exploring the depths of church philanthropy


Sometimes the light coming in from the garden lights my prayer station with a magical quality I enjoy. There is mystery and curiosity in the light as night turns to morning.

And curiosity is what fuels my vocation as a missioner of philanthropy and mission.  That is not my title, but that is what I do.  I am an explorer.  I explore the intersection between philanthropy and the mission of God and its need for funding.  By explorer, I do not mean I am a fundraiser – though I am that and for that I am paid.  And though I am also paid to be a priest, that too is not the whole picture.

I recently heard a Ted Talk about an explorer who traveled deeper into the ocean than anyone else.  He saw very little when he got there.  He went so deep that he was as far down from the surface of the ocean as the surface of the earth is far down from a flying jetliner.  The point was the exploration, not the end result (dark mud).  He reminded me that failure is always an option when exploring; but fear is not.  And that is how I explore the intersection between church and philanthropy.  Why are some so generous and others so…well…not? Why do some things inspire giving and others not?  Why do some clergy in the Episcopal church so hate raising money?  Is it only because they have not been taught how, or is it something else?

To ask for something is a vulnerable and humble place to find oneself.  Be the asker as beggar on the street or  as  Canon Steward in a cathedral; asking for, say, an air conditioning system for a stifling-hot-rock-church, there is humility and vulnerability. We have  a list of more than two dozen other projects amounting to more than 20 million dollars in needs for a cathedral and mission.  There is lots to do.

But what I love about my work is not being a church executive or a development officer or a communicator.  What I love most is putting on my head-lamp and exploring the human heart and church systems to figure out how to link the money we have with the mission in God’s heart on the planet. There will be failures but not fear.  And the work of exploring such an unexplored part of being the church daily thrills me, because the results fuel mission which changes lives and that is exciting and the church learns what it means to minister in the mission fields of philanthropy – slowly, but surely.

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