The most recent guests are a prolific storyteller and the pastor recently called to head up Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Two new editions of the podcast “Between 2 Pulpits” can now be heard. Both take a look at the thinking and the personalities behind the stories that illustrate Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. Listen to the podcasts, hosted by the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson, director of Ministry Engagement & Support, and Katie Snyder, project manager for Digital Fundraising and Interpretation, here and here.
The first of the two episodes, which dropped last week, features a conversation with the Rev. Emily Enders Odom, associate director for Mission Communications in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It’s her happy task to report innovative and often heart-tugging stories from congregations, mid councils and other sources around the PC(USA)’s four Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. Stories she highlighted during her talk with Snyder and Wilkinson can be found here, here, here, here and here, that last one a story reported by Fred Tangeman of the Office of the General Assembly.
For Odom, reporting those stories is like “reading Scripture and putting yourself in those [biblical] stories. To be able to follow that storytelling model has been a particular joy of mine for all these years.”
“Please join us on Giving Tuesday [Nov. 28],” Odom said at the end of their time together, “and every day of the year.”
The second guest, the Rev. Wilson Kennedy, joined Ministry Engagement & Support in September as the associate director for Special Offerings and Appeals after serving both in both congregational and mid council settings.
“One thing I love about being Presbyterian is we are by and large unafraid to talk about money,” Kennedy said. “Presbyterians are giving people. That’s one thing I experienced as a pastor and as a presbytery leader.”
Kennedy said he sees the new-to-him ministry as both storytelling and story-weaving. “To be able to tell stories and lift up the faithful, creative and amazing things that are happening here and around the globe under the name of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), it’s a privilege and an honor,” he said. “I’m excited to see where we’re being led by God and where God is showing up in our work.”
“It’s not just about change,” Kennedy said. “It’s about opening ourselves to listening for God’s movement and responding to that with good work.”
On the day he celebrated his first month in the new job, Kennedy called it akin to “relearning how to ride a bike. The training wheels have been removed and I am learning to ride with two wheels.”
Answering a question posed by Snyder, Kennedy said he’s “convinced by scholars wo say we are in the midst of generational change when it comes to fundraising.”
“For the last 70 or more years, so much has been institutional. People gave to the Presbyterian Church because they have been Presbyterian their whole life and they support Presbyterian causes,” Kennedy said. “Being Presbyterian is essential to their identity.”
The internet changed everything, he said. “More and more, we see fundraising is passion-driven or cause-based,” meaning, “sure, I go to a Presbyterian church. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give to the PC(USA) or to my local Presbyterian college or my regional seminary.”
“Givers give because you’re doing something that matters in the world that aligns with my values, my theological commitments and how I want the world to be,” he said. “We have to constantly put new skin on what’s happening and how we talk about Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog to meet the needs of donors.”
Wilkinson said that is leading “to trying some things around technologies,” including QR codes and websites.” Still, research bears out that “Presbyterians in general have means and want to be generous with those means,” Wilkinson said. The question is, “How do we unlock that desire in ways that meet their needs in giving but also support the mission that we’re trying to support?” He called the Presbyterian Giving Catalog “a vehicle for being a little more innovative about things.”
The “task of giving” is now “less routinized,” Kennedy noted. “Now we have the opportunity to say, ‘You are a valued member of this community. Here’s how the community has benefitted you, and here’s how this community is enlivening the reign of Christ in the world. Here’s how you can be a part of that.’”
Presbyterians are connectional. “It’s unique in our polity,” Kennedy said. “We are the church together.” When Presbyterians give, “we’re looking for ways to know for certain the work we are doing is combining with the work other faithful Presbyterians are doing around the country to make a difference in the name of Jesus Christ.”
If we’re to have “any future as a Christian people with a unique Christian witness here and around the globe, we have to know one another better,” Kennedy said, “and we have to change things about ourselves in order to get there. Our current structures and our current places of power — they’re not going to serve us well, now or in the future, and so we have to go about the work of change and the work of transformation and the work of giving up that power and returning that power to Christ, who calls us together and sends us out.”
Watch previous and upcoming editions of “Between 2 Pulpits” here.
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