this past summer.
As Monrovians, the couple also admires St. Luke’s commitment to being an active part of the community. It’s all about living the Part Three of the church’s stewardship message: “Step In. Step Up. Step Out.” So how much did technology really have to do with the Tolemys finding St. Luke’s? Let’s just say Google brought them to the right address. And God brought them in.