"Church Is Like a Quilt"

All Saints’ Sunday (Stewardship)B.21
Rev. 21:1-6a
The Rev. Melanie McCarley

Quilting is an art. In my mind the best quilts—indeed, the most beautiful, are crafted—not from perfectly matched and coordinated fabrics, but from whatever happens to be on hand. A piece of a child’s dress, long since outgrown, fabric from a well-loved shirt worn by a favorite uncle; scraps from mothers and fathers, from grandparents and great aunts and uncles, long since departed, from adolescents and the middle aged—the whole lot. Wrapping yourself in a quilt the likes of this is like being enfolded in a gigantic family hug. There’s comfort in a quilt—and strength.

Quilting is a means of making something new from what has been given. It is, if you think about it, a work of redemption--utilizing pieces of fabric that many might simply deem useless and making them into something new, something beautiful and utterly different than they were before. Listen to a portion of today’s lesson from the Book of Revelation. Here, Jesus, seated upon the throne says: “See, I am making all things new.” The lessons for All Saints’ Day remind us that the work of God, is redemption and resurrection. Nothing of all that God has made (from people to creation itself) is lost—all is essential and redeemed—made new in the loving hands of our Creator—a God who has fashioned us not simply for a time, but for eternity.

Look around. St. Paul’s is like a quilt. A masterpiece of a quilt, if you ask me. It’s made up of a whole host of bits and pieces of all the people (all of the saints) who have called this their spiritual home in generations past, up until our present moment. Look down. The foundation of our building rests upon land given to us by Samuel Colburn; a glance at the walls of our building remind us of beloved parishioners who were committed to this community of faith. There is a plaque dedicated “To the dear memory of Mary Turner, recognizing her half century in this parish (1812 – 1882). There are others; one dedicated to George Cabot Lee and another to Madeline Lee in whose memory the Parish house was given by her family “to the church she loved and served with constant devotion.” There are other items as well. The beautiful Bishop’s throne was given “To the dear memory of Milton Avery Rogers, who died in the service of his country, September 21, 1918, Aged 20 years. “For our tomorrow, he gave his today”. And the rood screen was given both to the glory of God and in loving memory of Albert Winslow Nickerson 1840 – 1893. There is a window given by the Putnam family, in memory of children who died and others given in tribute to loved ones. Everywhere you look—from the cushions on the pews to our wonderful Cassavant organ and bell tower chimes to the silver paten upon which the consecrated host rests—all of these are gifts. In fact everything you see within these walls—including the walls themselves—are gifts of the people who have found this place to be meaningful. Some of them, are names we know, but many—most, in fact, are nameless—like most saints, I might add. St. Paul’s is a house of worship suffused in prayer offered in times of joy and others of sorrow. Walking through these doors should be like finding yourself enfolded in a family quilt—it is a place of strength and comfort woven and stitched together through the prayers, gifts and talents of all those who have made this place a home….including you. All of its different pieces—some which seem to match and others which stand out because of their startling vibrancy—these are all essential to the beauty and usefulness of the whole.

A really wonderful quilt keeps you warm and lends you strength. It isn’t simply a thing of beauty—it’s immanently practical. The same goes for a church. While it’s true that there are things around us which we see that make this place a home for us—it’s more of what we do which speaks to the purpose of this house of God. It’s what we do that is our reason for being.

St. Paul’s is a place of worship—our task is to proclaim the Good News of God as best we can. To this end, we hold our services and support our Sunday School and music programs. But this is not all of who we are. As a community of faith, we reach out to others—locally and world-wide. In just four years, we (along with other churches in our community) will have assisted two families—one from Burundi, and the other from Afghanistan, in making a home in Massachusetts. What’s more, we ensure that vital ministries such as the Dedham Food Pantry continue to exist, feeding the hungry in our community. Through our commitment to the St. Vincent de Paul Program we help the poor and needy in Dedham. We also respond to world crises through our involvement in Episcopal Relief and Development. These programs and efforts are costly.

All of which brings me to stewardship and money. For, while stewardship is about the giving of time and talent—this morning, my task is to talk about the importance of monetary giving. Seventy two percent of our annual budget of St. Paul’s is supported by your financial gifts. We also are blessed with an endowment that provides 24% of our income. What this means, in a nutshell, is that your financial commitment to our parish is vitally important. What you give matters. It matters for things such as the maintenance of our building; but also for ongoing education of our parishioners as well as giving to the larger church and to alleviate suffering in the world. In other words, in order for the ministry of our parish to continue, it’s important that you give of your financial resources—both as an annual pledge, and—if you look ahead into the future, by making a gift to our endowment. Think of it as a gift to future generations.

Two weeks ago Randy Gleason talking about his journey of faith which led him to St. Paul’s. this morning I’m here to ask you to pledge. This week your Stewardship Committee is sending you pledge cards in the mail. Phil and I pledge to St. Paul’s. I think it important to know that your Rector pledges to your church. We believe that you and the difference the ministry of this faith community makes to our community and world are vital—so we make it a point to place St. Paul’s as a priority item in our budget. Today I would like to ask you to do the same. We have found that giving to St. Paul’s, and other churches of which we have been members, has never been a hardship—it’s been a joy, because we believe that God works through these communities of faith toward a larger purpose—of bringing grace, redemption and love to the world.

Quilts tell a story—look closely and you might see a piece of fabric which calls to mind a loved one (a saint) who lives now in Heaven; a person whose gifts and talents brought joy and wonder in your life. Stand back from that quilt and you might behold a larger pattern—colors which—when blended together tell a larger story. Each stitch, every fabric, even the unseen batting, sandwiched between the cover and the backing—everything is vitally important to the whole. If St. Paul’s is a quilt—we need to be reminded that we are part of it ourselves. What we give today, contributes to its strength and vitality not only for the coming year, but the future as well. I thank you, in advance, for your generosity, which make this community of faith possible. In Jesus’ name.