The SEC is having a Year of Stewardship. In line with our rather non-prescriptive ethos, we are not quite sure when it begins or when it will end – or indeed whether it will last a year. Otherwise everything is crystal clear.
Meanwhile, when I met tonight with the group which is organising our clearly-defined, tightly-organised and non-prescriptive diocesan response to this, I realised that this is one of those points at which one experiences cultural difference – like my hair cut in Cape Town in September. Stewardship programmes live in that fascinating place where spiritual commitment takes financial giving form – and thanksgiving turns into giving. And when you challenge people about either or both, things get interesting.
I carry the scars – and the encouragement – of having done this several times in the parish. As always in Northern Ireland, things were never quite what they seemed. No problem encouraging people to have a set of church envelopes. The problem was that they were perceived by some as a token of membership which would ensure burial – if not subsequent resurrection. But not – for the most part – for putting money in.