When I was in seminary, I served Asbury United Methodist Church in Bristol, Connecticut, as what was then and there called “seminarian”; we’d say “student pastor”. I regularly visited with a lady I called “Miss Ida”. Ida was almost completely blind and had been so all her life. She had worked in a counseling agency, helping people with all sorts of physical disabilities. Her home was arranged for her to care–with furious independence–for herself. She didn’t usually scare me because I had read for a blind friend in college. Ida was so frank (and sweetly pushy) that I figured I couldn’t mess up too badly.
Ida was a strong part of church life. She had worshiped at Asbury for many years. Somehow, before my day, she had quietly been elected as an at-large member of the Council. The church was angry with their annual conference and there was a serious discussion at the Council meeting about whether or not they should “pay” their apportionments.
Ida spoke for what I learned was the first time ever at a Council meeting saying, “I can’t imagine us taking away our chance to be Jesus’ hands and feet everywhere. And besides, we need to learn to be generous.” She sat down and the room was really quiet.
I have never forgotten those words. Though I was benefitting through the apportionment system (I got Ministerial Education Fund money to help pay for school) I got my first practical way to explain what we do with the apportionments we give and spend. We are Jesus’ hands and feet, but more I think we show and share Jesus’ heart with our giving.
The second point Ida made matters more and more to me. I have had to learn to be generous. First I tithed and then I started giving beyond and then I learned generosity. The first steps (tithing, giving an offering that is money beyond the tithe, etc.) were just exercises in math (what is 10% of X) and discipline. But giving generously is something I need to do. I need to do it because working to be a generous person has raised my eyes beyond myself to see that I am a part of something bigger than myself: I am a part of Jesus’ work! [For a great read about learning to be generous see the book Love Let Go.]
This is the time of year when your church and pastor have received their 2018 apportionment figures. I ask you to pray to be glad that this is one way that you and all your family across the Capital District – and the NCC – are together being the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus. What a blessing.
Thank you Ida.
Grace and peace,
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Hello from Harvey – Miss Ida and Apportionments
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