St Mary's has registered to join the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS) , and all are asked to examine their giving to the church.
What is the Parish Giving Scheme?
The Parish Giving Scheme (PGS) is a 21st Century approach to offset one of the greatest threats to parish income which is static giving. Donations through this Scheme are made by Direct Debit, and can be given on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Each donation is directed to that individual's parish church, and PGS claims the Gift Aid on your behalf.
If this Scheme becomes the principal giving method for your church, you will be offering inflation-proofed giving, reducing your administration. This will release your parish to focus on other important priorities.
- fewer cash donations means it is lower risk for volunteers counting and banking money
- donors have the option to increase their gift by inflation, maintaining the value of their gift and sustaining the church's mission and ministry
- donors can set up their giving through the PGS website, phone service or a paper form, depending on their preference
- Gift Aid is claimed by the Scheme, so administration for your local church is reduced, saving time and work
- the Scheme is offered free of charge to churches and donors
- the Scheme transfers the gift and the Gift Aid to your parish bank account on a monthly basis, improving cash flow and the security of gifted income.
Sammie Tooze from the York diocese Generous Giving Team came to St Mary's for the10am service on the 6th June and preached on Generous Giving. This sermon can be found below and is recommended reading. All members of St Mary's have been given a PGS pack which explains why and how their giving can be updated and if they feel able transferred to the PGS with the benefits as above. If anyone has any further questions or help in moving over to PGS please contact the treasurer David.
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.
St Ignatius of Loyola
Sermon Preached at the 10am Service 6th June by Sammi Tooze
Earthly meets the Heavenly
In the name of the living God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Good morning everyone. For those who don’t know me, my name is Sammi Tooze and I am a Generous Giving Adviser within the Diocese. I’m so pleased to have been invited to preach here at this morning at the beginning of your journey in growing as a generous church, having worked with a group of you for some time in preparing resources to help each of us in this prayerful exploration.
I’d like to focus our reflections today on the New Testament reading from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. These verses bring into perspective significant characteristics of a life lived from faith. In the opening verse of this passage, Paul cites Psalm 116. The whole verse reads, “I believed, therefore I have spoken: but I was greatly afflicted.” The Psalmist, and therefore Paul, describes going through a two-stage process – a person believes and trusts in God, and therefore goes on to speak to him. ‘I trusted, so that I spoke’.
Of course, there is a third part of the equation here – I trusted, I spoke to God, then I speak of God. Like Paul, as we trust in God, we grow in our relationship through prayer, and use this as a springboard into speaking of God through the way we live out our faith. This is not necessarily though verbal speech – speaking of God is about the way we live our lives, living out Christ’s story as we express love, compassion, generosity – and all those attributes which are in the nature of God. Generosity is key here. In all the ways we speak of our faith, we give of ourselves in some way. We give when we love, when we welcome, when we offer hospitality or attentiveness or care of others. Generosity reveals our faith.
Trusting in God is the first step towards living a generous life. We trust that God will provide – as Paul states later in his letter, ‘God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.’ We must start by truly knowing who God is, and we only need to look at nature to believe he is generous. If we think about how he provides for our daily needs and gives us a life we could have never dreamed up ourselves, we can see God’s generosity. We can walk with gratitude and without fear knowing God is enough and through him we have enough. We also trust that, as we grow in our own generosity and Christian living, we offer ourselves to God for him to transform.
But what then? Paul goes on to say,
‘Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.’
We begin with grace – grace which, as we receive as gift, we are called to share. There are important resonances here with language. In the original Greek, Paul uses the word ‘charis’, or ‘charismata’ – words that are often translated as loving kindness, blessing and gift, and are derived from the word ‘chara’ meaning ‘joy’. So when we think about grace in action, the outcome is gifts of kindness, an outpouring of love in our giving, a blessing grounded in joy.
So often we become nervous when the church starts to talk about giving, because it challenges our hold on material possessions. As human beings, we value our independence, and we like to hang on to what we think of as ours. Generosity challenges our faith as we reflect on the concepts of identity and possession, and puts us in a place of giving up a resource which provides earthly gain. But what if we started looking at giving through this lens of joy, and giving as an expression of love and grace? The nineteenth-century preacher John Jowett once wrote,
"Cheerful giving is born of love. Giving is the language of loving; indeed, it has no other speech. 'God so loved that he gave!' Love finds its very life in giving itself away. Its only pride in possession is the joy of surrender. If love has all things, it yet possesses nothing."
Through faith, our identity lies not in ourselves and our possessions, but in God through Christ – all we have and all we are is offered freely to the God who gives us our very lives. As we give, we are not giving up something which belongs to us, but instead giving back what truly belongs to God in the first place, placing the question in our minds of how much of God’s resources are we willing to keep? In this we find the joy of surrender, not a sacrifice which brings us discomfort or pain, but a gift which we give in love and grace, and take pride in the mission we see grow before our eyes – and all this pointing to increasing thanksgiving to God.
In the latter part of today’s passage, Paul talks of our inner nature being renewed day by day, and it is here that I want to talk about earthly and heavenly things. What does it look like, or feel like, for our inner nature to be renewed each day? As many of us will know, within the Diocese we are thinking about what it means to live Christ’s story – being renewed by God each day is about growing in Christ likeness, growing in our understanding of what it is to live out our faith. It was once said that we are never more like Jesus when we give – when we put others before ourselves, when we engage in radical and sacrificial generosity. As we are renewed each day, we are renewed in the image of our generous God.
And so as we give, earthly meets the heavenly. Generous giving is a spiritual issue as well as a practical one. As we covered earlier, our identity lies in God, and so our independence, our free will, is offered in the service of God. Every bit of us belongs to God – our work, our leisure, our gifts, our time, and our money. As Christians we can never escape the fact that, because God created and chose to enter the material world and be born into it, material things and spiritual things can't be separated.
As we give to our churches, the earthly meets the heavenly – we experience the heavenly through earthly things. The church itself is a gift. It is a gift to believers, of course, but it’s also a gift to the world, and as we as the body of the church accept the gift, become a gift in the way we pour out God’s love to the world through our mission and ministry in the communities in which we are set. In each giving to our churches from the resources we have, we contribute to enabling this colourful tapestry of mission. Our financial giving, which we are focusing on during this period of time, is offered to resource the purpose to which we are called – in pastoral care, regular worship, the care of this building which speaks of our faith, clergy here and in the wider family of churches across the diocese, and work and activities offered to the local community. As we give financially, our giving comes from the heart as we see transformational ministry blossom – earthly meets the heavenly.
The mission which our giving resources inspires us as we see the outcome of our generosity, as we help this world to become more like the kingdom of God. Earthly meets the heavenly as we grow in spiritual maturity – recognising that God gifts people to each other, we each then take it in turns to be both giver and receiver between one another and the church in which we are a part, learning to be gracious receivers and well as generous givers. Earthly meets the heavenly as we learn to see God in the face of one another, as we each express his generous nature in whose image we are made. Our generosity creates gateways of heaven, revealing the love of God through our own compassion, our own generosity and our own giving – earthly things pointing to the heavenly.
Reflecting on our own giving – particularly to our churches – requires us to pray, but also to think of others in our community. The way we give matters, because it impacts on other people. You will hopefully have seen that in St Mary’s we have started promoting the Parish Giving Scheme, which is a really safe and efficient mechanism for planned giving, and I’d encourage you to transfer your giving to PGS if you’re able. Do come and talk to me at the end if you’d like to find out more about the Scheme.
And so as we take time in the coming weeks to reflect on our own giving, may I encourage you. We are called to reflect on how we respond to the generosity of God, as an outpouring of love to God, his church and the world. We put our trust in God as we reflect on whether our financial giving can be increased, trusting in his provision and that he will take our combined gifts and transform them into mission. As a community of God, let us pray for discernment, and to grow in Christ-like self-giving as we are sent out into the world.
Let us pray.
God of grace, God of joy, God of love,
you are the source of all things that are good.
Inspire in us generous hearts,
that our giving might be a gateway
between the earthly and the heavenly,
and that your love might be more widely known;
in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.