Parish of Greenside
Please click here to access a form for Planned Giving (standing orders, envelopes, gift aid, etc.)
By Rachael Phillips, our Diocesan Generous Giving Project Officer
Above: Rachael Phillips, Our Diocesan Generous Giving Officer, who met with God whilst on duty in Afghanistan.
Rachael Phillips, our Generous Giving Officer has written some excellent articles now. Just click here to access them. Then click ‘FOLLOW’ on the bottom right hand corner of any of the articles to be directly informed when a new one is posted. The Generous Giving Project is also on Facebook; Twitter: @GenGivProject and an Instagram, whichever you prefer to use!
Rachael is collecting true stories to share, about God’s generosity. Expect to be inspired! Would you like to share your story of receiving or giving generosity, financial or otherwise, from a friend or a stranger, or a non-Christian? Perhaps your answer to prayer turned up out of the blue. Your identity can be publicised or kept anonymous. Your story can be very old or recent, long or short. Please email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org Here’s one true story below:
We married at 20, and had a child within a year. Money was very tight, and it was a struggle to get to payday, especially after the second baby was born. If the children needed shoes, then food went short. I remember one Saturday morning when Sheila and I decided that prayer was our only hope. We still had a week to go until my wage was paid, with no food left in the house and no money to pay for it, and I was walking six miles a day to work to save bus-fares.
We had simply asked God to help us as we were in a mess, and we needed food for the children. Within the hour, a knock came to the door, and a man I knew from my previous job asked if we could help him out. His wife had been ill, and he had done the weekly shop, then taken it home to find his wife had already done it. So he called to ask if we might be able to use what he had bought. I can still see the vacuum-packed bacon sitting on top of the box; a touch of luxury that could never afford. It kick-started us on a journey of prayer and intercession and thanksgiving, and trying to share. We are grateful to God, and an old man who showed us unexpected and undeserved generosity.
Ian Davies, Whitburn Church
PS Rachael’s webpage with more stories is on https://thegenerousgivingproject.com/.
Part 1. Am I really a Disciple?
Welcome to the first in a series of blogs focusing on an important aspect of being Disciples of Christ; giving generously. But before we get on to that, we need to know what Discipleship is. You may not have known you were a ‘disciple’ until now. The word means ‘learner’ and we use it to describe but those who want to grow in Christ and in doing so model and teach other Christians about lots of things including the Bible, prayer, doctrine (what Christians believe), relationships, Christian living, service, and worship.
You might think that you’re not cut out for the job and your knowledge of the Christian faith is shaky. Don’t worry. God called you as you are and uses your skills, even ones you didn’t know you had. Every time you pray or you tell a friend that you’re going to church or you explain to a workmate what Lent is all about, you’re being a Disciple. Discipleship is about how we live a distinctly Christian way. It’s about action. God calls us to respond, and when we do, we are being disciples.
Following the teachings of Jesus, and trying as best we can to live like He did, makes us stand out from the crowd for good reasons, in all sorts of ways. When we live as Disciples, our lives are so much richer because we knowand , no matter how many mistakes we make along the way. We know we are never alone; we face the world safe in the knowledge that God is with us now, and always will be. As Disciples, when we are troubled or scared we can pray and feel a sense of peace from the connection with get with our Father. As Disciples, when we worship we join in celebrating and praising the wonder of God.
As Disciples, we are incredibly blessed because we have a very generous God whose generosity knows no bounds. We love God because He first loved us, and we give because God first gave to us “immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). Our whole lives are a response to a loving, generous God, who gives freely and without measure to the whole world. When we immerse ourselves in the character of God, we come to realise that all that we are, and all that we have, comes from God’s generosity. This concept can be quite surprising and challenging for some of us. We will look at this in more detail in the series.
The well-known Bible verse from John’s Gospel beautifully and simply sums this up:
John shows us that the Biblical concepts of “love” and “gift” are inseparable. In fact it is impossible to understand one without the other. Therefore, because God’s love islove, our love must be expressed through giving back as well.
God gave Jesus to the world that through him we might have eternal life, and to have eternal life is to know God in a way that without Jesus it would not be possible. So, as we think about who God is and about His character, the call to be like our heavenly Father challenges us to emulate his generosity. Such love knows has boundaries and will challenge us as much as it will challenge and bless those around us.
Over this series of blogs about Generous Giving we will learn about this key part of our faith and how we respond to God’s call. We will look at ways we can change our lives to reflect God’s love, and in doing so, change the lives of others. It doesn’t matter how long we have been Christians or where we are in our relationship with God. It doesn’t matter if we already knew we were Disciples or if we learned that for the first time today. Being nearer God and trying to understand Him is something we all ultimately seek. Giving Generously is a central part of that and when we feel ready to take this step and rethink how we do this, we are changed. It is a beautiful thing. We will see our own lives transformed, our parishes and communities transformed and this special corner of God’s Kingdom in the North East of England transformed.
Let’s pray about this transformation and the exciting opportunities that are just around the corner.
God you know me and all my ways. You knew me before I was born and you gave me life. You are my guide, my shield, my strength. You are my best friend and confidant. You hear my prayers and you comfort me when I am alone. I am not worthy but you give me so much anyway. I thank you with all my heart for your generosity. Please help me, Lord, to consider how I can give more generously. Transform me God. Search my heart and guide me to be more like you. Fill me with joy and peace and love when I give, and remind me that I give because first you gave.
Part 2. Don’t Mention The ‘M’ Word
I feel I can speak with confidence about how much people hate talking about money because I’m in that boat too.
A few weeks ago I had a leak in the bathroom. After the plumber had finished, he showed me what he’d done and we walked downstairs.
Then came the inevitable and extremely awkward bit. Stalling for time, I asked if he wanted another cup of tea. He had his tool bag in his hands and was ready for home, but thankfully he said yes. We talked and talked. Ten minutes passed. I hoped my husband would come home soon so he could deal with the situation. He didn’t. It was up to me.
Conversation had run dry and he said ‘Right’ as he stood up, which of course means ‘I’m off’. So I had to do it. We had to talk about money. It seemed vulgar and rude, but he had to be paid for his work. I didn’t want to use the ‘m’ word, so I opted for ‘So… what’ll it be?’ and I made a smiley face and raised my eyebrows which I hoped would hide my embarrassment, but it probably didn’t. He told me the amount, and I paid him, and it was all over. Phew.
We don’t have a problem with paying for things in Britain. But we do have a problem with talking about it.
When I was in the Army and working in Afghanistan, I learned that when people introduced themselves, one of the first questions a stranger will be asked after ‘what do you do?’ is ‘what do you earn?’ In Afghanistan it is a perfectly legitimate question, and no-one feels shy about it. It’s like asking someone their height. Here in Britain we don’t discuss our income with our friends and often not even with our family.
We can feel awkward about money in church too. I’ve felt really embarrassed in churches before. Once I visited a church for the first time and the collection plate was at the back, and I missed it altogether. I’d given nothing! Another time I was at Salisbury Cathedral and had given all the money I was carrying during the offertory. After the service, when I was at the front of the queue to get coffee, I realised that I couldn’t contribute, so I left the queue empty handed because I couldn’t bear not contributing (or having to explain myself).
These examples are silly but true. I’ve since been told that the church is a place of grace and love and no-one would have judged me at all. This is true. The problem didn’t lie with other people. It was all my own embarrassment about money.
Why is it embarrassing? Some people don’t like talking about money because they don’t have much of it. Other people don’t like talking about money because they have too much of it. Whatever the reason, there’s something within us that makes the topic of money something we want to avoid at all costs.
The thing is, if we are going to respond to God’s love by giving, which is what we are called to do, then we have to face it. We have to talk about money. Why? Well contributing money (however much) to our church funds helps our parish church to continue its work. We give money to our church because God loves us and we want to share that message of love with our neighbour. It seems simple enough, but the act of handing over money or talking about handing over money or even thinking about having to talk about handing over money…. Makes us pretty uncomfortable.
Jesus spoke about money 33 times in the gospels. Maybe we could learn something from that. If we’re going to make a change, if we’re going to see our churches and communities transformed by God’s love and generosity then we have to say it: MONEY MONEY MONEY.
Imagine if we could embrace conversations about money. I wonder how it would make our vicars feel when preaching about money if they knew we weren't squirming in our seats. I'd love to see the look on your vicar's face if, next time you saw them, you told them you're ready to talk about money…
Next time you walk into church, look around and feel blessed that it exists for you and your community because of the money (donations big or small) you and generations before you have given. Next time you are praying, pray for the people in your Parish, that they may feel peace when talking about money, and to those whose lives are a struggle because they feel they don’t have enough, or they are embarrassed about having too much.
God thank you for loving me and for all the gifts you give me. You give freely, without condition, and without embarrassment. You do not hold back. Please teach me to follow your ways. Forgive my embarrassment God; please don’t let it get in the way of my giving. I am like a child, O Lord, and I need direction and strength. I pray you will fill my heart with your Holy Spirit, and enable me to talk about money with grace.