What's your favorite Advent or Christmas carol? I have many, but "Silent Night" comes quickly to mind. I long for the world to be calm and bright, I suppose, but the line which really "sings" to me every time is "with the dawn of redeeming grace". That's what this time of year is all about, right? The essence of Christmas is the arrival of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. How easy it is to get caught up in Christmas shopping and cookie baking and activities and parties and forget the whole point. Our nights oftentimes aren't silent during Advent.
Love and Legacy
This week marked the 150th Anniversary of my home congregation, Kernersville Moravian. I was warmed by the individual legacies of love all around me. We sang the hymn “We raise our voice in One Accord,” written for the occasion by my friend and a daughter of the congregation, Nancy Shore Sawtelle. Communion was served by father and son The Rt. Rev. Graham Rights and The Rev. John G. Rights, and The Rev. Lisa Mullen. I rode up to the fellowship hall in the elevator given by the late Ida Roberts. The sanctuary itself. The pipe organ.
Donor Advised Fund Helps Spaugh Family See Hope in Sadness
In the fourth quarter of 2017, the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America (MMFA) will launch a new Donor Advised Fund (DAF). The Board of MMFA hopes that this new fund encourages giving in new and exciting ways. We also hope that this opens up philanthropy to new donors who may desire more choice in their charitable contributions.
Great is your Faith
Matthew’s gospel includes an interesting story in chapter 15. It is the story of a Canaanite mother. We know she had at least one child but very little is known about her otherwise. However, the fact that Matthew captures her story is amazing and we should not miss it. Matthew, who was a tax collector prior to meeting Christ, strikes me as someone who would debunk social norms.
Starting the Conversation on Impact
I may sound like a worried person when I say this is a turbulent time we live in, but I believe most of you will agree with the truth behind that statement. From the recent disturbing violence in Charlottesville to other protests, murders, and unimaginable events that are hitting the news waves daily around this great land of ours, times are challenging. As our pastor reminded us Sunday, eight people stepped off of the ark in Genesis 8 and we are all descendants of those people. The only race that matters in the image of God is the human race and we all should strive to ad
When Little Things Mean Big Things
Monday was my birthday. It was a bittersweet day as we lost my dear grandmother last week and her funeral was over the weekend. She was an incredible person; in fact, I shared a little about her a few months ago as I reflected on who first taught me what it meant to be generous (you can read that post here). As my cousin put it when our family gathered to share stories about my grandmother with her pastor, she was "incomparable".
Invest in HOW You Believe
Invest Where You Believe is the slogan of the Moravian Ministries Foundation. It is a slogan or mission statement that resonates with me and speaks to my personal belief as a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that I should push a significant portion of my charitable donations toward Christ and His Kingdom’s work on this earth. That includes our church and various ministries that serve basic human needs but primarily spiritual needs by sharing the Gospel.
You Want to Tithe, Marvin? You've Got to Be Kidding!
There are events and experiences in our lives that bring God into sharper focus and make us more aware of God's gifts and our responses. The defining event for both Marvin and me was the sudden infant death of our daughter, MaryEllen, in 1960. I was made aware of how much of life I had taken for granted.
For Marvin the clearer focus came some time later when he attended a stewardship meeting in our parish. The speaker for the evening was a Lutheran layman who talked about tithing as an act of gratitude, as a response to God.
In Any Way You Can
I recently walked into a Moravian Church in Pennsylvania and saw a table covered with brightly colored knit caps. It was June, so I assumed they weren't meant for people to use to keep their heads warm. I quickly learned they were "chemo caps" knit by a group of women in the congregation who then take them to patients who are hospitalized at the local cancer center. Behind the table was a bulletin board covered in thank-you cards from people who had received a cap; one of the cards read, "This week has been the worst week of my life.
I am three weeks in and I absolutely love my new role as President of the Moravian Ministries Foundation. So far in my tenure I have met a team of talented people, Laura, Kara and our Board of Trustees, who have supported philanthropy at MMFA and who are committed to the work. I have encountered an outgoing president, Paul, who has welcomed me with such willingness to teach me and encourage me as I grow into the leader of this fine organization which he has loved and cherished over the past 20 years.
Journey to Generosity
Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the Episcopal Network for Stewardship’s (TENS) annual conference at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. TENS has been a valuable resource for me since I started working for the Foundation, and when I took on our stewardship and capital campaign consulting service earlier this year, the time was right for me to attend a TENS program.
Standing With Our Sisters
For almost two years I have had the pleasure of working with the Rev. Patty Garner and Sallie Greenfield as they planned for a capital campaign in the Southern Province to support the work of the Unity Women’s Desk.
Lift Up Thine Eyes
When I started playing field hockey in high school, I had a coach who was constantly reminding us to look up. As new players, we would hold our heads down and stare intently at our sticks and the ball, trying to master the skills needed to effectively move both our bodies and the ball down the field. I can still see and hear the coach as she stood on the sideline yelling, "Heads up! Heads up! Look where you're going!"
Taking A Time Out
For the past four years, one of my responsibilities with the Foundation has been to work with everyone who invests in the Common Fund. Those files take up about three large drawers and contain set-up documents for the invested funds, any correspondence, yearly updates, and, for many of the funds, how withdrawn money has been spent.
I Like My Stuff
A few days ago I painstakingly wrapped glass Christmas ornaments in tissue paper and tucked them back into the large bins where we store them from year to year. Each ornament has a story; when my brother and I were born, our parents started an ornament collection for each of us, and those grew every year. One of our mother’s friends traveled frequently all over the world and brought us ornaments from every country she visited.
Where Your Treasure Is...
We are pleased to share the following sermon from the Rev. Dr, Craig Troutman, pastor of Raleigh Moravian Church in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of Moravian Theological Seminary, Craig began his pastorate at Raleigh Moravian in 1985.
It’s that time of year. The leaves are turning, the air is cooling, and we’re talking about stewardship in our churches.
In our office we have healthy debates about that word: stewardship. What does it mean? How do we respond to it? Is “philanthropy” an acceptable replacement? How do we better our understanding of our identity as stewards in God’s world?
In his book Stewardshift, Bob Sitze explains stewardship with three characteristics; he writes:
The Giving Autobiography
What is your earliest memory of giving and of receiving? Mine involves my grandmother; she took me out to lunch every year on my birthday, letting me pick the restaurant (as a kid that was usually McDonald’s or Arby’s), and then we went shopping and I got to pick out whatever I wanted as long as it was under a certain limit. As an adult I can appreciate that her giving was how we all should give….selflessly. She didn’t make me eat where she wanted to eat (most likely the K&W Cafeteria or the Carriage House), and she didn’t give me something she thought I should have; she let me choose.
It Is Enough
Millions of Americans are tuning in to the Summer Olympics in Rio to watch our brilliant athletes as they compete, athletes like Kathleen Miller, the swimmer who won silver while living with Crohn’s disease, and Kristin Armstrong, who won gold for the third time just one day before her 43rd birthday.
To Live is to Give
We thank Jo Beth Boyles, a member of Bethabara Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC, for being our guest blogger this month. Jo Beth writes:
I was asked several months ago to speak on stewardship on behalf of my family. Since that time I have been in prayer asking the Lord to give me the words He would have me to share.
To Give, To Serve, and to Have Faith
Archbishop Fulton Sheen was an American bishop who became known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio. In fact, in the 1950s into the 1960s, he may have been the most recognizable Catholic in the United States.
Konnoak Hills' Invitation to Serve the Future Age
For almost a year, we've had the pleasure of working with Konnoak Hills Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. Konnoak Hills was "established in 1950 to serve the fledgling suburb south of Winston-Salem known as Konnoak Hills. Today the church is closer to the heart of the city as Winston-Salem expands toward the borders of Forsyth County. While its location is very different from its semi-rural past, many values of that earlier day remain unchanged.
I've been thinking a lot about change lately. Change as my husband and I get ready to move into a new house. Change as my church begins the call process for a new pastor. Change as our country prepares to elect a new president.
Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest, tells the story of the little ocean fish who is swimming frantically and looking for “the ocean”. He eventually meets a wise, older fish and they talk.
“Excuse me,” said the little ocean fish. “You are older than I, so can you tell me where to find this thing they call the Ocean?”
“The Ocean,” said the older fish, “is the thing you are in now.”
“Oh, this? But this is water. What I’m seeking is the Ocean,” said the disappointed fish as he swam away to search elsewhere.
Grace for All!
“Grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15
Mt. Airy, North Carolina is a small town about 3 miles south of the Virginia state line. Settled in the 1750’s, it was first a stop on the road between Galax, VA and Winston-Salem, NC. For Moravians, this area (known as “the Hollow” back then) was a place to stop as mission work began in the Virginia mountains in the 1830’s.
This week we're pleased to share the following from Michael Reeves, one of the authors of Creative Giving.
While the concept of estate planning is a relatively new idea, the principles of managing the assets God provides to us are biblical. Although it is not a biblical statement, the following comment, attributed to Andrew Carnegie, is certainly congruent with these principles: The man who dies rich dies disgraced.
“God’s people want to know that their giving makes a difference in people’s lives.” Charles Lane
While we give in response to God’s generosity, we also like to experience the joy that comes from knowing what kind of ministries our contributions have supported. No one wants to feel like his or her gift has gone into a black hole, but oftentimes that can happen when our churches hesitate to talk about money.
Just to Say Thanks
We're happy to share this post from Rev. Kent Millard, former senior pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Rev. Millard currently serves as a gratitude coach for congregations in the Midwest and was a part of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving's program that Chi-Chi and Laura took in 2014.
One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus' feet and thanked him. Luke 17:15-16
Since October of 2014, I've had the pleasure of working with a dedicated group of individuals at Home Moravian Church who recognized the importance of incorporating planned giving into the Church's year-round stewardship ministry. At our first meeting, the conversation centered around the following questions:
What is a Blessing?
This week we're pleased to have Rev. Jenny Moran, pastor of Christ's Community Church in Maple Grove, MN, as our guest blogger. Pastor Jenny writes:
When our son, Evan, was four he was sitting in a Children’s Chat led by my mom. Mom asked the kids, “What is a blessing?” Evan piped right up and said, “A blessing is something that falls into your heart!” Poor Mom almost couldn’t finish the Children’s Chat she was so touched.
Journey to Contentment
We're pleased to have Charles Forrest, a member at Calvary Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC, as our guest blogger this week. Charles writes:
"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6
Which would you choose: contentment or $1,000,000?
This afternoon I'll pack up the car and head to Laurel Ridge, the Moravian Church, Southern Province's camp, conference and retreat center. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Laurel Ridge has beautiful views, soaring pine trees, star-filled night skies, and so much more.
Giving AND Living Generously
I recently stumbled upon the following reflection on giving and living generously from Jay Link. Mr Link shares:
"I was ready to board a plane to return home from a business trip. I was first in line and was looking forward to getting comfortable in my first class seat and then “zoning out” on the flight home. (I often get upgraded for free.)
Quietly Finding Space for Grace
I've always been a big fan of Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest, professor, and author who wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. In his Genesse Diary, Nouwen shares what it's like to live in a Trappist Monastery (where he spent seven months); more specifically, he reflects on his struggles with silence. He writes, "If I could just live the day quietly, then my mind would be more vacant for God and freer for the simple things of every moment."
Good Treasure of the Heart
Last week my husband Mark and I spent time in the mountains of Grayson County, Virginia. I'll admit that one of my favorite things about going up there is I don't worry much about what to pack. We go hiking, canoeing, and biking, so I don't need special outfits to look nice. When we aren't out exploring God's beautiful creation, we're reading, playing board games, or watching birds from the front porch. It's a very relaxing and simple vacation, and I find it refreshing not to think about what I'm wearing or whether my hair is a mess!
Sing a New Song
For the past two weeks I've been driving up to Mt. Airy, North Carolina, each morning to work with Grace Moravian Church. As I make my way north, I find myself flipping through radio stations and not recognizing a lot of the songs I hear. I also find myself longing to hear songs I know, as they are ones I can sing along to, and that remind me of a person, a particular time in my life or a feeling.
Rich Toward God
This week, as I was culling the internet in search of thought-provoking quotes for the Foundation's Facebook page, I found two that really spoke to me. The first is from John Wesley, who we all know as one of the founders of the Methodist Church.
We are happy to share Rev. Christine Johnson's reflections on John 2:13-22 from the 3rd Sunday in Lent. Rev. Johnson is the pastor of Fry's Valley Moravian Church in New Philadelphia, Ohio.
Kernersville Moravian and the Three G's
Grace, Generosity, and Gratitude. These were the focus of our season of Stewardship this past fall at Kernersville Moravian Church, and we are grateful to Chi-Chi Messick of the Moravian Ministries Foundation who led us through this process. Each Sunday School class was given an opportunity to experience a special education session with Chi-Chi, and this was a time of learning and sharing insight into Grace, Generosity, and Gratitude at work in our lives and within our congregation. People of all ages were encouraged to participate in this special time of prayer, education, and planning.
On Vikings and Going Under
There is a story about a group of Viking warriors who were ordered by their king to join him when he converted to the Christian faith through the waters of baptism. As they waded out into the nearby river to be baptized, they all went under the water while holding one of their arms high above their heads. If they had been asked why they were doing this, the warriors would have answered that they did not want the arm and hand that bore the sword to go under the water, for they had been taught that whatever goes under the water belongs to God.
Make a Joyful Noise
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100
We thank Rev. Rick Sides, pastor of Home Moravian Church, for allowing us to share what he wrote for the church's November newsletter. From Rev. Sides:
When I hear the word "belongings", I immediately think of my 3rd grade teacher at Brunson Elementary School. She was ancient, of course (although probably only in her 40's!), and wore her hair in a bun. At the end of every school day, she would stand at her desk as we were getting ready for dismissal and say, "Be sure to collect all your belongings and take them home with you. I don't want to see any of your stuff left behind on the floor." As an adult I can appreciate that sentiment; as an 8 year old, however, I found it stressful.
I've Been Lying About Money
This week we're sharing a thought-provoking post from Tim King, Chief Strategy Officer for Sojourners.
I’ve been lying about money.
No, I’m still lying about money. But, I’m getting better.
Couples fight, families fight, and our nation fights over what we do with our money (or lack thereof). Take a look at political campaigns. Story after story is written about who gives, who doesn’t, and whether it matters.
Moravian Women Shining Their Light
Next June, from the 25th to the 28th, Moravian women from across North America and all over the world will come together for the 12th Moravian Women's Conference in Sandy Cove, Maryland. The conference theme is Walk in the Light, from Isaiah 2:5, which says, "Come...let us walk in the light of the Lord."
Thank you, thank you, thank you
If you were asked to make a list of the most generous people you know, who would be on it? Why? Are they people who give of their finances, time and talent, or both?
I Have To. I Want To.
One of my favorite things about being an adult is being able to do what I want to do. Long gone are the days of forced piano lessons, drinking a glass of milk with dinner (yuck!), and having to help my dad pick up pine cones in the backyard (which, given how my brother and I reacted, you would've thought was corporal punishment). Now I'm in my late 30's and I get to do what I want all the time. Right?!?
Last November my husband and I visited New York City and stayed at a place for people involved in Christian ministry. As we checked in I noticed a table full of brochures; some advertised nearby restaurants and attractions, but most were clearly homemade pieces printed on different colors of pastel paper. I didn't think much about them but noticed one had fallen to the floor so I bent down to pick it up and put it back on the table. Its title caught my eye: "Contentment".
Communication and Thanksgiving
In September 2013 a small group of Moravian clergy from the Northern and Southern Provinces gathered in Winston-Salem to discuss the important connection between money and ministry. We later asked those pastors to reflect on the conversation, and Rev. Russell Williams shared these thoughts: