I have always hated stewardship campaigns. It is a British thing, I think. Americans are far more willing to talk about money than the Brits. And in this, they are more like Jesus! He spoke a lot about money, and you can sum up his message in three words: “Give it away”.
So, as we get to the time of year when churches think of next year’s expenses and income, I think it is probably the priest’s duty to say the same thing to the congregation: “Give your money away”. But he and his church will have no success at all unless he can show that the money the people give to the church will do what Jesus wants the Church to do. And what’s that?
What is a church for? Why does it need money?
First, we are commanded to “Do this, in remembrance of me”. We are to celebrate the Mass, and for that we need to buy bread and wine and vessels to hold them. Then we need an altar to put them on. Then we need a roof over that altar to keep it dry. And we need seats for the people, and rooms for teaching the children and for the fellowship of the congregation etc. And so we need quite a bit of money for the maintenance of the church building.
But Jesus commissioned apostles, and they commissioned bishops, and the bishops commissioned priests to celebrate the mystery of the Mass and to preach the Good News of what God is doing in and through Jesus. And the priest has to have a place to live and a stipend to live on. And so we need money for the clergy.
These are the two biggest expenses of the church – buildings and clergy. But both buildings and clergy are not ends in themselves. They are there to inspire and help forward the mission of the Church. The church building must contain “the beauty of holiness”. And the clergy must celebrate Masses and other services which use the best of music, reverence, reading of the Scriptures and preaching on the Word of God, Jesus Christ, to whom these Scriptures point.
And, as someone has said: “When the service is over, the service begins”. The disciples of Christ who gather in St Clement’s week by week and day by day should have gained from both building and clergy some inspiration to love their neighbors better in the days ahead. If this happens, the money spent on both clergy and buildings will have been transformed into God’s good purpose, the salvation of the world through love.