June 2013 Pastoral Letter from Bishop Singh
I bring you greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, as I prepare for my upcoming sabbatical. Thank you for generously sharing your treasure, time and talent, all of which enables us to be a Diocese during these challenging times. As followers of Christ, we are called to think about financial issues in a spiritual framework. Conversations about finances are best when they are a blend between bottom lines and strategies of building beloved community. We are a people of the resurrection, a fact held in the hearts of all who help the Diocese to determine how to fairly share and steward the gifts God has given us.
The Episcopal Diocese of Rochester recently published our 2014 Draft Budget, which will be revised through feedback to Council members, committees and district meetings and then considered at Convention. You will notice that the 2014 Draft Budget continues to lower our dependence on endowment funds; implements previously approved changes to our apportionment formula; and continues our focus on investments aligned with our mission statement: Grow and develop congregations spiritually, numerically and in missional leadership.
Apportionment and grant funding are two major elements of next year’s budget. Similar to the pledge or plate offering you make to support God's mission through your local church, in gratitude for all that God is to you, apportionment is a tangible expression covenanted by all our parishes to make a whole Diocese and its mission possible. A large chunk of apportionment collected is blessed and returned to churches in the form of congregational development grants and mission grants, which are distributed by Diocesan Council. Through these grants, many of our churches are able to have a profound impact on communities within and beyond our Diocese. This is what makes us a missional diocese where we are able to participate with Christ in healing a hurting world and be expressions of Christ’s resurrection. God blesses the loaves and fishes we offer and enables us to have an eternal impact because together we are greater than the sum of our parts. Here are just a few examples of what diocesan grants help fund:
In our Northeast District, programs like St. Peter’s Neighbors Night in Geneva and the Rural & Migrant Ministry help connect diverse people into thriving communities. Community building also occurs at Zion, Palmyra, where free community dinners offer food and fellowship to those with empty stomachs and hungry hearts.
In our Southeast District, programs like the Community Table create relationships among community members in the fight against poverty. Creation Week Camp, a mission of St. Mark’s in Penn Yan, gives young people the opportunity to grow as individuals and to express their creativity.
In our Southwest District, the Amish Partnership Ministries connect Episcopalians with the Amish to grow and cook food for soup kitchens in Allegany and Steuben counties, while Zion House in Avon gives female veterans a safe place to transition back into civilian life.
In the Monroe District, grants have helped churches in Hilton, Henrietta, Scottsville and Caledonia employ full-time clergy with a focus on growth. Diocesan funds also help programs that provide free food backpacks and after-school programs for children, as well as our Ephphatha (ef-FA-tha) Mission for the Deaf in Gates.
In the Rochester District, programs like the Right On School and St. Mark’s & St. John’s Kids Club give inner-city children a safe place to learn and grow, while programs like Southwest Ecumenical Ministries at St. Stephen’s and Christ Church’s Meal & More feed the hungry.
These are challenging times - financially and spiritually - and the world presents us with some uncertainties. Nevertheless, our Lord calls us to expand our circles in which the Holy Gospel moves. Christ has put the power to transform ourselves and our neighborhoods at our fingertips, through the gifts of hospitality, worship and mission. In many places, that transformation is underway. We need only see the miracles that lay before our eyes. I invite you to visit episcopalrochester.org and click Beloved Community, where you can see stories about these miracles.
The Diocese of Rochester is a diverse community in which we must reach beyond similarities. In Christ, people who may have little in common find reason to work together and to love one another. We have the opportunity to expand our beloved community, if we choose - to invite others to join us in the joy of resurrection. We can embrace our role as a community of profound transformation and meaningful action. Let us continue to cultivate the relationship God has given us and see what new wonders God can work.
Finally, let us pray together for the right use of God’s gifts, using the collect that appears in our Book of Common Prayer on page 827:
Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Please hold me in your prayers during my sabbatical, which begins June 17th. You will certainly be in mine!
Your fellow servant in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh
VIII Episcopal Bishop in Rochester