The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations. The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Stacy Emerson.
As we turn the page on our calendar and begin a New Year, perhaps it is time to consider the calendar as a theological document and assess what we give our time to. Maryann McKibben Dana asks in her chapter on the Stewardship of Time, “Do we intentionally make time for spiritual practices, or do we simply hope they will happen? Are we setting aside time for exercise, time with family and friends, and rest? Even the way we frame activity makes a difference. Do we understand Sunday School and church as time with God—an investment in our discipleship—or just another activity among many?”
One of the earliest tasks we are asked to master, as young children, is to be able to “tell the time.” Interesting isn’t it? We teach our children to let us know when they are hungry or to recognize when they are tired and take a nap, and then they go to elementary school where they learn to “tell the time,” to read a clock, but what they actually learn is how to let “time tell them.” How to let time tell them when they need to wake up, get the bus, go to math and art and PE and science, come home, eat dinner, and go to bed. And from then on, we eat at noon and 6 o’clock, regardless of whether we are hungry or not, and we go to bed at a certain time, whether or not we are tired, and we structure the whole of our lives based on an external device which tells us what time it is.
I suppose we can argue over the benefits of efficiency and the maximizing of production in defense of the value of the clock, but I believe we have lost all sense and respect of time in the process. Because the thing is, scripture would argue with us, does the clock tell us what is most important in life, does it tell us that it is the time of beginning or ending? That now is the time to break or reconcile, the time to build up or break down, to tear or to sew? We need to realize that the clock does not answer these things. The ways and wonders of time are much more complicated, much deeper, much more sacred that we presume, those of us who live bound by the clock. And it takes an inner wisdom, cultivated intentionally and in quiet, deep spaces to learn how to really tell time.
We are stewards of our time. This blessed life given to us by our Creator and it is expected of us to be mindful of the time we have and how we spend it. This New Year, consider the ways the church calendar tells time—What does the church calendar say about how your congregation spends time? What activities show up? Is there a balance between doing and resting? What does the calendar suggest are your priorities and commitments? Who is involved and invited and who are you investing in and how? Is there a balance between time spent in internal fellowship and time spent outside the church walls with the wider community? How can the church learn to tell time and honor it, balance it, and use it for the glory of God?
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.