Once upon a time not so very long ago, a UU congregation in, well, somewhere near here, did not quite have a culture of generosity when it came to taking care of itself. The idea that all members need to be, no, ARE stewards of the organization hadn’t quite spread to everyone. There had always been time-generous people, and skill/talent-generous people, and money-generous people, but many folks were happy that those people were around and didn’t recognize that their own (less, they thought) contributions were important. I’m here to say that I think those days are behind us, er, them.
Here at UUCA, I am feeling the shift in the practices of generosity and stewardship. People are beginning to understand that all generous gifts, no matter the actual size, are vital to the health of the congregation, make the congregation vital, and turn out to be healthy for the giver, too.
If stewardship means taking care of UUCA, then we surely need to call out the fabulous fundraising for the solar panels. Not only was the project itself much more about protecting the environment than saving money on electric bills, but the project was paid for by lots of people giving generously—to the best of their abilities.
And were you here on the Sunday we dedicated this year’s teachers/leaders in religious education? A LOT of people stood up in front at the second service…we have about 80 adults, mostly active parents but some non-parents, too, acting as teachers, helpers, and mentors in Sunday RE programming. That is time-generosity in action.
We have three active teams planning fundraisers for this year. The women on these teams (yes, of the more than 20 or more people planning these events, only one is male) are contributing their skills and talents to help support (take care of) UUCA. This year, the largest of the “special” fundraisers, our annual auction, is scheduled for November 3. (Please turn in donations this Sunday—the planners are near to having anxiety attacks, afraid we won’t have enough stuff to auction off.) Another, smaller team will have been working for nearly a year to conduct a gently-worn but “New to U” sale of jewelry, scarves and trinket boxes on March 29. And of course, the folks that will be leading our annual budget drive (you know, the one that supplies 88 percent of our operating funds) have been gearing up for another Celebration Sunday on March 3. All of these “back room” planners are demonstrating skill/talent-generosity.
Acts of stewardship are obviously good for UUCA, but are they really healthy for the giver? Turns out the answer is a scientifically-proven yes. The science of generosity shows that the more generous people are, the more happiness, health, and purpose in life they enjoy. There is also reason to believe that generous practices actually create enhanced personal well-being. There’s an entire book on the science of generosity, cleverly NOT named that. Look for The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson. (Use smile.amazon.com and donate to UUCA if you buy it.)
Director of Administration
Linda, thanks as always for your wonderful reflective and historically accurate acknowledging of the growth of generosity and stewardship. WE are growing and that is marvelous to be a part of!