Last month, our Board President, Barry Shumpert, spoke in his blog about stewardship and what it means to him. Stewardship, as he points out, involves two central components: gratitude and generosity. Barry’s idea that gratitude requires both noticing and responding to the blessings and gifts we receive through being part of a community seems spot-on to me. Without paying attention, we may take too much for granted. But without actively giving thanks to others, and to our community, we may still be effectively dismissing or undervaluing those blessings. In turn, acting generously is a wonderful way to actively acknowledge and ‘pay forward’ the gifts we receive.
The idea of stewardship is one that applies in all areas of our lives; it’s not just about our money. We need to
be good stewards of all our resources: our time, our volunteer energies, our physical building and grounds, our relationships, our own needs and offerings. Being good stewards means that we are, first, conscious of the resources we are engaged with on all levels, and, second, making choices with both our hearts and our heads about how best to use those resources.
Recently, we’ve become aware of some ways that others are not being good ‘stewards’ of the open spaces around our building and grounds. Recent conflicts with the community who wish to use our parking area, and our green space, have me asking ‘how can we be good stewards of this space?’ Westside’s grounds are private property. And yet they are public space. We connect to a greenway, and many neighbors walk their dogs on our lawns; people come to take photographs by the rocks down by the creek; people want to throw a ball on our large field across from the parking area. (Many of you may not even have known that was Westside property.) What’s the best way to share our space, while still protecting and preserving it?
We have a two-fold mission: to take care of one another, and also to reach out and connect in healing and positive ways with our larger community. Our mission statement makes this clear: We are a religious community that nurtures each person’s unique path of spiritual development as we live our values through service to each other and to the larger community. I believe that, in all areas of church life, we are made richer and more sustainable by a healthy balance of this inner and outer work. Sharing our green space is one of many ways we can consciously extend ourselves into the neighborhood. Wise stewardship of this space, and how we share it, can become a source of enrichment not only for us, but for our community, as well.
On October 15th, we’ll be talking about ways we can be more financially sustainable. This involves stewardship that is both inward-looking and outward-reaching. We need to find ways to share the blessings of our space, as well as our church home, with more people. Let’s be thinking about how connecting more directly, respectfully, and consciously with our neighbors can support that work, and how we can be more sustainable in relating to our larger community. Whether it’s sharing our green space, or inviting more people through the doors on Sunday mornings, we can offer our neighbors lots of ways to enjoy the gifts that Westside enjoys. And we can do this in ways that enrich and enliven our church family, and our local community.
Looking forward to hearing your ideas on October 15th,
With deep gratitude for all that you all do,