It might seem odd to draw attention to a major milestone or anniversary one year before it happens. It would be strange, for example, to put more emphasis on your 49th wedding anniversary than on your 50th, or your 17th birthday instead of your 18th – the one when you legally become an adult and can vote. But the one before might be more significant if it lays the foundation for something greater. That’s what we hope to accomplish as we launch our 24th year of helping the whole community through Anglican ministries.
Since 1996, FaithWorks has brought parishes and parishioners together to raise funds for some very needy people in our community and in the developing world: youth who call the street home; families deprived of housing security; the imprisoned, new immigrants and refugees; people with mental health challenges and addictions; and women looking for a way out of abuse and despair. Thanks to the generosity of Anglicans across our diocese, more than $32 million has been raised in response to our annual appeal. Many are grateful for this outpouring of generosity.
Over the years, FaithWorks has faced a number of challenges: competing with appeals for refugee sponsorship; a major diocesan ministry campaign; and increased needs during the great recession. Just getting FaithWorks off the ground in the late ’90’s, when it seemed improbable that parishes would unite behind the idea of giving to a federated appeal – a sort of Anglican United Way – was a challenge in itself.
Our latest challenge might be the most difficult: indifference. Across our 196 parishes, about half commit to an intentional FaithWorks effort. Some might set a goal, while others have launch parties, special events or walk-a-thons. Some might invite an agency speaker to preach or dedicate a couple of Sundays to promoting the ministry of FaithWorks.
For some, FaithWorks is just another request for scarce funds – competition amid a mountain of requests each year. Typically, a pile of FaithWorks brochures and envelopes are left at the entrance of the church, lost amongst a pile of other paper for community projects and endeavours, in hopes that someone might take an interest and respond.
It might come as a surprise, but nearly 25 per cent of our parishes do nothing to support FaithWorks. They don’t put up our posters, they don’t hand out our literature. FaithWorks doesn’t even appear as a line item on the outreach budget. Anglicans in these parishes probably don’t event know that FaithWorks exists.
And yet, if we all pulled together and did our part, the annual goal would be a slam-dunk from parish giving alone. This year’s goal, for example, is $1.5 million – an increase of more than 10 per cent on last year’s. If every parish set a target equal to 5 per cent of its annual offertory, that goal would be surpassed with many thousands of dollars to spare. Some parishes do this already – setting targets closer to 10 per cent – and reaching them. We know it’s possible.
To help make this objective a reality, a committed friend of FaithWorks has offered us a $100,000 matching challenge grant in 2020. All new and increased gifts from individuals and parishes will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000. We want to extend a special invitation to those parishes for whom participation could use a kick-start. Help us exceed our target and get a six-figure bonus along the way!
I’m going to be talking a lot about FaithWorks in 2020. Not just because of the matching gift, but because I am hopeful that our goal can be achieved and thousands of people in need will feel the hand of Jesus through our actions. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses the world.” That’s what FaithWorks is: the hands and feet of Christ. That’s why what we do is so important.
We hope to encourage responsiveness in 2020. We hope to refocus our attention on what the late Archbishop Terry Finlay called the greatest unifying initiative in the diocese. We hope every Anglican in our diocese will have a chance to learn about our story and respond with enthusiasm.
2020 is going to be a foundational year for us. Parishes are going to be asked to recommit. Donors are going to be invited to learn more about our work. Together, we are going to achieve our potential so that our 25th anniversary is something to really celebrate.