A story of gratitude and growth
a stewardship reflection by Flo Lowrey
I want to tell you all a story this morning. Like all good stories, it begins, “Once Upon a Time”.
Once upon a time in a sleepy little hamlet in northeast Tarrant county there was a group of Christians who wanted to start an Episcopal church. The bishop suggested that they name the church “St Martin-in-the-Fields” because that name aptly described the location of the property just outside the city limits in a ﬁeld where cows grazed.
A few years passed and the bishop was able to provide a trailer for the congregation to worship in. About that same time, a lady in her early 40’s moved to the area from Fort Worth. She found the church after several attempts, not recognizing the trailer as a place of worship.
The newcomer had not been in church in about 20 years. She was shy and nervous about entering a church where only a few people were worshiping in a trailer. Her good friend Helen accompanied her that day. The people were very friendly and immediately made her feel welcome. During the service you could smell the coffee brewing at the rear of the trailer. They invited her and Helen to stay for coffee following the service, which they did.
Now the newcomer knew something that those folks didn’t know: she was an alcoholic. Every time she went to the altar rail to receive communion, she cried, as she knew that God was also welcoming her back.
Now the church was strong in spirit, but poor ﬁnancially. The 12 acres had to be paid for, and the congregation needed a building in which to worship. The newcomer wanted to help, but she had ﬁnancial problems of her own. Her initial pledge was very small and was given more out of her sense of obligation than a sense of gratitude. She knew there were others in the congregation that were able to give more than she was, and that caused her to feel guilty. Nevertheless, she managed to make her pledge that ﬁrst year. She felt good about this and made a promise to herself and God to increase the pledge by a small amount the next year. And the next year, and the next.
The church was becoming very important to her recovery from the bondage of alcohol, and those good folks became her family. She began to feel differently about stewardship. Tithing became important. She began offering to help with projects. At that time the members met on Wednesday evenings to complete the inside of the nave. The women would bring food to share, and they would work in the kitchen and sacristy while the men put up dry walls, constructed the altar area and built the altar rail.
She no longer felt like a newcomer. She was an active, participating member, offering both her ﬁnancial means and God-given gifts. Now her heart was really in it! Her relationship with the Lord was becoming deeper and more meaningful. She realized the money that had previously been spent on alcohol could be given to God instead. Tithing became a reality! To quote Oprah, she had been given an attitude of gratitude.
Soon the church needed to expand and a capital funds drive was initiated. This meant a tightening of the belt at home in order to make the extra pledge for a new building as well as supporting the general fund. But it was an exciting time!
The congregation built what is now called the West Parish Hall. The new building was occupied for several years, and then the congregation outgrew it. A second capital funds drive, another tightening of the belt at home, another extra pledge for expansion to the east. Those buildings now house the children during the week at the St. Martin’s Academy, and on Sundays for Sunday School and Godly Play. Those extra pledges and sacriﬁces of the members of the congregation made years ago are paying off. Our children are being educated in the love that God has for them and for all of us.
Now the lady in our story lives happily ever after in the knowledge that the peace and love that she has in her heart is a direct result of trusting God, and being wrapped in the loving fellowship of the good people of St. Martin’s.
One day, in the fullness of time, her ashes will be placed in the Memorial Garden of the church that has nurtured and transformed her and given her a place to offer to God all that she is, and all that she has, in gratitude for her many blessings.
Oh, I almost forgot: that lady is me.