My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
"We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks to Thee, and we pray to Thee, O our God."
"Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and bloodless worship, and beseech Thee and pray Thee and supplicate Thee: send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here offered."
How can one not offer thanks to our Creator unceasingly for His great mercy and unconditional love? "But this I say: 'He who gives sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace about toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work...while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgiving to God...Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)
"Thine own of Thine own we offer to Thee, in all (time) and for all" (kindness to us). Everything that we offer to God is His. We have nothing to offer Him! Offering is only true offering if it is done in the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As followers and disciples of Christ we are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love one another as Christ has loved us. Giving for any lesser reason (to control others, to get glory for ourselves) is a perversion of the Gospel. It is a false "gospel". This "gospel" is a "turning away" from "the grace of Christ." It is no less than a distortion of the truth.
Our great Father, Saint Basil the Great wrote, " this life is no accident, but is a training ground so that we rational beings may learn to know God. This is relevant to our stewardship of what we have, and to our giving, especially during the period from January to December, our annual "Giving in Stewardship Emphasis Season." How should be apply Christ's law of love to our giving in Christian stewardship?
Our approach to all of you has been always very polite, gentle, considerate, respectful, friendly, patient, and most of all loving. We, the parish council and I, make every effort to keep you informed throughout the calendar year of where we are with the parish finances. There is, in other words, transparency. Those of you, who truly care, take the time to read the information given to you through bulletins, reports, special mailings, emails, etc. and know exactly the struggle of the parish.
The fact of the matter is that everything in the country and the world is constantly increasing, i.e., foodstuffs, clothes, utilities, travel, gasoline, hospitals, hotels, medicine, doctors, attorneys, trash pickup, newspaper delivery, cable, school tuition, etc. etc. but there are those parishioners, that somehow feel the local parish is immune to these increases. It is this attitude that encourages some to keep their stewardship the same year in and year out. To drop a $1 at the offering tray once a week...
We all understand that there are some parishioners on fixed income or social security and the appropriate consideration is given. However, there are many more parishioners who are financially sound, and they could easily increase their stewardship without any personal risk or difficulty, but don't. Even though, they are fully aware of the plight of the church. There are no other options!
A number of fundraising events have been tried over the years, but one by one failed, mainly because of lack of support from the parish. Other parishes within the Metropolis of Chicago have greater success fundraising, but only, because they have a lot more people to draw from in large city and a larger Greek population. We don't have that luxury.
All the parishioners must come together, on Sunday, December 6th, to decide together, the future of the church of Saint Andrew.
I have confidence in all of you that you will do whatever needs to be done to protect the church from this very real and immediate danger. Our parish has served all Orthodox Christians in Michiana for 90 years with compassion and love. It is the turn of the members and stewards of the parish to reciprocate in kind.
Giving is definitely not all there is to stewardship. Stewardship is a very large topic, concerned with all our relationships to God and to each other. We are each stewards of God's gifts to us. God has given us many obligations. Giving is just part of this. For example, Holy Scripture tells us we are to care for those of our own households (1 Timothy 5:8); if we do not, we have denied the faith and are worse than unbelievers.
When the parish, any Christian parish, is faced with such an enormous financial crisis it also indicates that there is a much greater problem. The problem is spiritual. The spiritual problem leads to the financial problem and not the other way around. What is the spiritual problem? It may be that there is a lack of commitment to Christ. It may be a lack of gratitude to Christ for the many gifts He has given. It may be a lack of understanding of what our duties to our Church, as Orthodox Christians, are. A lack of appreciation of how much we depend on the Church, i.e., baptisms, weddings, funerals, Divine Liturgy, visiting the sick, issuing documents, offering counseling, offering instruction on the Faith, providing a permanent priest to fulfill all our spiritual needs and more.
Other churches, of other Christian traditions have all kinds of demands and expectations of their members. The only request that our Church has of its members is to attend regularly the holy services, to willingly have a prayer and sacramental life, to bring the children to Sunday School, to volunteer once a year to work at the Greek festival, and finally, to be conscientious stewards of the Church and parish. There are no threats, nor pressure, no harassment and no ultimatums.
The question is what would you, or your family do, without the church? Where would you go?
Let us sincerely turn our Lord to guide us and to enlighten our minds and hearts to do our Christian duty, and glorify His Holy Name!
With sincere agape,