Membership is a normal part of all of our lives. Many of us will be members of Gyms, sport clubs, automobile associations, political parties, etc. In the majority of cases we will be paying membership fees in order to get the benefits of these memberships; these will be paid as lump sums or as regular monthly/weekly contributions. It is via these fees that all these organisations finance the services that they provide to us.
Why would the church be any different? We are a self-financing organisation. We get no funding from our mother church or any other source. We must be self- supporting. We are reliant on donations from parishioners via the collection plate, legacies, one off gifts and through a well managed membership scheme; as well as other fund raising activities.
We have had membership for many years but it has not been well managed and so not well used. A sub group of the church committee have now revamped and refined our membership scheme into a very workable and flexible scheme.
The advantage to the church of membership payments is that it provides a predictable income that lets us know that the electricity bills, insurance costs, priest’s expenses, maintenance and repair costs etc. can be budgeted for and planned. It avoids a hand to mouth existence. It provides the sort of financial management and security that any household or family seeks and in deed feels stressed and insecure if they do not have such a system in place.
A further source of funding that is possible for the church is by donation or grants from charitable organisations. We have received some small donations and may wish to take advantage of other charitable funding. Those of us who have any experience of seeking funding from charities know that one thing they look for when giving money is that it is going to an organisation that has good financial management and stability. They do not tend to give to hand to mouth financed organisations.
As I said earlier we readily pay membership fees to many organisations in our daily lives in order to receive the benefits of these memberships. Being a member of the Orthodox Church clearly gives us huge benefits. We come each week and recharge our spiritual batteries, refocus our minds and souls on our spiritual goals, partake of the beautiful services and the privilege of communion, receive companionship and comfort from our fellows and spiritual guidance and support from the priest and much more. Such benefits need to be valued, protected and guaranteed for ourselves and our children. We would most certainly feel lost and desperate should we lose them.
So I ask that you all support the membership scheme and find a way of making your contribution to it. Please speak to Anne Marie, Sam or Kyriaki who have worked hard to formulate a fair and workable scheme. They will guide you as to how you can best use the scheme and make your contribution. The weekly cost is less than we would pay for a gym, yoga class, fitness class or night school activity or indeed than we may spend in coffee shops or pubs or the like each week.
Finally just to say that membership is not the only way to contribute to the church and that your weekly gifts in the collection plate, donations for the beautification of the church, legacies etc. are all still needed if we are to flourish as a community.
The issue of giving to the church has been around as long as the church has existed. Early Christians seem to have given pretty much all that they had to the church in an act of total commitment. There are many references in scripture to the need to give. I leave you with one which expresses how we should be grateful for and value our church and all its benefits to us; it simply says
“Freely you have received, freely give”