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Testimonial: A Leap of Faith

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Several decades ago, when I was raising my children and growing in involvement at my church, disaster struck the parish budget. Our annual Greek festival, without which our parish could not survive, only broke even because of a weekend of torrential rains and high winds. That’s the year we started talking about making the change—the leap of faith, really—to total stewardship. Eventually we decided to go ahead and do it, no longer holding a festival and asking parishioners for stewardship to cover the operating budget.

I was a part of the fledgling stewardship committee, and the discussions we had in the Board room inevitably led to discussions at our kitchen table. When I suggested that our own family take the same leap of faith the church was taking—that is, that we work toward tithing—my spouse resisted, at first. We were people of modest means, raising a large family, how could we possibly afford to tithe? Read More →

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The Publican and the Pharisee

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee: Triodion Begins

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As we enter the three weeks of preparation for Great and Holy Lent, the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee are particularly pertinent to the themes of EveryGoodandPerfectGift.org. In this blog, we strive to bring together resources that will inspire Orthodox Christians to greater giving back, especially of their treasure. However, we would do well to remember the Pharisee who gave tithes of all he had, and yet he was not justified. As Christ said in the Gospel of Matthew concerning almsgiving, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

As we practice the spiritual discipline of giving tithes and offerings, let us learn from the mistake of the Pharisee, who “… in his pride, … has falsified the meaning of true religion and faith. He has reduced these to external observations, measuring his piety by the amount of money he gives.” And, like the Publican, let us humble ourselves before God. “He humbles himself, and his humility justifies him before God. He becomes, in the words of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3), ‘poor in spirit.’ Our preparation for Lent thus begins with a prayer for humility, the beginning of true repentance.”

Quotes taken from the Great Lent resources page, The First Sunday of the Triodion Period: Sunday of The Publican and Pharisee, at goarch.org.

The Gospel of Luke 18:10-14

The Lord said this parable, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

Testimonial: Leftovers

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One year my family was given a special collection box to take home, fill with donations, and return to our church a few months later for a worthy Orthodox Christian cause. I loved the idea! My mind immediately focused on all the spare change we had accumulated—in the cup holder of the car, the bedside table, the couch cushions. If I would place this change in the box, I would not only be giving to a worthy cause, but I would be getting rid of the nuisance of having to figure out what to do with this change. I could solve two problems at once!

Little did I know, this box was about to transform the way I think about giving. Along with the box, we were given one last instruction, to please approach our collection as giving something up for Christ. We were challenged to consider giving in a spirit of sacrifice, rather than simply giving our leftovers. I realized then and there that I could–and should–give much more that I had initially thought to give. In fact, I realized this was true not just for the special collection box, but in all aspects of my giving to Christ and the Church.

After that day, we tried to treat the collection box almost like lighting a candle in church. Rather than only putting in spare change, we consciously tried to put in bills on a regular basis and say a prayer as we did so. The little lesson of the collection box stays with me to this day and stops me as I reach into my pocket to give: am I willing to sacrifice or just offer what I don’t need, my leftovers?

We are grateful to our readers who have offered to share their giving story with us, so that their testimony may inspire others. Read more on our Testimonials tab. We invite you to share your story, as well! Email us at info@everygoodandperfectgift.org or visit Share Your Story.

 

 

 

The Multiplying Our Gifts Challenge

A case study of a parish giving program

Fr. P. has done a lot of thinking, reading, and praying on the subject of stewardship. At the small, urban parish to which he had been recently assigned, finances were said to be a constant challenge. The giving paradigm long in place was membership dues with several fundraisers throughout the year to fill in the budget gaps. The overwhelming perception at the parish was that there was never enough money, and no more could be raised in the small community.   Read More →

2016 Stewardship Resources

The Stewardship Resources produced by Stewardship Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese are now online! The 2016 theme is taken from Psalm 34, used in the final hymn of the Service of Artoclasia, blessing of the five loaves:

Rich men have turned poor and gone hungry; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good thing.

The Blessing of Five Loaves of Bread is a brief service of thanksgiving through which we express our gratitude for all the blessings of life. Oil, wine, wheat, and the loaves of bread which are used in the service, are viewed as the most basic elements necessary for life. The Blessing reminds us of the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish by which Christ fed the multitude. This Blessing is usually offered during Vespers or after the Divine Liturgy on Feast days and other special occasions. After the Service, the bread is cut and distributed to the congregation (from Introduction: What is the Greek Orthodox Church? at goarch.org).

 

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Testimonial: How Much Should We Give?

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As a newlywed, becoming a steward of an Orthodox church for the first time in my adult life, I first asked the question: “How much should we give?” When I put the question to the church office administrator, she knew from experience that what I really meant was, “What do most people give?” Giving at my new parish was on a stewardship model, so there was no minimum or membership fee. I wanted to know what the right amount was for the privilege of attending services and having the priest available for our needs, something like a membership fee to other organizations in our life. But, to be honest, I also didn’t want to give “too much.”  Read More →

The Legacy of Orthodox Action Continues

In 2007, a group of Orthodox Christians serving regularly at a soup kitchen in Buffalo, New York, were encouraged by the proistamenos of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Fr. Christos Christakis, to explore using the church facilities to serve those in need in the church’s neighborhood on Buffalo’s west side. After some meetings and information gathering, the group held its first event on Thanksgiving Day, feeding and offering hospitality to nearly 200 guests.

The group at Annunciation chose the name Orthodox Action in honor of Mother Maria Skobtsova and her work with those who were poor, sick, and homeless in Paris in the 1930s and 40s. Mother Maria firmly believed that the Church must take on the responsibility of social service and vowed to personally “share the life of paupers and tramps.” The organization co-founded by Mother Maria was called Orthodox Action and at first cared mainly for the many Russian immigrants in Paris fleeing the Bolshevik revolution. When Germany occupied France during World War II, Orthodox Action began to serve Jews as well, offering food, shelter, and even false baptismal certificates to save them from deportation to concentration camps. For this work Mother Maria was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck, where she died a martyr’s death in 1945. In 2004, Mother Maria was canonized by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and glorified as a saint of the Orthodox Church.

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Mission Impossible

Situated within blocks of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Holy Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church has always had a special ministry to the clinic’s patients. Annually over 1,000 Orthodox visitors from throughout the U.S. and the world find a spiritual “home away from home” during what can be intensely difficult times. Parishioners have always reached out to their visitors proactively: cooking meals, driving to appointments, and hosting in their homes. Christ’s call to show love to the stranger, philoxenia, is a way of life at Holy Anargyroi.

Contact with patients over the years made it clear that long-term lodging was one of the greatest challenges for patients and their families. Costs associated with an extended stay during treatment—sometimes spanning many months—can be financially devastating. While some free or low-cost guest housing does exist, such as the Ronald McDonald House, demand for it far exceeds availability. Read More →

Be the Bee: The King’s Stewards

Watch this engaging explanation of stewardship for young people. Be the Bee is a weekly web video series put out by Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. To see the complete series, click here.

 

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