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Beauty, profanity, worldly, holy?

Beauty, profanity, worldly, holy?

“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to


We are in a season of the church’s life, and in our western society generally, where there is embarrassment, shame, and anxiety in talking about money in church (only a little less anxiety than is created by not having enough money for mission).  Many people would prefer fundraising and stewardship to be relegated to the back shed or the scullery, and not openly discussed in the polite social milieu of coffee hour or, worse, a liturgy.  It is Spring, no need to think about the pledge campaign now…better to procrastinate and freak out in late August!  But is that plan really working for our churches?  And is the subject of money really as objectionable as it seems? Too worldly, really?


What people considered beautiful; and meaningful in the late middle ages when this painting was painted for a European church’s high altar, some parents would drag their children from in disgust and embarrassment today (and then let them watch God-knows-what on their iPad later!) It’s a lovely painting. It’s just Jesus.  It is a symbolic portrayal of His humanity…He needs food as He will again on the beach after the resurrection. He is a human. Humans eat. Milk and mother.  Then fish and friends.  A God.  A man.  Art.  Embarrassment.  Beauty.


Is it offensive to recognize Jesus’ humanity?  Is his needing to sustain his body too worldly for consideration or depiction? Or is it perhaps just very, very real?


Now is the time to be planning the year-round stewardship work of the church and the pledge campaign of the Fall.  Now is the time to plan the theme, collect the tools, write the letter drafts, plan the kickoff and ending event. Now.  Not August, now.  But before we drop our chins to our chests and sharpen our proverbial pencils for the campaign planning, might we renovate how we see fundraising in our churches?


Might we dig deep into our souls and ask ourselves why we label so much “good and bad,” “holy or profane?” Does it serve us well?


Our planning for our stewardship and pledging campaigns will suffer and drag along in misery unless we first change our attitude about them.  We label it “bad” or “difficult” as a way to get ourselves out of doing the work.


I believe that it is a sacred sacrament to help people give their money away.  As hard as hearing confession and as healing to the recipient of ministry. I especially believe that if the money is going to something worthy – like the easing of human suffering – and other things Jesus actually discussed (and some churches are engaged in that kind of work and so deserve the money they are asking for this Fall) then there is great mission in the asking.


So, when looking at Stewardship or Fundraising in Church…as when looking at medieval art, is it “offensive?” Really?  Or is it perhaps just very, very real?


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