Each Tuesday during Stewardship Season, October 4–November 8, a member of the Stewardship Ministry is posting a brief reflection and invitation to discussion in the Saint Mark's Community Life closed Facebook group. If you do not use Facebook, here is the reflection from October 27, posted by ministry team member Greg Simon, along with highlights of the subsequent discussion. Please add your thoughts in the comments below!
Can Venmo be a sacrament? It has become one for me.
Julie and I fulfill our annual pledge to Saint Mark’s automatically – directly from our bank to the cathedral office every month. But I have still valued the ritual of hearing those offertory sentences and placing cash in our offertory basin every Sunday. Or I did until the pandemic happened. Since March, that sacramental act of giving during our liturgy now happens on Venmo.
I could say that the pandemic has upended many of our sacraments. Or I could say it has expanded them. As life has moved to “the cloud”, Zoom has become a space for sacrament. And Facebook. And Chromecast. Even Xfinity! When that all seems disorienting or even disturbing to me, I remind myself that people said the same thing about the printing press.
I think that our actions with money have always been a sacramental space. Our money decisions are, as the traditional catechism puts it, “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace”. Giving money directly connects our ordinary lives to the extraordinary life of God’s Kingdom. Our gifts to grow the Kingdom are, as the catechism says, “certain means by which we receive that grace”. Even if they happen over Venmo.
How has your sacramental giving changed since March?
I have been giving online for years, even since the option became available, mainly because I stopped carrying my checkbook, and it was a way for me to give "my first fruits" on payday.
Giving during this time of pandemic feels like a powerful connection. I think it always did, but I had so many other ways of connecting and interacting with all of you, that I didn't notice it as much. Now, when I give my gift, I take a little time, picture our church and our wonderful people, and savor the thought that I am continuing to be present with you all, even while apart physically.
I donate using the text message system. Before, I’d send the message just before the offertory anthem at the 9:00 service, then sing that anthem since I’m in the Saint Mark’s Singers. Now, I do it from home at the same point in the online Sunday morning webcast. It is a symbolic way of putting something in the basket.
Here is the reflection from October 20, posted by Vestry member and fashion historian Clara Berg, along with highlights of the subsequent discussion. Please add your thoughts in the comments below!
"I love the "knit together" anthems - seeing all those faces I miss seeing in person....
It's important to me to walk around the grounds at least a couple of times a week. And sometimes chat with Ray"
"There was something comforting about seeing pictures of everyone's Wednesday evening dinners right after the building closed. Knowing that we were still finding a way to eat together but from our own homes was reassuring. It was also fun to discover what a deep bench of good chefs there are at Saint Mark's!"
—The Rev. Cristi Chapman
"Sometimes, especially when we have large meetings or classes, I like to arrive early and spend the first few minutes just scrolling through the gallery of faces, reminding me that we're all part of the same community even if we can't be together in person."
"Clara, I’ll never use the phrase “knit together” in quite the same way ever again! What an beautiful and profound image... and it speaks exactly to what I’ve learned during the building closure: that this wasn’t just a group of people who happened to be in the same place as me on Sunday morning, and that we were actually connected in a deeper way all along."
"It also implies a creation, as in "you knit me together in my mother's womb" from my favorite Psalm 139."
"I've been able to meet folks that I might not have met otherwise because of having more available on Zoom. I'm eager to see people in real life again and I'm thankful I can participate in some things that I couldn't have before."
Here is the reflection from October 6, posted by ministry co-chair Lynne Markova, along with highlights of the subsequent discussion. Please add your thoughts in the comments below!
Welcome to this week's Stewardship Reflection!
During this pandemic, two unique clouds have helped me to stay connected and avoid isolation. I am grateful for them both.
One is the technical computing cloud, the backbone of servers, other hardware and software that fuels our global network. It enables us to connect quickly, safely and virtually, whether through texting, emailing, attending (yet another) Zoom meeting, or my sharing this reflection. The other is our wonderful “Cloud of Witnesses,” our Saint Mark’s community that has gathered virtually in dozens of new and innovative ways, reminding us that we are not alone. We are still One Body, even during this difficult time, and, one day, we will gather in person again.
For me, making my pledge is one way of giving thanks to God for the gift of our community. It is also a tangible way I can contribute to others staying connected and can help to bring about our longed-for reunion, whenever it arrives.
How has God helped you to stay connected and “knit together” during this pandemic?
Thank you, Lynne! One of the ways I witnessed God working through Saint Mark's this summer was through Tent City 3. The hospitality of the community to care for our new neighbors was remarkable. So was the hospitality of the residents to the wider community. (More on that latter part in Sunday's sermon!) God *is* finding all kinds of ways to bring us together...to knit us more closely to and with each other. What a great joy to witness!
Being part of the team that helps with the livestream production during the pandemic has been a discomfiting experience; the nave feels unnaturally sterile (no pun intended), and I'm acutely aware of the privilege of having access to the cathedral when so many hundreds of our fellow worshippers can't be there.
But when I read their comments on social media about how they follow along every week, how they stand and sing the hymns as we do every Sunday, it reminds me that we are all so deeply and powerfully connected. We have committed our time, our energy, and our money to this place, and I fully believe that God commits to us that we will never be alone.
Even as COVID-19 has taken away so much from us, God has given us so much; the gift of community, the gift of connection, the gift of love.
Lynne Markova replied: "Thank you, Michael ! I was on the Vestry when we voted to purchase the livestream equipment. I remember we were all very excited about the new technology and how it might make people feel more drawn in and included. I'm not sure if anyone envisioned it being the lifeline that it has proven to be. So many thanks to you and the rest of the team who work so hard to make the connection possible."
This summer we brought several Ministry groups together through “Virtual Popcorn HappyHours.” It was great to see familiar smiling faces and to hear voices of people we are in community with but have not seen since closure. It was as if time has not passed. It was a blessing.
Lynne Markova replied: "Thank you, Robert! The one I attended was so much fun. One of the things I try to do is arrive early to Zoom meetings, especially the larger ones, so I can scroll through and see everyone's faces.
As one of my friends and I agreed, if we *have* to live through a pandemic, at least we're doing it in a time where we have technology to keep us connected."