Stewarding Our Stories

I have been working with our stewardship team at UPC over the past year. It has been incredible to be included in their journey. They are a very creative and imaginative group of people (yes these are the "finance" people! It's hard to believe). Over the past few years, they have helped our congregation rethink the idea of stewardship-- expanding it far beyond budgets and fund-raising.

They have any expanded it beyond time, talent, and treasure (the now classic Christian definition). Over the past year, our team has articulated two very important ideas regarding stewardship:

1) We must steward our relationships. This can be interpersonal relationships such as connections with co-workers or parents/children. This can be intra-organizational such as the youth ministry's connection to the worship committee. It is also inter-organizational such as our relationship with another church or Christian organization. Finally, it must include the relationship between our church and our neighborhood, our church and the local university, our church and the city, etc. We MUST steward our relationships.

2) We must steward our story(ies). Everyone has a story that is vitally important to identity and vocation. When we encounter someone new, a basic exchange of stories begins (Hi, may name is.... and I work.... and I am married...., etc.). Over time, these stories unfold into something far more complex and interesting. So too, our church has a story. It is these memories of the past that can give us imagination for the present and future. Thus, it is vitally important that the congregation and its leaders tell stories that form the core of the congregation's identity.

Stewardship is so much more than finances. It is about identity and vocation. Who am I and what am I to do? Who are we and what are we doing? Who am I connected to? What webs are we a part of? What new strands/connections do we want to make? This is stewardship!


Working Our Theology

I have always had a desire to learn theology (since I was 10 years old!-- yeah, I'm weird). I love to read about it, discuss it, and figure out how to use it in daily life. However, I have found over the years that many in ministry and in the church have no interest in theology outside of esoteric debates. They debate the intricacies of atonement or the relationship of the Trinity but have no real grasp on what this might mean in daily life. Sometimes they can create a little thought, but rarely is it a robust, meaningful theological foundation or framework.

This is probably why so many are turned off from theology. However, people theologize all day long about daily life and do not often realize they are. Recently, a friend was talking about praying before one of our kids programs. This friend noted how that day was really tough working with the kids. My friend then said, "think about how much harder it would have been if we had not prayed-- think of what the kids might have done!" This friend had just made a theological statement (I probably would have made a different statement). However, if my friend would really consider the statement and begin pushing it up against the abstract theology learned over the years, then my friend might think that such a statement and outlook on life was off the mark (or perhaps I'm wrong and my friend would come to the same conclusion). Either way, my friend would be connecting the book knowledge of theology to the everyday statements people make about God and life.

I just picked up The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics by Hauerwas and Wells-- FANTASTIC! A great example of a group of scholars understanding how theology is a matrix or framework for understanding life. I am excited to read the chapter on Baptism and Abortion, and also the chapter on Eucharist and Sexuality-- this is putting theology to work!