It is summertime and schedules are relaxing in the inhale, exhale, inhale way our American year works. For many there is no relaxation at all – single mothers with low-paying jobs are working and sleeping – “the working poor” we call them. They are caught in a terrible system of greed and one can hear God still screaming the mosaic slogan “Let my people go!” We must work, and give, so that there is freedom and joy for all, or as many as humanly possible.
But for many people, summer means relaxation, long days reading a murder mystery, pie (I love pie!) and watermelon (I adore watermelon! And now God makes them in a seedless variety which makes my legs go weak.) Churches switch to lighter schedules and summer houses open.
The seven-year-plan for stewardship (fundraising) at the cathedral, scheduled the planning of the Major Gifts Program over two years followed by its management in 2016. We are on schedule, having opened this conversation in January. Since then we have raised hundreds of thousands in major gifts and millions in planned gifts from parishioners able to stretch a bit past the annual pledge to make specific project happen about which they feel strongly in support and will use their gifts to say so. People are really connecting their meaning-making, their money and their desire to let God’s people go.
Earlier this week I was with a young family. Momma had two children on her hips, one was nursing, the other winking at the world. Dad was helping me learn how to make beer – rolling boil, grains, flavorings, sugars, yeast. While we waited between ingredient additions, we talked over four hours about so many aspects of life. The course weaved in and out of friendship and counseling, advice and teaching. Sometimes I was priest, sometimes spiritual-friend, sometime student, for a moment, I was even a major gifts fundraiser. And such is priesthood.
This photo is of the rolling boil – the first step in beer-making, as water and crushed grains soak in the first stages of the process of making my new beer flavored with ginger and honey. We were making two beers and I remember being surrounded by grains, heat, water, lavender, ginger, flower blossoms, yeast – and wondering about God’s provision for us – how grateful we must be. It occurred to me that the word Eucharist is the Greek word for Thanksgiving and I was deeply grateful for this four hours with parishioners – barefoot in mud, lifting scalding pots, children moving through giggles to screams to sleepiness to curiosity. I visit many generous families barely making it financially and so generous – and many wealthy who also give generously. And many wealthy whose lives are little more than self-worship.
I was with truly kind, generous people this day. Dave kept saying “Safety third!” which made me laugh because usually we say “Safety first.” I turned and asked “What is “first” if safety is third!?” He smiled and said “The first rule is “Have fun!”
Summer is a good time to remember the first rule if we can, when we can. That day reminded me why I became a priest and why I stayed one. It reminded me how genersou some of our parishioners are. And it grounded me in gratitude.