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Thanksgiving Sunday, 19th March 2023

For those who are new to the parish since last time next year, this introduction will probably be very helpful. I am setting out the explanation in a Question and Answer form [(Q) and (A)].

(Q): What is Thanksgiving Sunday Father?

(A): Every year in mid-March we come together on a Sunday (Thanksgiving Sunday) to give thanks to God for His love in our lives, His providential care, especially perhaps in difficult times, but in truth, always. We thank Him for what we have been able to achieve by His grace and for Him in and through our Church community. All these thanksgivings of course, we should always offer up but there is an extra dimension on Thanksgiving Sunday, and this concerns giving thanks for our financial resources, no matter how modest.

(Q): Oh, I see. Isn’t the Church always asking for money?

(A): Not us! That’s not what Thanksgiving Sunday is about at all! In this parish it is absolutely forbidden for the clergy to appeal for money, or (God forbid!) charge for any service that the Church provides (for example ‘baptism’ as, sadly, often happens elsewhere). All our offerings are free will offerings made strictly by the people alone. Decisions about how much to give and all the other questions which surround this issue are strictly between the believer, his or her household and the Lord. Nonetheless, we have to practical about this issue as well as spiritual. This is why we have one Sunday every year when the clergy reach out to people and ask them to pray concerning what proportion of their income should be given to God’s work through His Church and our parish for the forthcoming year.

(Q): If the clergy don’t ask or appeal for money, how then does this work? How can we be sure that all the bills are going to be paid if the clergy don’t talk about these things?

(A): Oh, we do talk about these things … but only from the Gospels, the writings of the Apostles and Fathers of the Church. A quick survey of the New Testament reveals just how much teaching there actually is on the need to worship God and not money, and how an inability to consider the things of this world as a gift from God to be used wisely and for His Kingdom can be spiritually dangerous. One only has to think about the parable of the talents and the tragic encounter between the rich young ruler and Christ to understand the importance of dedicating all that God has given us in sustaining the lives of our families, our communities, this often suffering world and indeed our Church. When we approach this subject of money spiritually, that is with fasting and prayer, and when we act together in harmony as a Church then wonderful miracles can happen both personally and in the community of faith. In the 28 years in which this parish has existed, through good times and bad, never once have we had to worry about money! Why? Because we believe that God will provide for our needs, but we also know that for this to happen, we have to exercise our faith and pray, not just individually but as a Christian community together.

(Q): I am relieved nobody is going to harass me about money. How does this call to fasting and prayer work out practically though and especially on Thanksgiving Sunday?

(A): Good question. For two weeks before Thanksgiving Sunday the whole parish is asked to fast and pray (this usually being Lent anyway) and each household is invited to pray about what proportion of its income will be given to God’s work in this parish in the year to come. The “proportion” principle is Scriptural, backed by the Fathers and validated by generations of Christians who have followed the Orthodox Christian teaching on the personal stewardship of money. In the Old Testament, 10% of a person’s wealth or income (that is £1 for every £10) was dedicated to God and considered as holy as the Sabbath rest. It was called a tithe or tenth. In the New Testament, tithes are not mentioned, but the principle of setting aside a prayerful proportion of our income, thankfully and joyfully, is still maintained. For some 10% might be too much - in cases of serious poverty - (although we should always remember in the Gospels the poor widow who gave everything she had into the Temple Treasury); for others with more substantial means 10% might not be enough. Christians are not legalists. This is not about rules, 10% or otherwise, it’s about the heart moved to be generous in a trusting relationship with God. That is also how we should deal with these things as a community. Anyway, I must return to your question. This teaching that goes alongside fasting and prayer is contained in a special leaflet that is distributed each year before Thanksgiving Sunday. When we all come together on the day itself, everyone will have (hopefully) a good idea of what they will be giving as a proportion of their income for the next year, having of course read the leaflet and prayed about its contents.

(Q): Just a minute, why have a special day about this in Church? If everyone knows beforehand what they are going to give, isn’t that enough?

(A): I think I mentioned before that as Christians we must not only act as persons and households but also as a Church community for we are all members of the Body of Christ. What better time to give thanks to God for his generous provision in our lives than the Divine Liturgy itself, the Eucharist, which in Greek means thanksgiving?! With this in mind, at the end of the Liturgy, we shall all complete, in a time of complete silence, a pledge card for the amount that we shall give arising from our fasting, our prayer and our faith. We do this together because we stand or fall together and not as individuals. Of course, the cards are completed quietly and privately in a prayerful atmosphere, and they are then collected and offered to God by the priest before the final blessing. The rest is just a matter of practicality. The Thanksgiving Recorder uses the cards to assess the Church’s income for the forthcoming year and the budget that must be planned from these resources. From the information on these cards, the believers will be given what they need to help meet their pledges, week by week and month by month. We are not using envelopes now but rather encourage those that pay tax (and on behalf of whom we can claim Gift Aid) to make their donation direct from their bank. Those who do not pay tax can donate in any way that they see fit and this now includes, of course, the use of bank cards. Extra donations can still always be given of course in church by those who use bank standing orders. Please remember though that if you do not use bank standing orders, your pledge is a weekly or monthly promise to God whether or not you can come to church on any given Sunday.

(Q): Thank you for explaining this to me, is there anything else that I should know?

(A): Perhaps one thing, as we must be faithful stewards of what God has given us, so also must the Church be a faithful steward of what has been given to it. This is why the final page of the Thanksgiving Sunday leaflet always contains a budget for the following year with various options available to us.

Giving to God’s work through the Church involves the support of our local parish and clergy. We have always been committed in this parish to achieving a full time paid ministry - thinking here especially of the needs of Fr Deacon Daniel who at the moment has a secular job. We also need to develop a prayerful, wise deployment of resources for the health of the Church and its mission. This, in turn, involves our support of worthy causes and the poor, and to this we have always been committed at St Aidan’s. We have a Poor Fund continuously restocked and made available and, of course, the people have always responded generously to national and international appeals, the latest of course being the splendid response to the Turkish and Syrian Earthquake Disaster. Many believers either support and work for the disadvantaged in either their day jobs or volunteer work. This is also pleasing to God and is part of our Thanksgiving Sunday effort.

(Q): Thank you for answering my questions.

(A): My pleasure. I hope we can all continue to learn how to free the Church in some places and more widely in its mission from the spiritual poverty of a lack of trust in God who truly provides for all our needs. We can only do this by setting a good example. Glory be to God in all things!

In the file below you will find more teaching on Christian Giving and our parish's budgetary planning for 2023/2024. Our financial year end is 31st March and this year's Annual Meeting of the parish will take place on Sunday 7th May after the Liturgy.

thanksgiving-sunday (2023)
Download PDF • 267KB


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