Pastoral Letter January 7, 2018

“O Baptist John, who recognized me as the Lamb when you were still in the womb: serve me now in the river, and with Angels minister. Reach out with your hand and touch my immaculate head. And when you see the mountains trembling and the Jordan turning back, cry out with them, “O God incarnate of the Virgin for our salvation, glory to You, O Lord.” – Doxastikon Hymn of the Forefeast of Theophany

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Friday morning, we will gather as an Orthodox Christian Family to celebrate the Forefeast of Theophany. Matins and Royal Hours are at 9:30 am, and continued with the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. Basil and the Lesser Blessing of the Waters at 6:00 pm. Saturday is Epiphany; the feast of Revelation, or specifically, Theophany – God’s Revelation to the world. I took the time last week to discuss the significance of these days and once again, I invite you to participate to the fullest degree possible.

Tonight I want to bring to your attention something that is also important. Not in the same way as participating in the Divine Services of the Church. But, nevertheless, a way of participating in the life of the Church. Here is a

Spoiler Alert: Fr. Anthony is now going to talk about Money, Time Commitment, Overall Participation. Of course, this does not mean that you tune out and move on, at least I pray that you don’t. This is the kind of spoiler alert that calls your attention, captures your sense of responsibility and as did the Baptist, as expressed in the above-sited hymn; Serve Him Now and with Angels, Minister.

In this week’s Sunday Bulletin, we have begun to publish the activities of 2018 Stewardship. So far, about half of the parish has turned in their Pledge Cards. For many Greek Orthodox parishes in our Archdiocese, that would be a remarkable number. But for St. Anna’s, we can and should do better than this. Last year I noticed that there were fewer people who turned in Pledge Cards, though remained committed and active parishioners of St. Anna’s. Pledge Cards are only one way to measure the participation of the Faithful in a parish. But they are an important indicator.

A Pledged Steward emphatically calls St. Anna’s their spiritual home.
A Pledged Steward has taken the time to pray about their acts of Christian Stewardship.
A Pledged Steward gives the Parish Council the tools to make sound/responsible financial decisions without having to guess what the parish can support.
A Pledged Steward recognizes that their Time, Talent and Treasure is directly reflective of their relationship with God.
A Pledged Steward identifies the areas in which they would love to serve as volunteers, leaders and co-ministers.

When I was first assigned to St. Anna’s (The Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah, at the time), I was told that “Stewardship in this parish is easy. People are eager to give and willing to sign their pledges early.” Not that this has changed much, but I take no one for granted, and believe that if Stewardship is “easy,” then its not Stewardship. Again:

If Stewardship is easy, then its not Stewardship.

If a Church takes the easy path to Stewardship, without engaging, challenging or educating the Faithful, then it’s not proper Stewardship. Inversely, if an individual or family views Stewardship as an obligatory action; detached from prayerful contemplation, a sacrificial spirit, and a deep appreciation for God’s abundant gifts, then the household is responding to a lowly fundraising effort, not to Stewardship.

Stewardship is offered, not simply given. There is a difference.
Stewardship is received, not collected. There is a big difference.
Stewardship is the way we serve Him. John the Baptist served Him in the River. We serve Him in our hearts, through our priorities, with our zeal and by His command.

To begin our 2018 Campaign, we distributed Pledge Cards after Sunday Divine Liturgies, mailed them to your homes (if you didn’t pick up your packet), and have them available in the narthex. Here is your next opportunity to receive your 2018 Pledge Card. And hey, let’s be honest for a moment about a couple realities:

Last year, we began an Capital Campaign in earnest, in order that we can begin to plan for our future. If we look at Stewardship in an improper light, that can detract from our 2018 enthusiasm. And remember, that is also an ongoing effort. We haven’t packed moving boxes yet! And likely won’t for quite some time.

Our parish is now almost four years old. Yes, we are still new, but is the “newness” fading? Of course it is! We can’t remain “new” forever! You don’t stunt the growth of your children and capture time in a bottle – you let them grow, you embrace change, you evolve and you live in the now. This is all natural and consistent with human nature. But what should never fade: commitment, enthusiasm, purpose, glorification of God, support for our mission, the quest for spiritual maturity, the support of our church.

All that said, my dearly Beloved in the Lord, please; if you have yet to send in your 2018 Pledge Card, please do so as soon as you’ve taken the time to pray over the concept, responsibilities and opportunities that avail when we give back to God the first fruits of what He has already given. Let’s stay the course and continue the good fight. Come to services, participate in classes and ministries, volunteer as helpers, lead, guide and inspire future generations of Greek Orthodox Christians in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas.

Let’s be clear and honest: the need to support our growing parish will only increase with time. It will never get any easier. But that is good news. That’s what we signed up for when we dared to dream, answered the call and set in motion, that which would become our dear St. Anna parish.

He called the Baptist to serve Him. He calls us, as well. And serving Him is the greatest joy that can ever be imagined.

With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony