Stewardship Letter

My father told how in his childhood home, his parents kept a series of jars marked “Rent”, “Groceries”, “Utilities”, etc. on their dresser. On Saturday night when Grandpa Schurman came home from the foundry with his pay envelope, he distributed his cash into the various jars. One was marked “Church”, and the first 10% of his earnings always went into that jar.

Grandpa Schurman had a strange belief that he was to “bring the first fruits of his labor” to God.

In my mother’s childhood home, money was so scarce that she had to leave high school during her senior year, to help support the family. But a husband’s drinking problems and a shortage of money didn’t keep Grandma Sundell from baking a couple extra loaves of her Swedish rye bread, on baking days, to share with an invalid neighbor down the street. During a typhoid epidemic in Jamestown, when the milkman refused to leave milk on the porches of the quarantined homes, Grandma Sundell walked to the store, carrying milk and other supplies back to personally deliver to those who were ill. (The milkman also found “helpful” gospel tracts stuck in my Grandma’s milk bottles when he came to deliver her milk.)

Grandma Sundell had some strange beliefs concerning “as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”

Is it any wonder my parents, products of these two models, lived their lives dedicated to the church they served? Their view on giving was that the 10% tithe wasn’t really a gift since it didn’t belong to them in the first place. And since they had the strange belief that one “should bring all the tithes and offerings into the storehouse”, their financial giving was closer to 20% of their salary.

In no way do I live up to this legacy! But I do question, at times, why I agreed to be Outreach Chairperson only a few weeks after coming to Shalom, and why I’ve served in one capacity or another ever since. And I wonder why I’ve chosen a career in a social service organization, notorious for low salaries. I recall the feeling of responsibility when Dick and I first married, anticipating helping our 7 collective kids through college! Yet throughout these years, we have always been able to support our church with our finances and our time.

Perhaps the legacy wouldn’t have rubbed off, even as faintly as it did, if I hadn’t seen my father and my grandparents live and die, witnessing truly joyful lives that knew their purpose; deep contentment in their faith; a centered peace through trying times; and in death, a calm satisfaction with lives well-lived. A hard legacy to shake!

Maybe their strange beliefs had something to do with this?

As your Moderator, I was asked to write a Stewardship letter to the congregation. I’ve decided to share the above with you instead. I write it with gratitude for my legacy…and for each of you.