Increasing Giving is often, and mistakenly, thought of only in terms of putting money on the plate. But the Christian understanding of giving is about the giving of our very lives in God’s service, in loving response to the many blessings that God showers upon us every day of our lives. It is essentially about stewardship.
The continuing mission and ministry of churches across the diocese is utterly dependent on the goodwill of their members who, in addition to living out their calling as faithful disciples, also give sacrificially of their time, energy and gifts in service of God’s church.
For members of St Paul’s Royton and ‘the Tuesday Group’ at St John’s Kearsley, it partly stems from a love and care of the church and the grounds, together with a desire to see them properly looked after not just for the present but for future generations. Some, who perhaps in retirement have more time available for work in the church, also see it as a response to all that they have received over the years: the teaching and guidance, the celebrating of those significant moments such as baptisms and weddings, the opportunity to belong to a community of faith and be part of the Body of Christ. One person echoes the views of many: ‘I love my church and my Christian faith is important to me. I try to give back because it gives so much to me’.
Those questioned clearly appreciate all that they have received over the years and see their contribution as helping to further the work of the church. As well as maintaining the church and keeping it in good order, both inside and out, there are many other things to volunteer for: to read the lessons, lead intercessions, launder the linen, arrange the flowers and do countless other jobs, many of which can be taken for granted.
But equally important is the companionship and friendship they find. For Phyllis Bennett, who has been part of the Tuesday Group for 26 years and now regularly cleans the brasses, these few hours at church each week is now her only contact with people. Others in the groups speak of how rewarding it is to feel part of things and the real sense of enjoyment, simply being and working together.
Sometimes it can seem that the many jobs fall to the same few people. The folk at Kearsley and Royton identified a number of things that may put others off from ‘volunteering’: the assumption that it’s someone else’s job; the fear of stepping on someone’s toes; the lack of confidence, plus the need for support and sometimes training. In many cases, all people require is to be asked and to feel as though they are genuinely needed and wanted.
We all have a responsibility to encourage everyone to play their part in the life of their church and to recognise that they have an important contribution to make. Equally important is to support and thank them when they offer their services and give of their time.
Do you have time to give and abilities to offer? Your Church Needs You!
Cherry Vann, Archdeacon of Rochdale