When we hear the word “stewardship,” we often think immediately of the stewardship of money. This is an important part of our giving, but there are other important aspects of giving, as well. One of these is the stewardship of relationships. Our relationships with other people affect them in powerful ways, for good or ill. Some researchers have said that we have three degrees of influence in our relationships – with our friend, our friend’s friend, and our friend’s friend’s friend. If I’m having a good day and I’m full of love and joy, I can pass this on to several other people, who pass it on to their friends, and so on. Our relationships matter!
As followers of Jesus and members of the Church, we have two kinds of relationships. We have “internal” relationships – with other church members and other Episcopalians. We also have “external” relationships – with people who are not part of any church or perhaps are members of another church or religious community. Good internal relationships are very important for our parish community of St. George’s. I think that this is a real strength of a smaller church like ours; I have experienced deep caring and love in the internal relationships at our parish. A good way to look at your internal church relationships is to think about your recent contacts with other members of St. George’s and how these contact have been a positive part of your life. One challenge for a small congregation is to be sure that there are easy ways for newcomers to become part of the community.
The longer we are part of the parish, the more our friends tend to be from the church. If our parish is going to be connected to the larger community around us, we need to cultivate external relationships with people who are not church members. This can be through our work, other community involvement, and people we meet around town. A good self-check for this is to see if you can list five people who are not church members whom you know well. Our external relationships are essential for community outreach. This is how we get to know the real needs of people around us and how we can share Jesus’ love in action and word, when appropriate.
At St. George’s, we have opportunities for developing external relationships with the people who use our church facility – the gardeners of our community garden, and the many people who come for twelve step groups at St. George’s. I want to make it a practice to say hello to people in the garden when I see them. I also want to be friendly with the people who come for twelve step groups (AA, etc.) during the week when I see them. We might think creatively about ways we can build positive relationships with the people who are part of our outreach through our building and grounds.
Getting things done is helpful – to be goal oriented and efficient. But it is also crucial to remember that good relationships are essential in all we do, within our church community and in our contacts in the larger community beyond St. George’s. I hope that Jesus’ love will shine in all our relationships!