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Reflections from Rev. Alan Taylor

A People of Abundance
Rev. Rev. Alan Taylor, Senior Minister

I wish that more congregations gave away their worship offering every week. This is a practice that we began eleven years ago. It was a critical moment for our congregation that represented a switch of focus from “what can the congregation do for us” to “what can the congregation do for others.” This month that we reflect on what it means to be a people of abundance, I celebrate that we have been living into this reality for many years.

When a few of us originally suggested giving every Sunday collection away, there was resistance. Some people thought it was crazy and irresponsible to do so. There had always been a sense that there was never quite enough money. But our leadership recognized that it was time to start acting on our message of generosity and helping people in a concrete way.

I love how Cynthia Robinson said it in the video about our congregation “Taking the Path of Risk,” which is on our website. She said, “When we give our money away through the collection plate, it gave us permission to start thinking less about ourselves and how it is more important to act on our mission to help the world, to help the larger community…  Giving away the Sunday collection has really shifted our way of thinking from one of poverty and struggling for money for ourselves to one of abundance. For me it is the one decision that cut our strings and allowed us to soar and become more generous.”

It may sound counterintuitive but the practice of inviting the congregation to be generous with organizations outside our congregation each week makes people more generous with the congregation during the annual fund drive. The year we began giving away our collection plate, members increased their pledges to the congregation by nearly 15%! We have come to recognize that we live in abundance.

Each year, we give over $50,000 away to beneficiaries outside our walls. Since late 2006 when we initiated this practice, we have given away over $570,000! And that’s on top of the over $330,000 we have given to the Unitarian Universalist Association in that time.

We are a people of abundance. The more we act like it, the more we embody that reality and the more we bless the world. And the more we are counter-cultural, bucking that widespread belief in scarcity that leads people to hoarding, isolation, and spiritual poverty. It’s funny how generosity transforms our lives. The more we give, the more we get. I love how Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Engaging our opportunities to be generous cultivates our individual lives and our shared life together.

I want to be part of a spiritual community that asks much of one another, a community that calls upon us to rise up and give of ourselves for the sake of something so much larger than us all.

We are wrapping up our annual fund campaign this month for our 2018 budget. I am so grateful for the generous gifts and the stretching that so many in our community are doing to make it possible for our shared ministry to thrive.

We have so many blessings in our lives, we are literally called to live with generosity and abundance, to overcome the siren song of scarcity, and to find ways to give of ourselves for the sake of love, of greater understanding, of justice. May it be so!