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Most years, “Pledgetide” sounds and feels familiar, perhaps almost to the point of exhaustion. Sermons about the widow’s mite and the Parable of the Talents are preached, pleas from the Vestry are made. The congregation, obligingly or reluctantly (or perhaps both at once) opens their pockets and furnishes the means that will continue for another year the subsistence of the parish. And so it goes.
Something about this year’s stewardship season feels very different to us, however, and in a way that has the potential to bring about a renewed spirit of charity and deeper life in Christ Jesus. The coronavirus pandemic has tested everyone. Last year’s stewardship campaign was quite different, as was every facet of community life, both within and beyond our parish. We read in Hebrews that the Lord chastens those whom He loves. The church at large today speaks a great deal about our being loved by God. It sometimes seems to have more difficulty comprehending the chastening. As we pray for the victims of the pandemic, we also mourn the damage to our social institutions and way of life that resulted from the shattering isolation that blanketed the world last year. And yet, amidst fear and sorrow and loss, we feel that God is near – perhaps nearer than many of us felt Him to be before.
From its inception, St. Paul’s Parish on K Street has boldly proclaimed the Gospel truth that the Son of God incarnate was broken for our sins, to redeem us by His blood and lift us to a higher state of life in the loving embrace of our Creator. This is why, 150 years ago, in a country stratified and segregated, St. Paul’s bravely brought to the people of this city the love of Christ and the sacraments of His church without regard for class or race. We continue to be called to do so, and to minister accordingly. We believe it is also why, in the wake of unprecedented public restrictions on virtually all forms of social and economic activity, St. Paul’s ensured that the sacrifice of the mass and ministry to the community would continue, including, most importantly, resuming in-person worship safely and relatively quickly. We should always lead with a spirit of humility, but neither let there be any mistake: this parish led the way, with ardent faith in Jesus and true courage, to show that, with God’s help, the life of His church would not be stopped, not even by a once-in-a-century pandemic.
For this, and for many other reasons, we are exceptionally grateful to be a part of this community. We found our way to St. Paul’s nearly ten years ago while preparing to wed. At the time nomads beholden to careers in the Foreign Service and the Army, we sought a place that could be an anchor, a refuge, and a font of spiritual refreshment in a changing and uncertain world. Our wanderings took us to many places but brought us home to this country, and to this city, and to St. Paul’s, which welcomed us with open arms, as it does, we hope, every seeker of new life in Jesus who passes through its doors.
We now find ourselves, by the grace of God, blessed with the task of raising a family and passing on the faith of Jesus to a new generation. Here at St. Paul’s, we found a conviction that our communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus at the altar is not a mere symbol, or vestige, or an optional ceremonial supplement to the works and words of mortals – it is the very living reality of our repentant, dependent participation in the whole of His heavenly and earthly church, a leap of faith and an act of love that forms us, at the core of our being, into instruments of His will and grace and peace.
We are grateful to St. Paul’s for bringing to life for us this inheritance we have received, which we hope to nurture in community and pass on to future generations. We cannot put it better than the Apostles, so we will leave you with the joyful description of that gift we find in the First Letter of Peter. It is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away… Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
May we be good stewards of it unto that time and forevermore.
-Drew and Sunny Peterson