Rev. Donna Pritchard
Last Sunday, one of the titans of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church retired. I met – and was lucky enough to work with – Rev. Donna Pritchard when she was Portland’s District Superintendent and I was the Conference Lay Leader, oh so many years ago. For the last ten years, she has been the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Portland.
I’ll admit I shed a few tears as I watched Rev. Donna deliver her sermon. I dabbed my eyes as she reflected on the top three lessons she learned from her years in ministry. And, as I thought about what she said, I realized that Rev. Donna also spoke to some of the key things we can benefit from while practicing generosity.
Rev. Donna gave me permission to riff on her sermon a bit and I am deeply appreciative. If you want to see her give her last pre-retirement sermon (which is well worth your time), go here.
1. God is found everywhere. When we start talking about money, we usually start to feel uneasy. We’ve been taught that money is private, not to be talked about in the public sphere, let alone in a mainline church (yes, that attitude still exists). While we’re bombarded with ads to buy, buy, buy, we have been told that talking about the actual exchange of money – and where that money comes from – is in bad taste. But, if what Rev. Donna says is true, then God is found everywhere. In our wallet. In our bank account. In our attitude toward money. It is not a shameful topic. It is a God thing.
2. Working in collaboration beats isolation. I mentioned this in my blog last week. But it bears repeating. You are not in this alone. Or at least you shouldn’t be. Share the possibilities of generosity with others. Work with people in your congregation who get it. Form a “Joyful Generosity” committee and see if you can’t make giving something people look forward to. I like being in control so I know how hard it is to relinquish it. However, that’s no excuse – or at least not a good one. Trust your people to be in partnership with you. Because you and I know, doing the work all by yourself is a sure way to burn out quickly.
3. Joy is the hallmark of faith. Peace is the sign of God’s presence. While most of us are still working on “peace,” it's no surprise that joy is also a hallmark of a generous life. Generous people are more joy-filled. Being generous really does make you happy. Giving of your time, talent, and financial gifts out of a sense of gratitude to God and all that God has given you expands your world and lets joy enter in. We’ve recently come out of the Christmas season when giving is usually at its peak. How did you feel when you gave just the right gift to someone? Go ahead, think of that person. Feel that joy coming right back into your body? Joy is but one of the benefits of living and giving faithfully.
On February 4, 1968 during his famous “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said,
Keep feeling the need for being first.
But I want you to be the first in love,
first in moral excellence,
and first in generosity.
Rev. Donna, thanks for all the ways you have been an excellent role model in love, moral excellence, and in generosity. Thanks for helping us to see God everywhere, for working in collaboration with us, and for always being filled with joy. You have been an inspiration. Happy retirement.