Have you ever found a gift that was so perfect for someone that you couldn't wait to give it to them? Now contrast that with a gift you've given out of a sense of obligation.
It's a little like what a woman named Edythe experiences in the stewardship skits that follow. Each year, as she considers her annual pledge to her church, a visitor arrives on her doorstep and changes Edythe's approach to stewardship. After three years, she realizes that her gift is not an obligation but is an expression of love.
Edythe's Gifts: Three Stewardship Skits
It's mid-summer. At churches across the land, stewardship committee chairs are emerging from their hideaways, scouting around for new committee members, calling preliminary meetings and peering ahead to the fall campaign.
Last year at St. Paul's, we centered the campaign on an evening of desserts, skits and short talks about religion and money. We called the evening "Sweet and Hot at St. Paul's."
On a Wednesday evening in early October, parishioners came at 7 p.m. to the parish hall, which was nicely decorated and had a bountiful array of desserts spread out on tables. We gave folks 20 minutes to choose a dessert, find a chair and chat. Then we went into the program, which consisted of three short skits, interspersed with equally short talks from members about their own approach to giving. After the third skit, our rector wrapped things up. We were out of there by 8:30 p.m., which pleased me very much. I figure, if your friends are nice enough to show up for an event designed to help them part with their money, at least keep things moving.
I wrote and directed the skits, casting from the parish. We read from scripts on the night, so no memorization was involved, and two rehearsals were plenty. The Angel wore a white nightgown, along with wings and a halo purchased for about twelve bucks from a costume store. Her entrance was a sensation. In the following days, we got lots of positive feedback from those who came. One parishioner told me that we covered all the topics that she and her husband talked over between themselves about giving to the church. Another said that he woke up in the middle of the night with lines from the skits running in his head.
Here are the three skits. Feel free to modify them for use to fit your own church's needs. And best wishes for the annual campaign.
-- Margaret D. McGee
Edythe's Gifts: Three Stewardship Skits
by Margaret D. McGee
These skits were first performed on Oct. 4, 2006, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Port Townsend, Wash.
Edythe, a new member at St. Paul's
Howard, canvasser and parish treasurer
Betsy, canvasser and on the budget committee
The Rev. Ted, canvasser and retired clergy
All three skits take place in Edythe's living room. Minimum set contains two chairs and a small table or desk.
Props: File folder, empty plate, pledge card, envelope, phone, calculator.
Edythe's First Gift
(Edythe, a new member of St. Paul's, is sitting at her desk shortly before the time set for her canvas visit. She checks her watch.)
Edythe: (To herself.) Might as well do all these charities at once, and get it over with. Let's see. Red Cross, what did we do last year? Looks good. (Mimes writing check.) Friends of the Library, renew membership. (Mimes writing check.) Marine Science Center, renew membership. Hmmm. It was great having little Edie stay with us while she went to that day camp. She learned a bunch of stuff. Gave me her fish art. I guess we can kick that one up a level. (Mimes writing check.) Okay. Land Trust. Same as last year. (Mimes writing check.) St. Paul's. Same as the Land Trust?
(Angel enters, dressed like an angel.)
Angel: Excuse me.
Edythe Yikes! You're not the canvasser from St. Paul's. Are you?
Angel: I'm your guardian angel.
Edythe: Wow. Do I need a guardian angel?
Angel: Everyone needs a guardian angel. I'm here to help. Now, why do you give money to these groups?
Edythe: Umm ... Well, I think they do good work. I support their goals. Why, is there something wrong with this list?
Angel: No, it's fine. Do you support St. Paul's for the same reason you support the Red Cross?
Edythe: No. I've been pretty lucky and haven't needed the Red Cross for myself. Yet. But when I came to town, I needed St. Paul's. Didn't even know how much until I started attending. The worship service, and the people. I guess I support these other groups because they make the world better, but St. Paul's because it makes me better.
Angel: So... St. Paul's makes you better.
Edythe: Right. (Thinks.) Right! (Makes out check. Very pleased with herself.) Okay, then. They don't get a donation like that every day. Thanks!
(Angel exits.) (Howard the Canvasser enters, knocks on door.)
Edythe: Come in!
Howard: Edythe? I'm Howard, from St. Paul's.
Edythe: Have a seat. I'm all ready for you.
Howard: You are?
Edythe: Absolutely. Let me tell you what I'm giving to St. Paul's this year.
Howard: Well, Edythe, I don't need to know --
Edythe: Oh, that's okay. I want to tell you, because I just had a kind of epiphany about it. I was taking care of all my annual donations to charities and was going to make my pledge to St. Paul's pretty much the same as all the others, when I realized just how important the parish is to me, how much it does for me. St. Paul's has really helped me get closer to God.
Howard: I'm very glad to hear it.
Edythe: So here it is. (Shows him check.) Three times my usual donation.
Howard: Why, thank you. Thank you very much.
Edythe: (Slightly disappointed at his response.) A little more than the ordinary, I bet.
Howard: Well ... not really.
Edythe: It's not?
Howard: No. As Treasurer at St. Paul's, I did some analysis to prepare for the pledge drive, and I can tell you that the most common annual donation to this parish is between two and five hundred dollars.
Edythe: Really? This is just average?
Howard: Oh, no. No, no, that's not anywhere near average.
Edythe: You said it was the most common.
Howard: Well, the top givers change the average quite a bit. And it's a good thing they do. We couldn't make it otherwise. Well over 100 households gave to the parish last year, but the top 20 paid more than half our bills.
Edythe: Really? So, what's the most anybody gives?
Howard: Last year, our top two donors gave more than $6,000 each to the parish.
Edythe: (Stunned.) What? That's incredible. They must be loaded!
Howard: Not necessarily.
Edythe: Man, that's some commitment.
Howard: Yes, it is. But you have to understand, these are usually people who have life-long ties to the church and strong ties to the parish. They support the parish in a variety of ways, time and talent as well as money. They're really committed. St. Paul's is their parish.
Edythe: St. Paul's is my parish.
Howard: Yes, absolutely. It's your parish too. And we're blessed to have you here, blessed in every way. So, are you ready to give me your pledge?
Edythe: Umm... No. I guess I need to think about it some more.
Howard: Well, bless you, Edythe. Thanks for the visit. You'll bring that pledge card to Ingathering Sunday, won't you?
Edythe: Yes, I will. Goodbye now.
Howard: Goodbye, Edythe.
(Howard exits.) (Angel enters.)
Edythe: Hello, again. I thought you were here to help me. But you didn't exactly tell me everything I needed to know, did you?
Angel: (Kisses Edyhe on her forehead.) Under Christ's direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy, growing, and full of love.
(Angel turns and addresses the audience, leaving Edythe working on her pledge.)
And now you have seen what was done
By Edythe in year number one.
You have seen her first calculation
Of her annual St. Paul's donation.
What will she do in year two?
We'll return in a bit to show you!
Edythe's Second Gift:
One year later. Edythe is again sitting at her desk shortly before the time set for her annual canvas visit. A file folder is open in front of her.)
Edythe: (To herself.) These numbers are really confusing. I can't tell how much I owe.
Angel: Hello, Edythe.
Edythe: My guardian angel! You'll be proud of me this year. I'm going to pay my way. Can you help me figure out what it is?
Angel: I'd be happy to. What do you have?
Edythe: I haven't gotten anywhere. I wish I knew the parish budget for next year. Last year's numbers don't really work, we were in such an unusual financial state.
Angel: No, forget the budget. The budget doesn't matter. What do you have?
Edythe: I can tell you're an other-worldly being. But I want to be practical this year. It costs money to run a church. I'm a full member, and I want to pay my way.
Angel: We're not talking about the yacht club, Edythe. Now, how much do you have?
Edythe: You're no help. Go away.
(Angel exits.) (Betsy the Canvasser enters, carrying an empty plate.)
Betsy: (Knocking.) Hi, Edythe?
Edythe: Hi Betsy, come on in and take a chair. Help me figure this out.
Betsy: Okay. Here's your plate back. The 'Good News' kids loved your pumpkin cookies.
Edythe: Oh, good.
Betsy: Whatcha figuring?
Edythe: How much it costs to be a member of St. Paul's. That'll be my pledge this year.
Betsy: How much it costs? No, that's not how we do it.
Edythe: I know, I read the letter. But this is how I'm doing it this year. Come on, Betsy. Just help me with my logic here. Last year, our total budget for salaries, utilities, property, and program was about $140,000. I guess I'll go by that figure because it's the best we have. Now, what's the total membership?
Betsy: Around 200, I guess.
Edythe: Okay. Two hundred into $140,000 makes, umm, $700. That seems reasonable enough.
Betsy: Wait a minute. I shouldn't let you suck me into this, but, if you have to do it this way, you ought to be clear about what you're doing.
Edythe: Good. I want to be clear.
Betsy: That membership number includes families and children. Are you saying that a family of four owes St. Paul's four times what you do?
Edythe: No. That doesn't make sense. Okay, so I'll divide by the number of families. What's that?
Betsy: I don't know offhand. How about the number of pledges? Last year, that was about 90.
Edythe: Hmmm. That makes a very different equation. Does every family pledge?
Betsy: No. Some don't pledge and still give quite generously. Others never pledge and give little or no money.
Edythe: Gee, Betsy, this is hard to figure out. Okay. Well. I'm going to make the divider 100. That seems fairly accurate for total households, and it's easy to divide. So that comes to $1,400.
Betsy: One other thing, Edie. I noticed that you didn't include the diocesan assessment in your budget figure. Next year our diocesan assessment will be about $30,000.
Edythe: Yeah. Well, to be honest, I'm feeling kind of stubborn about that. I love St. Paul's, but I don't feel the same way about the larger church. That's a lot of money to send up the pipe.
Betsy: Yes, it is. And I know the church has its problems. The church is made up of human beings, and they don't always get it right. We don't always get it right here at the parish level, either.
Betsy: But St. Paul's is a parish, not a mission. That means we're self-supporting, and that includes the larger church. We make our contribution like any other full member of the family. In that sense, we are the larger church, just as much as the richest parish in the biggest city.
Edythe: Hmmmm. Okay, I get it. If I want to pay my way at St. Paul's, the diocese is part of the ticket. So that brings my total pledge, to ... ummm ... $1,700. Gulp.
Betsy: Let's divide it into monthly and weekly payments, then see what it looks like. (Figuring.) It comes to $142 a month, or $33 a week. Now, can you afford $33 a week, Edie?
Edythe: I guess so.
Betsy: Will you have to give anything up to pay it? I mean, travel less this year, or eat out less often, or --
Edythe: No. Yes. I mean, if I kept that money, I'm sure I'd spend it very happily. But you don't need to worry about me. It's a lot, more than I give any other organization. But I can afford this.
Betsy: Well, I'm asking, because I know other members of the parish couldn't say the same. Some would have to make hard choices in order to pay that pledge.
Edythe: I suppose that's true.
Betsy: And some won't give that much to the parish, whether they can afford to or not. But we're all still members, right? We want a parish where everyone is welcome, because we all bless each other, and we find God's blessing in the whole body of Christ, not just the ones who pay a certain amount.
Edythe: Absolutely. I believe that with my whole heart.
Betsy: So that's why we don't recommend doing it this way. Do you really think membership at St. Paul's means paying for yourself alone?
Edythe: It sounded good at first.
Betsy: Instead of looking at what you owe, think about looking at what you have.
Betsy: After all, Edie, this is not the yacht club. Now, do you want to give me your pledge today?
Edythe: No, I guess not. I guess I have to think about it some more.
Betsy: Okey-dokey. You can drop it off at the church, or bring it on Ingathering Sunday. Okay?
Edythe: Sure, Betsy.
Betsy: See you Sunday.
Edythe: See you Sunday.
(Betsy exits.) (Angel enters.)
Hello again. You don't have to tell me, I get it. This is not the yacht club.
Angel: (Kisses Edythe on her forehead.) Under Christ's direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy, growing, and full of love.
(Angel turns and addresses the audience, leaving Edythe working on her pledge.)
So Edythe thus chose what to do
For her pledge in year number two.
What will she do in year three?
We'll return in a bit and you'll see.
Edythe's Third Gift
(One year later. Edythe is again sitting at her desk shortly before the time set for her annual canvas visit, talking on the phone to her friend, Betsy.)
Edythe: Betsy, that's just wonderful. ... So when's your next radiation? ... Do you have a ride? ... Oh, he is? Okay, then. ... Get some rest now. ... See you Friday. ... 'Bye. (Hangs up.)
(Angel enters, sits next to Edythe.)
Edythe: (Casually.) Hi.
Angel: (Casually.) Hi.
Edythe: That was Betsy on the phone.
Angel: How's she doing?
Edythe: Better. Lab reports came back, all good.
Edythe: No kidding. For awhile there, I was afraid we might lose her.
Angel: Oh, no. We won't lose Betsy.
Edythe: Really? That's good news. Since you're here, it must be money time again at St. Paul's.
Angel: It's all about love.
Edythe: What? Oh, you're still talking about Betsy. Yes, it is all about love. I'm praying for her every day. But now I have to work on this money stuff, my pledge to St. Paul's. I wish I didn't have to figure it out all over again every year. I wish I was one of those people who find this easy.
Angel: I don't know many people like that.
Edythe: You know, the ones who know what they're supposed to do. I have all these arguments about it in my mind, and they keep changing, and I have to wrestle with them every year.
Angel: Yes, it's all about love.
Edythe: What are you talking about? What's the connection between money and love? Those are two different animals. Just tell me, what's enough?
(Angel shrugs and exits.)
She is no help at all.
(Ted enters, knocking. He is wearing a clerical collar.)
Ted: Knock, knock.
Edythe: Come on in, Ted, and sit down. You know, the last two years, I thought I knew what my pledge was going to be when the canvasser came to call, and I ended up changing my mind both times. This year I'm starting out confused, so maybe that's progress.
Ted: Tell me what's confusing.
Edythe: To be honest, I keep remembering a pledge drive at my family's church right before I left for college. The theme was Thankfulness. It was all about giving back to God out of thanksgiving for all that God gives to us.
Edythe: I was fed up with church back then, and the theme sounded very self-serving to me. The idea that I'm supposed to figure out what I owe God, and then give it to my church? And be joyful about that? I care a great deal about St. Paul's, but it's not God.
Ted: No, the church is not God. And you don't owe God anything.
Edythe: I don't?
Ted: No. Everything we have, our lives, this amazing world we live in -- it's all a gift from God. A gift of love.
Edythe: And in exchange, I'm supposed to ...
Ted: No! There's no payback for a gift. You can't pay back God anyway, because you live in God's world. The gifts of God come to us in the form of a trust. We manage the trust, but we don't own it.
Edythe: "All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee."
Ted: Exactly. Now let me ask you something. What do you think St. Paul means when he refers to the church as the Body of Christ?
Edythe: Ummm... Just Paul being Paul?
Ted: Stick with me here, Edythe. Is your body the same thing as "you"?
Edythe: It's not all of me, no. My body's how I do things. But me ... that's something more.
Ted: All right. The church was founded and grew out of the Incarnation -- the recognition of God's son, alive and active and at work here among us. As one of us.
Ted: And the church is contained in the Incarnation today. I wish we'd take seriously what we say in church every Sunday. Otherwise, the church is nothing more than a voluntary organization of people who get together because it feels good. Unless we believe that God is involved, as a point of commitment, we'll never get where we need to go.
Edythe: That makes me think of when I stopped in at the church last week, and Diane, the secretary, was talking to a man I'd never seen before. She handed him a slip of paper and said, "Good luck with that new job." After he left, I learned that he'd had some real hard times, and then finally found a job, and then -- boom -- his car broke down.
Ted: Oh, no.
Edythe: Couldn't get to his job without the car. He heard about us and came in and asked for help. Because we vouched for him, a local auto repair place will fix his car at a reduced price. He pays what he can, and our discretionary fund might pay some too, depending on how much it is.
Ted: I'm glad we were there to help.
Edythe: I am too. I don't know if that man will pull his life together or not. What matters is the moment of hope. The chance. When that door cracks open, then yes, I think God is involved. Sometimes I wish I could just give all my pledge to the discretionary fund.
Ted: But the discretionary fund is nothing by itself. Your moment of hope needs a place for that man to come to -- a place where he's treated with respect. It needs someone to greet him, and the phone to call the auto repair place. In fact, it needs a whole community of people who practice their faith.
Edythe: I get it. The church building is not God, and the rector is not God. The congregation is not God, and the whole blessed hierarchy is not God. But that moment of hope -- yes, that just might be God. All those other things give that moment shape. They're what brings hope to life.
Ted: And that is the Body of Christ.
Edythe: You know, I was just talking to Betsy on the phone.
Ted: How's she doing?
Edythe: Pretty good, overall. She told me about your visit last Sunday afternoon. It meant a lot to her, having communion brought into her home and shared at her bedside. Made me think about what I'd want, if something happened to me.
Ted: Me, too.
Edythe: Yeah. But all this about the Body of Christ makes me realize that the church isn't just an insurance policy for me. I want that kind of caring for all of us, and for anyone else who needs it. I want it to be there at a moment's notice. The phones, the place, somebody on the job. And I want that job to be recognized and compensated.
Ted: "The laborer deserves to be paid."
Edythe: Right. I want St. Paul's to be there so that anyone can be welcomed into a world where they are loved and cared for. And this is how we do it: With a beautiful and welcoming physical space. With a staff who's there for us and for the whole community. With programs that teach that way of life.
Ted: The Christian way of life.
Edythe: Not that we always get it right.
Ted: No. We're human. We fail, again and again. And when the church really gets it wrong, I don't think it gets much wrong-er.
Edythe: But even then, deep down, I think it's part of the struggle toward love. Love is not always easy.
Ted: No. It takes practice.
Edythe: So . . my pledge. How much? It always come down to that, and it's always a problem.
Ted: That's why the church teaches proportional giving. Proportional giving is fair, and it comes out of our abundance, great or small. My advice is to give a percentage of what you have.
Edythe: Right. The tithe. I'll tell you, Ted, giving 10% of my income to St. Paul's would be a big shock to the household budget.
Ted: The principle of sacrificial giving from your heart is more important than an exact percentage. Edythe, do you want me to leave this pledge card and let you think about it?
Edythe: No. My income next year will probably be pretty close to what it is this year. And I can do the math. (Figures, fills out the card, puts it in an envelope, gives it to Ted.)
Ted: Thank you, Edythe. It was good talking to you.
Edythe: Same here. See you Sunday.
Ted: I'll be there.
(Ted exits.) (Angel enters.)
Edythe: Guess what.
Angel and Edythe (together): It's all about love.
"Under Christ's direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy, growing, and full of love." Ephesians 4:16, New Living Translation, Tyndale.
"All things come of thee, O Lord; and of thine own have we given thee." 1 Chronicles 29:14b, KJV.
"The laborer deserves to be paid," Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18, NRSV.
ښ 2006, 2007 by Margaret D. McGee Use of material from this site
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Margaret D. McGee is the author of Stumbling Toward God: A Prodigal's Return, and a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Port Townsend, WA.