How can a church facing profound challenges as well as extraordinary opportunities ensure the material resources it needs not just to survive but to flourish and fulfill its potential? These were some of the questions that led to the focus of the recent Leadership Symposium hosted by Berkeley Divinity School, titled “Generous God, Giving Church.”
The keynote guest speaker for the two-day event was J. Clif Christopher of Horizons Stewardship. Christopher, an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, is a sought-after speaker and widely-read author on issues of stewardship. His books include Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate and the recent Rich Church, Poor Church, from whose content Christopher drew in speaking to the Symposium.
In presentations that were thought-provoking, passionate and good-humored, Christopher put the challenges of stewardship into historical and sociological contexts, pointing to changing patterns of religious engagement and of charitable giving. Most importantly, however, he pointed to the crucial place of mission and faith itself. As churches flourish that place high demands on members and seek unashamedly to transform lives, those that focus on survival itself are paradoxically least likely to survive. He proposed that a clear vision, authentic leadership and demonstrated responsibility managing a church’s resources are the key to success in fundraising.
Dean Andrew McGowan also addressed the group, drawing on the New Testament and the early Church to explore the significance of the Eucharist itself as an act of literal “thanksgiving” and how this could and should connect with mission and outreach. The offering of gifts, including both the elements of the Eucharist and money, were integral to ancient Christian worship and not merely events that could conveniently be scheduled on Sundays.
Across the two days participants shared their own stories, both celebratory and difficult, and took part in Evensong and Eucharist led by the Rev. Whitney Edwards ’07, rector of Christ & Holy Trinity Church in Westport. Pictures of many participants can be seen on the Galleries section of Berkeley’s website.
The Berkeley Symposia are annual events within the Wesley Royce Leadership Program, through which the School works with its students and friends to cultivate the skills and qualities necessary to form transformative Christian communities.