From scarcity to abundance

 

In the November 2012 issue of Gather magazine, “abundance” is a recurring theme. The Bible study lesson focuses on the story of Jesus feeding the five-thousand with bread and fish. Author Audrey West observes how Jesus acts abundantly: he includes everyone in the meal and accounts for every last crumb when he gathers the leftovers. She writes, “In the eyes of Jesus, those… leftovers are worth collecting. They matter.” Read on to see how the women of Upstate New York Women of the ELCA accounted for their leftovers and replaced an attitude of scarcity with an act of abundance.

“Rejoice, again I say rejoice!” This was the theme of the Upstate New York Women of the ELCA convention held September 14-16 on the shores of Lake Chautauqua. The theme words, echoing Philippians 4:4, usually evoke celebration and abundance, not the tedious accounting of financial reports and money matters. Even so, at their September convention, the women of upstate New York demonstrated the strong connection between financial choices and rejoicing in God.

Gathered by the lake, the Upstate New York Synodical Women’s Organization (SWO) faced decisions. As at most SWO conventions, they set aside a few hours for a business meeting to elect officers, vote on resolutions, and approve the budget and financial matters. Due to an accounting oversight in previous years, the 2012 treasurer’s report showed that the SWO bank account had several thousand dollars more than expected. This was more than enough to meet their 2012 expenses. So, what would they do with the leftovers?

The surprise of this abundance contrasted with the feeling of scarcity that marked their decision-making in the previous year. In 2011, the SWO board pledged to give $8,000 in regular offerings to the churchwide women’s organization. However, they took in less money than expected and made the hard decision to give only $3,000. Feeling like their financial resources were scarce, the SWO shared less. This was a hard decision to make, according to Marilyn Dyer, the synodical president. As she explained it, “The churchwide expression does so much to support us in upstate New York and to help women everywhere to live out our mission. We know that the churchwide ministries depend on our support and we want to do our part.”

So, when the unexpected surplus appeared this year, Marilyn invited the board to consider making up that $5,000 deficit from 2011 and paying in full their 2012 pledge to the churchwide women’s organization. Unsure of how the board would respond, Marilyn was delighted when the vote was unanimous. The women of upstate New York will share their unexpected abundance and fulfill their past and present commitments to support Women of the ELCA’s churchwide ministries.

When money is tight, stewardship involves difficult decisions. Yet, faithful stewards are always looking for signs of abundance. In upstate New York, they found what they were looking for. Together, they corrected for past mistakes and turned numbers on a page into generous giving that will provide for the ministries of Women of the ELCA.