In the name of the God the Father, Son and and Holy Spirit.
What does St. Philip’s mean to me and why am I spending so much of my time, energy and yes, resources in this holy place. That is the question I was asked to talk about today, and it has had me thinking about just what it is that is so special about this church.
I am a cradle Episcopalian, and spent my growing up years at Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix where I regularly attended Sunday school and sang in the youth choir. Much of my out of school activity was centered around Trinity from nursery school on. Interestingly although my mother had also grown up at Trinity, my parents did not attend church, but they thought it was important for my sister and me to be a part of it all.
They made very sure we could participate in all of the activities that were offered there.
We had a very active high school group, YPF or Young People’s Fellowship, which was a significant factor in our out of school life. We played together, sang together and had long discussions about what our religion meant to us.
For four years, I attended summer camp at Chapel Rock in Prescott (we called it Camp Jenkin’s then). This was another powerful influence in my life. I met young people from all over the state, and we not only enjoyed the beautiful setting in the pines, but we played together, held long discussions about our beliefs and generally were grounded in what I consider to be very healthy principles. With clergy and staff from all over the state, we put on a different drama or revue each summer - creating strong bonds with each other I will never forget the silent candlelit processions from the rock chapel back to our dorms which followed the last evensong in camp each year.
Trinity had a strong giving program from nursery school on. We carefully took our nickels and quarters to put in the offering plate each Sunday, and filled our Mite boxes to put on the cross at Easter. Giving back to the church was a strong message from the get-go!
Obviously Trinity Cathedral was very important in my formative years and I am glad to see that St. Philip’s offers the same formative activities for my children and grandson.
When I came to Tucson to go to the University, I went to services on campus, but along with a good friend who had a car, I attended St. Philip’s as often as possible. Like many of you, St. Philip’s spoke to me from the very first in a deep and special way. The beautiful church, the splendid music, and the caring clergy have brought many of us to this special place.
Bill and I were married at Trinity, and we spent the next seven years in Washington DC and Long Beach California where he completed his medical training. We started our family and our lives centered around our children and his work (we lived at the hospital complex in Long Beach for the resident staff) We attended St. Luke’s in Long Beach where many of our friends were.
Bill had grown up at St. Philip’s, and the Rector, George Ferguson and St. Philip’s had been important to him as he grew up. We brought our son, Bill, home to be baptized here where we intended to live after his military service was completed.
At the end of his medical training Bill Senior enlisted. Much to our surprise his orders came from the Air Force for him to report to Davis Monthan Air Force Base. We were back to Tucson a few years before we had hoped to be! As soon as we came back, I transferred my membership records to St. Philip’s and we enrolled our and daughter, Jenny, and son, Bill in Sunday School. Church was important to us, but I have to confess that I was more a consumer of what it had to offer than a real part of the church community. I attended church regularly and taught Sunday School for a couple of years, but did not become involved otherwise.
During all those years, I was very involved in the community, giving my free time to the Jr. League and several community boards. However, I have to admit that I did not even consider seeking more involvement in my church.
I served on Altar Guild for several years, but gave it up as our children grew up and we were involved in more and more of their activities. Over the years I attended occasional classes which were very meaningful, but again did not become further involved. All this time I attended Church services regularly, and remember hearing the annual sermons on tithing. We added to our pledge each year, but, like so many others, tithing seemed an impossible goal.
Our children grew up, and I went back to work. I had a wonderful career working for Congressman Jim Kolbe as his Outreach Director here in Tucson. I considered the work I did on behalf of our constituents as my giving back to the community.
When I retired, I was asked to consider rejoining Altar Guild. This time the time was right, and I became involved with this wonderful group. I have been very fortunate in that I have had help for years in the nitty gritty work of maintaining our home. I can’t tell you how many times I have had friends tell me that I couldn’t do that. “I don’t iron!” Well, I don’t do any more of that than absolutely necessary at home, but it is a different kind of task here at Saint Philip’s We do care for all of what Susan Anderson Smith calls our “holy hardware.” And we take pride in doing our work here with reverence and care. But the real heart of Altar Guild is the love and friendship we share with each other. There is an old but very true saying that you get out of any activity what you put into it. I have made wonderful and caring friends in St. Philip’s Altar Guild and value every minute I spend with them.
Another major factor in my spiritual growth in the past few years was being involved in the Education for Ministry program. This excellent four year class is given each year at St. Philip’s and for many of us is life changing. The education you get in church history, and the spiritual development it engenders is truly remarkable. Again, the material we covered, and the connections I made with our small group of participants has enriched my life and my faith beyond any expectations I had when I signed up. I thank Beverley Edminster, who led the class, and the very special classmates I had for enriching my life and my faith far beyond anything I had expected when I started. I highly recommend it for any of you who are seeking a deeper knowledge of our faith and how it was formed.
As you might surmise by this time, the involvement I had with these two groups made St. Philip’s infinitely more important to me. I was asked to serve on the Vestry, and after three years to serve as Junior Warden. Again both my knowledge and my friendships widened to include another host of wonderful people. Here I really learned about the many ministries and opportunities we have at this beautiful church. We have dedicated clergy, staff and volunteers participating in a whole host of activities and ministries and they are each passionate about the ones important to them. There is truly something here for everyone.
Involvement with the Vestry also gave me a crash course in what it takes to run a church such as St. Philip’s. We are blessed with outstanding clergy and staff, all of whom give far more of themselves most of us see or understand. I truly don’t know how they manage to accomplish all that they do.
Last week I bought the Diamond Jubliee book published by the 75th Anniversary Committee containing the history of St. Philiip’s. I have been privileged to be here for a lot of that history, Bill for most of it.
I was struck by the description of what was accomplished through the years, building and expanding our church, the leadership role we have taken in creating new Episcopal parishes in Tucson and all of the many activities that have been a part of our culture here. We have had exceptional music, outstanding educational opportunities, youth programs, numerous fairs and fiestas and special events and several major building programs. I was also reminded that the parish came through with the wherewithall to do all that has been done, and at some points in our history to fund four full time clergy plus all of the other staff members and volunteers necessary to do the job.
For many years I have shared my time and whatever talents I possess with the church. I think you can tell from what I have said today that I have received back far more than I have given to this church.
We exist in a struggling economy and I am well aware of the implications this has on decisions about what to give back to our church. But we have had difficult financial times at other times during our history.
Over the years, Bill and I have slowly inched our way toward tithing - and we can now support St. Philip’s with what was called a modern tithe - over one half of our tithe to the church and the rest to other charitable organizations. It has been a journey of taking one step at a time - but it has been a joyful, meaningful one.
We have been so blessed by what God has given us. It is a privilege to give back a portion of what we have been given.
I urge each of you who have not already done this to consider making this journey. If you are not already doing so, become involved in one of our many ministries. If you don’t know where to start, take a class. Talk to the other parishioners about what they find important. And if you haven’t already, take a step toward sharing your financial resources. St Luke told us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I think that this phrase can be turned around as to: Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.