Supporting St. Paul's

Good Morning, Saint Paul’s. My name is Jeannie Baca and I should not be standing in front of you this morning to tell you why I pledge to St. Paul’s.

I shouldn’t be talking to you because I shouldn’t have even made it through the sanctuary doors. I was raised in a Christian tradition where women cannot serve in leadership and where LGBTQ people are told we need to disavow essential parts of ourselves as unholy. I fell away from Christianity in college, angered and hurt by religious traditions that treated me and the people I loved as inferior. I felt no need to enter a church again.

 

In January 2009, I attended an LGBTQ rights protest at Boston City Hall. On that freezing day, Jeff stood up in his collar and told us we were all beloved of God, no exceptions. A year later, Boston being small as it is, I saw Jeff on the T. My year had been disastrous. I had found myself questioning what I thought I knew about the world and myself, and even whether I had a place in this world. So, I figured I had nothing to lose when I struck up a conversation with the first priest I had spoken to in years. It was a great chat, ending with Jeff giving me his business card, which, frankly, I figured I would lose.

But I didn’t lose the card. Instead, I used it a few weeks later to help me find the red doors I walked past a couple of times before working up the courage to walk into worship. And once I got through those doors, the next Sunday couldn’t come soon enough. Or the next. Or the past 7 years of Sundays. In Saint Paul’s, I have found a community, not just a priest, which really believes God loves all of us, no exceptions. A community that loves those of us who “shouldn’t” be here, based on who we are or past experiences with religion. A community that believes that Christianity is about how we live in the world, not just what we do at worship. This community has loved me, supported me, pushed me, and helped me grow. In many ways it has helped to save my life- and I thank you all.

Even with my abiding affection for Saint Paul’s, I shouldn’t be talking to you about stewardship pledging. I am a good New Englander-- money talk makes me uncomfortable to my core. I associate money with “icky” feelings-- guilt, anxiety, shame, jealousy- things I love talking about as a social worker, but often strive to avoid acknowledging in my own life.

To be honest with you, I didn’t start pledging until just a few years ago. I had lots of reasons why not to pledge. In my time at Saint Paul’s, I’ve spent two years as a full time grad student, with what my sister refers to as an “out go” rather than an income. As a social worker, my employment relies largely on public funding, and two of my last three jobs have ended suddenly when grants were not renewed. There have been times when I felt my contribution was too small to matter as a pledge, and other times where I have felt my income has been too unstable to know what to pledge. Also, pledging just feels rather official and committed, doesn’t it?

Here’s the truth-- every pledge is important, no matter what you are able to pledge. As a member of vestry, I can tell you that every dollar is discussed, prayed about, voted on, and needed. Our pledges care for our clergy and support staff, keep the building operational, and allow us to bring God’s love out into a world that so badly needs it. Pledges keep this community going.

Another truth-- I have pledged through periods of uncertainty in my own life. I’ve pledged through job funding instability, and this community has caught me. Members have revised my resume, offered me encouragement, rides, food, and looked out for my spiritual well-being. In uncertain times, Saint Paul’s has been a place of stability for me, and pledging what I am able has been an expression of my faith in that stability.

Finally, pledging is a commitment. If you’re like me, commitment can be scary. But when I think about Saint Paul’s, I think about a community so strongly committed to our belief that God loves us all as His children that we have tacked that belief to our doors. I think about the next person who, like I did, believes they should not be in this sanctuary and that they are outside of God’s love. I think of that person seeing the statement on our door and maybe one day walking in. That person is worth my financial commitment to Saint Paul’s.

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