When We Give the Gift of Presence
When I joined the United Methodist Church, I promised to support the church with my prayers, presence, gifts, and service. In recent years, the church has added the pledge of witness as well. I remember this promise often (especially when I renew my vows), and I think I live up to them -- although I know there is always room for improvement. Most of us can pray more. Most of us could probably give more sacrificially. There are always more places we could serve -- although I'm aware many of you reading this probably feel you spend more time serving in your local church than you do at home! How are we at witnessing? I'm sure almost all of us could find more opportunities to share and live out our faith, to be not only a witness for Christ, but a witness for justice and compassion.
The vow of presence, I thought, was always the easiest. You just have to show up, right? OK, no problem -- once a week I can make an appearance: potluck suppers, good people doing good things, worship, fun times and fellowship -- presence is a breeze! I don't have to worry about living up to that promise.
As the years have progressed, I've realized that my promise of supporting the church with my presence is about more than showing up. The main question asked is if you will "faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness." While potluck supper and fun activities fall in that category, there are times when offering presence is more challenging. When someone has lost a loved one (a parent, a spouse, child, or sibling), words seem so inadequate; but we can give the gift of presence. When violence or dishonesty has shattered a family, we can give the gift of presence. When natural disasters have ripped through a community, whether it is a flood 10 miles away, or a tornado 1000 miles away, or a typhoon 5000 miles away; we can give the gift of presence.
Our gift of presence can be through a personal, one-on-one visit. Presence can also be offered to the broader world through the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). When we support the offering during the One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday, we are able to give the gift of presence to people who find themselves in turmoil due to the various storms of life.
By responding in love to those we don't know and may never meet, we experience a different kind generosity – a way for us to make real the love of the Savior we profess as Lord of our lives. Yes, we offer the gift of presence!
Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship and Connectional Ministries at Discipleship Ministries.