Grief and Giving

By the Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall
Bishop of Arizona

Many of our congregations are in the midst of planning Annual Giving or Stewardship campaigns.  Budgets are tight, giving is down in many congregations, and I have heard many lay and clergy leaders throw up their hands in frustration about how to lead in this moment.  

To all of you, I commend Erin Weber-Johnson’s article, “Grief, Money Narratives, and Annual Giving.” Erin was the speaker at our Lay Leadership Retreat in 2021 and works with the Vandersall Collective as a consultant to congregations and institutions hoping to revitalize their mission and their income. 

The article asks broad questions about the moment we are now in: 

  • What do leaders say when we don’t know our future or the shape of the Church in the years ahead? 
  • What do we say when we are not feeling excited all the time, but instead feel the grief of so much loss? 
  • What do we do now, in light of collective grief?

Erin goes on to tell a specific story of a congregation in Minnesota that faced these questions about the motivation for their giving and found this to be their answer: 

With all of these realizations, their invitation for their annual campaign became, “We are all in the midst of grieving together what has been and what we have lost. And now we have a choice. Join us in giving to our church as we choose how to make meaning of this grief…as we give and work to repair a world that needs love.”

Erin-Web Johnson

When I read that invitation, it resonated with me. How do we make meaning of this grief, and how do we work to repair a world that needs love? I find meaning in the congregations I visit each week, and the stories I hear. And I find it in the ways we in Arizona are working to “repair the breach” of disunity, systemic sin, and isolation.