A “Grand” Gesture of Generosity
I’m back from vacation – and (I’m assuming) you’ll be happy to know that we survived the yurt, Crater Lake fires, and sibling tiffs…barely. Vacations and summer are usually a time to develop family stories that are told over and over again. Anything can become fodder for a good story – including the things you think at the time are inconsequential.
Every now and again, we all need to hear a great story about the benefits of generosity…even when you least expect it. Last week, Rev. Karen Hernandez (Kuna UMC in Idaho) sent me this story. I’ll let her tell it:
Affirming what you know to be true about your congregation!
For a few months now, I've been telling a story each week just before the offering. As I do so, there's a slide that says, "We give because..." a photo of very recent ministry or event here, and then the reason why we give. Here's last Sunday's example, which was significantly longer (and more exciting) than most:
Months ago I received a phone call from a friend of the church (not a member; this person has her own church). The call began with the friend saying, "Your church gives so much to our community!" The friend expressed gratitude for the many community outreach ministries we do. Then she said, "My family wants to give something to your congregation. Could you use a baby grand piano?" YES, as a matter of fact, we could use a baby grand piano!
On Wednesday of last week, a professional piano mover showed up and helped several church volunteers to move three pianos around our upstairs sanctuary and our basement--a tremendous logistical feat! The professional mover asked what we were doing with the piano that we took outside the building. When he learned we just needed a place to get rid of it, he said, "Oh some family would love to have that piano." This was news to me. It was originally a 4-legged piano that only had 3 legs remaining. We'd been told years ago that tuning it would no longer do any good. It both looked and sounded awful! But the professional mover was sure it had life left in it, so he happily took it and we were relieved to see it go.
Later that afternoon, the piano tuner arrived to get us ready for Sunday. He asked about all of the piano moving and what we'd done with the piano that left our building. When I explained that we gave it to the mover, he said, "That's great. He's a wonderful steward. He will definitely give it to a family who needs it." (Yes, Cesie, the piano tuner really used the word steward!)
We were part of a circle of giving last week. Our giving to the community is what prompted the gift we received. When I thought we were so blessed to be in the position to receive, it turns out we still had more to give.
We give because it's who we are as God's stewards. We give, and we're known in the community for it. Let us continue by giving back to God a portion of the many gifts we have received...[And with that, the ushers came forward to receive the offering].
FYI: All of this piano moving up and down our exterior ramps took place in the midst of free back-to-school haircuts happening in our building (with crowds waiting in our front hallway!), a full slate of food bank clients coming and going all day, and the Methodist Counseling Center office in our building welcoming back to back clients...all in the middle of a weekday! Sometimes I get so lost in the busyness that it's hard to find God. Last Wednesday, however, God was undeniably right in the center of all of that busyness!
(Cesie here) I love that Rev. Hernandez told that story. Every week she is emphasizing the benefits of generosity and helping her congregation to believe that – as God’s people – this is who they are. I’m hoping (and assuming) that all of you are following her “grand” example as well.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. If she had a grand piano she would play the only piece she knows, the first three bars of “Fur Elise” and watch everyone run away in horror. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.