During the month of September, we are initiating our Grateful & Generous Stewardship campaign, and will be featuring an article each week from a different parishioner as they reflect on what stewardship means to them and how it connects them more deeply to their faith.
by Prudence Kramer
On a recent Sunday, our beautiful choir began the 10:00 a.m. Mass with a spirited rendition of “All Our Welcome In This Place.” I would be hard-pressed to select a favorite hymn since I love pretty much everything that our choir sings, but this hymn always moves me in a special way. It describes perfectly what I think a parish should be and what I think St. Margaret of Scotland is and should always be – a place that welcomes and nourishes all who seek a community of faith.
My recent reading has included several articles describing the obvious decline in church attendance and church affiliation. We can all think of many reasons for this trend – COVID-19, church scandals, the secularization of our society, the failure of Christian churches to be Christian, patriarchal structures of churches, etc. This decline has also been accompanied by an increase in loneliness and isolation, the erosion of close bonds and friendships, and a decrease in volunteerism and philanthropy. It seems to me that, while organized religion certainly has its shortcomings, it also fulfills certain basic human needs that society is not meeting anywhere else.
Humans have been living in community for hundreds of thousands of years. Our ancestors learned that survival depended upon cooperation and shared values. We haven’t changed – we still need each other and we need a community that shares our beliefs and helps us along the way. A faith community is uniquely qualified to meet the needs of its members. Our shared values move us not only to take care of each other but to move out of our own space and make the world around us a better place by meeting the spiritual and physical needs of our neighbors. St. Margaret of Scotland has been a physical and spiritual presence in the Shaw neighborhood for well over a hundred years.
It is not an exaggeration to say that St. Margaret’s has been the center of my life for over 40 years. I really grew up here. We moved here when we were in our mid-20s – newly married and happy to be able to afford our first home. We, of course, thought we would live here for a few years and then move to the county (that’s what you did in the 70’s). 47 years later we are still here, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This community has rejoiced with me when we welcomed our son – after many years of praying for a baby – and grieved with me when life brought its inevitable loss. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it lifted me up and carried me through with prayers and meals and messages and too much love to count. I know it is not perfect – no human institution is – but it is a loving and generous place, renewed each year by new faces and new members. Being part of this place has made me want to be a better person and to want to work toward solutions to bigger problems, like poverty or injustice on any level. I have been through struggles in this parish where we worked to keep the school open and to pay our bills. I know the hard work it has taken to keep us on an even keel and to help us grow. I want us to keep on that path, to be an even better place, to truly be a place where all are welcome and where all are valued as children of a loving God. I think all of us are called to be part of that effort by using whatever gifts we have to make this community all that it can be. I hope to be part of that effort for years to come.