Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our House

By Eric Von Salzen

[As part of the pledge drive at our church, All Saints, Fort Lauderdale, members of the Vestry were asked to address each week-end service. This is what I said. What do you think?]

It is written in the Book of Joshua:

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” [Joshua 24:15]

This church is the Lord’s House, but it’s also our house. It belongs to us, the people of All Saints. We started it, we built it, and we’re responsible for it.

Almost 100 years ago, on All Saints Day 1912, eight women met in the home of Mr. and Mrs. S. S. Walsh for the purpose of founding an Episcopal Church in the growing little frontier town of Fort Lauderdale. To that end, they formed the All Saints Guild. They had no church building. They had no rector. It was two years before All Saints was even recognized by the Diocese as a mission.

But the first service of our church was held six weeks after that meeting, in a public hall over a garage and filling station on Andrews Avenue.

We didn’t get our own church building until 1921, when one of the people of All Saints, the well-known pioneer Annie Beck, found an abandoned church building on Jupiter Island and arranged to have it dismantled and shipped down here to Fort Lauderdale by train, a distance of more than 60 miles. That building was re-erected downtown, across from Stranahan Park, and served as All Saints’ church building for more than a quarter of a century.

In 1949 the people of All Saints built a new, modern, spacious church building here in the residential neighborhood of Collee Hammock. Later, we bought the run-down property next door, which became Brion Park and made All Saints a riverfront church.

The people of All Saints have now just completed the construction of new buildings to continue and expand the mission and programs of our church: New classrooms, a new chapel, a new kitchen, and new meeting rooms.

Look around you. Look at these buildings. They’re yours, you the people of All Saints. Look at the programs of this church, our missions, our outreach programs to those less fortunate than we are, beds around the altar, our education programs for adults and children, our music program, even our clergy. They’re yours, you the people of All Saints. They exist because of you.

This is your house, as well as the Lord’s house. I don’t have to tell you that. You know it. I don’t have to tell you that, like your home and your family, this house of worship and its family need to be maintained and supported. You know that.

I’m not here to tell you to make a big pledge to support the operations of your church home. How much you pledge is your decision to make. The only thing I ask – I beg – is that you make your pledge soon. Fill out that pledge card and send it in SOON. So the church knows how much money we’re going to have next year to operate and maintain your church. So your Vestry can decide whether we can replace your leaking roof, so we can decide whether we can hire a sexton to keep your property in repair, so that we can decide what outreach and mission programs we can support.

And so that the Vestry won’t ask me to call you up at dinner time some time next month and pester you for your pledge. If I have to do that, the only person who will hate it more than you, is me.



Bob Schneider said...

Thanks for posting this. All Saints, Ft. Lauderdale, was my parish home from 1955 till 1965. My mother Jane Schneider, now 90, is still a member, as are my sister Barbara Price and her family. The ashes of my father Otto and my dear nephew Jimmy are interred in the columbarium there. Samuel Fleming (one of the best preachers in the EpiscopalChurch in his day) was rector then and Hunter Wyatt-Brown vicar. Fr. Hunter recommended Sewanee to me, and I graduated there in 1961. I am forever grateful to the clergy and people of All Saints, who nourished me those years and introduced me to high church liturgy and a richer sacramental theology. They cemented my love of th Anglican tradition in its various forms.

John Bassett said...

Definitely on the right track.

As a layperson, I don't have a problem when I'm asked for money for a reason. I just don't want to be told that I should donate money because it is spiritually good for me.

So, tell me what you need it for. What's the current state of the parish? What's the money being spent on now? What's the return on the endowment? What programs are in peril? What programs could be started? How can this make us more effective disciples of Jesus? Sell it to me. Get me excited. Just do not preach another one of those vague money and stewardship sermons.

The Godfather said...

Bob and John, thank you both for your comments.