This is my favorite photo from the summer. I love it because it captures this really special moment when my counselors are spontaneously hugging one another and sharing the love. That light is just pouring through the window, and as hokey as it may sound, I can’t help but see it as God’s grace just beaming down into the barn. And I love it because my hands are on the barn wall. When I think about my job as director, this is how I see it: young people experiencing one another in Christian community with God streaming in around them while I make sure the walls stay up.
In my mind, you all are in this picture with me. You might not see yourself right away, but trust me – you’re there. If you are currently a camper or counselor, you’re one of the people hugging in the picture. You are the reason for the ministry right now, and I hope and pray your experience at ECC feels like this big hug.
If you are a former camper or counselor, a parent, a member of the diocese, or a friend of ECC, you are with me in this picture. Your hands are resting on the side of the barn, and you, like me, are helping to make sure the walls stay up.
As people who care about this special place, the best thing we can do is create a space where young people can come and experience God, love, and friendship in a way that forever changes them. Metaphorically speaking, we hold up the walls of the barn, praying for and blessing what happens inside of it.
Here’s the thing: we have been blessed at ECC with an abundance of love and help and prayers and support and encouragement. Now, we need something else. We need money. If you will, we need more people to help us hold up the walls of the barn, making sure that the ministry of this sacred place can continue for generations to come.
In November, after the Bishop’s ordination, I wrote a post where I told you that Now Is The Right Time. I told you how incredible it was (is!) to have the total support of our new Bishop as he begins his time in this diocese. I told you that the time would come – soon – when you could easily donate money through our new database. Well friends, this is that day.
I write this blog today, humble and hopeful that you will consider a sustaining gift to the Episcopal Conference Center. You can give through our website here. With our new donation system, you can arrange to have a monthly gift automatically withdrawn from your account or credit card, or you can arrange to make a yearly gift in one payment. If the website isn’t your style, you can send a check in any amount, at any time, to ECC.
We’ve suggested two amounts for gifts, though we would be grateful for any gift in any amount. Please read about those options, and consider those levels of giving.
One of the things about being a clergy person that has been the most spiritually enlightening for me has been giving. The rector of my parish in North Carolina taught me to list my bills every month, and to put my pledge to God – be it to the church or other charitable donations – right at the top of my list of bills, so that when I was paid each month, the first thing I did was give back to God. I found that in that framework, allocating a portion of my income each month to the church or to the work of organizations seeking to serve the most vulnerable in our midst was a wonderful exercise. Giving helps me to remember how absolutely blessed I am and have always been. Giving helps me to remember that there are so many people in the world who need my money more than me. Giving keeps me centered, and connected, and grateful.
I won’t lie to you – Jonathan and I are not rolling in cash right now. We took a big sabbatical and when we came back to work I was part-time and he was starting his own business. I wouldn’t change a thing because the last two years of our lives have been the most profound and spirit-led that we have ever had – and the journey led us here. Which is why I couldn’t be more joyful or excited about the monthly gift that we are giving to ECC. I want you to know how much I believe in the importance of our ministry here – enough that I am impatient to do my part, to give back to the camp that gave so much to me, and to give back to God. I invite you to do the same.
And by the way – this is not going to be a one-time request. As long as I’m the director of this camp I’m going to do everything in my power to keep our prices as low as possible. That means we’re always going to have a gap in our budget. Always. But frankly, I’m not worried. I just know how much you all love this place. I know how much you want to see this ministry thrive. I know that there is enough affection for this camp that generating a culture of stewardship and giving is absolutely possible. I trust you and I believe in you. And I know what we’re capable of, together and with God’s help.
Let’s hold up these walls, friends. There’s something special happening inside.