‘Tis the Season of Generosity

This homily is given only once a year.  The one Sunday a year when I am asked to speak about Giving.  Giving of time, talent and treasure.  Thank you for listening to this message.

Thank you for being a part of our parish family.  It’s been the blessing of a lifetime for me to serve as your rector.  Thank you for loving and sustaining our parish, some of you for many years, others of you in recent years.  On the one hand, given our many gifts, it is not surprising at all that we find ourselves still in existence during this pandemic.  And on the other hand it is a miracle given the record number of churches and non-profits which have closed during this pandemic.  Because of you, we’re still here, in relatively good shape, all things considered, in this triangle of space between Russell, High and Mason Streets … with the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills to the west of us, Del Ray to the east, Old Town to our south and Arlington to our north.  

Because of the faith we have received and the faith that we now pass on, we’ve stood here, gathered in worship and fellowship for over 110 years.  Because of people just like you, who have found comfort and inspiration here in our church, we’re still here with hopefully another century ahead of us.

When I first visited Emmanuel almost nine years ago, our parish was in the process of discerning who they wanted to call as their next rector.  I didn’t know then if I would make the cut; but what I did know was this:

This church in

This neighborhood with

These people at this

Time in our history …

I thought to myself, quite literally, 

“There’s nothing these people can’t accomplish.”

I believed this then, and I believe this still today.

We can accomplish anything together.



Our church has been sustained through the time and talents shared by countless volunteers; and through the financial pledges thoughtfully and prayerfully made year after year by so many of you.  Thank you.  From all of us at Emmanuel, thank you.  Sincerely.

The vestry has set our 2022 goal for this year’s Annual Giving Campaign at $475,000.00. And, next year will be Year Three of the Four-Year program designed by the Vestry and Finance Teams to raise an additional $50,000 a year designated exclusively to meet future needs of our building and grounds.  Caring for our historic building is ever present in our work.  

As you know we have a wonderful situation going on here at Emmanuel where we have more than 140 children and youth who call us their spiritual home.  After careful study and consideration, with the permission of our vestry and parish leadership, in order to more fully support a ministry to these young and critically important members of our parish, we plan to hire a full-time Director of Children and Youth – possibly paired with Outreach.

Remember what I said just a few sentences ago:

Together we can accomplish anything we set our minds and hearts to.  We can do this.


The last few weeks, here in church, we’ve heard excerpts from The Book of Job.  

Anytime we hear from Job, people in the pews rightfully wonder, “Why does it seem like God gives me more than I can handle?”  It’s a fair question.  But including the Book of Job, you’ll not find anywhere in the Bible, God telling people that they won’t be given more than they can handle.

Job certainly had more than he could handle.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, had more than she could handle.

St. Paul the Apostle, had way more than he could handle.

As did all of the disciples, have more than they can handle.

Heck, Jesus Himself sure had more than He could handle alone … and He was, and IS God!

I think you’d agree, in this life, at times, you’ve also felt like you’ve been given way more than you can handle alone.

I know I feel like this sometimes too.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians helps us to understand that God allows us at times to experience more than we can handle so we won’t go through all of life thinking we can handle everything on our own.  We can’t handle everything on our own.

We were never designed to handle everything on our own.

Cancer is more than anyone can handle on their own.

Infidelity is more than anyone can handle on their own.



The death of a loved one.



Prodigal children.

And 1001 other life struggles … more than anyone can handle on their own.

God never expected you to handle it all alone … all by yourself.

God doesn’t want you relying only on your own strength.

God DOES expect you to hand it over to Him.

God wants to partner WITH us through our lives.

So we’re never alone – always having Someone Else to help us carry whatever our burden is.


That’s how I feel each year about our Annual Giving process here at Emmanuel.

As rector (as pastor) I tend to feel like the responsibility to raise the funds we need each year falls squarely on my shoulders, like the responsibility is all mine.  I’m reminded at times like this just how big my ego is.  And reminded that while I have done a lot of personal work to not always be so perfectionistic, that I still have a ways to go.

Raising all of the funds myself for the needs of the church and our broader community has always been the work of all of us together.  The work has never been mine all alone to shoulder.

So I come to you again, humbly asking you to share this burden with me.  

How blessed are we that we get to be the ones who give.  The story could be totally different where our lives were flipped and all we did was receive.  

But instead, God has given us gifts to share, and share we will.  Again and again, every year.

I am told that one of our parishioners on our vestry has already doubled their family’s pledge from last year.  Commitments such as this help us to get just that much closer to our overall goal.  Thank you to that family.  Maybe others can do the same.  But whatever you can give please know that we appreciate every cent you pledge to help us remain faithful and fruitful in our ministry here in Alexandria. 

In the past the vestry set increasing the number of pledges as a goal.  It made sense at the time – to simply increase the number of folks who pledge.  But what we have discovered over time is that even as we have grown in size and number of people and families, that the percentage of family units pledging has decreased, not increased.  

So this year I’m personally asking that every family unit pledge something, whatever you can, so that we achieve 100% participation.  This will require every one of us to give whatever we feel called to give; and it will require those who have not yet made a pledge to do so.

One of our parishioners shared with me that their family will make a $100.00 contribution for every new donor who completes a pledge for 2022.   We are hopeful this offer will help to increase both participation in our pledges and budget the dollars available for expanding our ministries and potential impact.  Talk about a creative challenge for us all.  Thank you to this individual for thinking outside the box.

Maybe one or another of you might want to join this challenge and also offer whatever you’d like to contribute for every new donor who pledges for 2022?  PLEASE send me that message!  

You recently received in your mailboxes at home information we wanted to share about how we did last year during this pandemic and you also received a pledge card for 2022.  Thank you to those who have already filled out the 2022 pledge card; and to those who have not yet had the opportunity to do so, please fill that card out and pass it back to our parish office and the Annual Giving Team as soon as you are able.  Let’s see if we can get to 100% participation! 

Remember what I said a couple of minutes ago:  Together.  We. Can. Do. This.

Please let me say again that it is the privilege of a lifetime to serve alongside all of you as together, through word and action, we continue to spread the Good News of Christ in our community, church and families.

Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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