Sunday, 8 March 2015

Renewing giving

Today’s sermon is going to be rather different to usual.  Today we are launching a programme through which we can renew how much we give to the church – the collection.  We are inviting everyone to reflect, reassess and recommit to giving regularly a planned amount to support and sustain the mission of the church in this place and in this diocese.

Last week I spoke about preparation for this not starting with money or budgets but with the heart.  Jesus told his disciples that if they wanted to belong to him they had to take up their cross and follow him (Mark 8:31-38).  Self-giving, sacrificial-giving was set as the way to follow Christ.  Money is just one aspect of that, but it is one aspect of it, and a way that often shows where our heart is really focused.

Many of you will have heard numerous presentations on this over the years.  For some this will be new and we will be delighted if you take this opportunity to join in.  I also said last week that our church finances are based on a common purse.  That means that there is no subscription fee; we don’t charge membership fees.  We give generously in response to a generous God according to our means, and everyone is able to afford different amounts.  But together we produce a pot of money that enables what we do to happen.  It doesn’t happen without it.

We are not funded by the government and we live pretty hand to mouth.  We have some investments and trusts which we can draw on, but these do not cover anywhere near all the bills.

There is a pack for each person/household, personally addressed.  If there isn’t one for you it means we don’t have your contact details.  But don’t worry, we have spares and would like to make sure we are up-to-date and no one is missed out!

Inside the pack there are 5 things:
·      Letter from me introducing the renewal
·      Leaflet on giving, produced by the CofE nationally
·      Leaflet setting out the headlines of our finances
·      A response form
·      Envelope addressed to the PCC Treasurer for your reply so that it is confidential
The finance leaflet sets out the budget for this year.  It shows that it costs around £1,700 p/w to run the church.  This does not include any major restoration or repairs, those are funded by special appeals, specific grants and donations.  So this is just to do what we do.  The figure includes the amount we give to other charitable causes, but that comes from specific efforts so is included just to show that it happens.

Our income is around £1,500 p/w, so there is a gap of £234 p/w.  That is £12,000 for the year.  We need to plug that gap to break even.  How can we do that?

The good news is that we have the money.  The bad news is that it’s in your pockets – it’s nowhere else.

This sounds a lot of money, but £234 divided by 80 people is just £2.92; that is less than the price of a meal deal from Tesco.  If it is given under the Gift Aid scheme, where we are able to claim the tax back from the government that you have already paid on your income (the support we do get from the government) then for each £1 given we can get an extra 25p, at no extra cost to you.  That means the amount we need averages out at £2.34 extra each; that’s around the price of a pint in The Draper’s.  Some will be able to afford to increase their giving by much more when they look at this; some won’t.  That’s why we have a common purse and together we can fix this.

Where does your giving come in your list of priorities for your spending?  I think there are some basics we have to cover if we are living on the breadline, which need to come first: rent, gas, electricity, food; may be one or two others, the bare necessities of life.  But giving should be one of our top priorities, if not the top, and if we are not on the breadline it can come much nearer the top!  In that case it is what you work out first and then plan your life around that.  It shows that it really matters and that is the principle behind tithing, where a particular percentage is encouraged, in the Bible that is 10%.  Life is a bit different today but still the question and challenge stands.

No one is being left out of this renewal.  If you have a source of money, you are counted in.  I first joined a planned giving scheme at my local church when I was 16 and had a Saturday job.  That was in the early 1980s and I gave 50p p/w.  It was a long time ago!  When I started my first full-time job after I graduated in 1985, 30 years ago, I gave £5 p/w.  Scale that up for today; scale it up for inflation since then too.  I still work out my giving before I plan holidays, clothes, recreation costs.  I am not asking you to do anything that I don’t do and haven’t done for 36 years.  I’ve also pursued a vocation that pays a fraction of what I would be paid if I’d stayed in the financial world, where I worked before, or if the skills I am required to use were assessed against a secular commercial pay scale.  That has brought sacrifices, which have been tough at times, but I have still maintained giving.

So please take your pack and read it; pray about it and your money; make your honest and generous response and return it in the envelope to the box in the church.  On Easter Day all of the responses will be presented, unopened, and we will say a prayer of thanksgiving.

If you have any questions you can talk to me, though I don’t know how much you give and I chose not to know – it is not something I need to know when talking to you.  Our treasurer, Mark Royle’s phone number and email address are also on the response leaflet, so you can talk to him too.

You can give in two ways.  You can have a box of planned giving envelopes so that you have a physical reminder to put your money in each week, even if you are not coming to church that week.  Susan prefers to use that method.  Alternatively you can give by bank standing order, where the money goes out of your account at the beginning of the month as you receive it.  I prefer to use that method.  If you want envelopes please write that on the response form or let us know; it’s not there on the form so you will need to just add it, and fill in what applies and not what doesn’t.

Giving changes us.  It sets the tone for how we live.  Thinking about it and planning it is a spiritual exercise which is why we are doing this in Lent.  It asks about priorities.  It asks this of all of us and I don’t exclude myself from that.

Sermon preached in Peterborough Parish Church, Sunday 8th March 2015

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