In 2017, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary Mission, Saint James, MO was one of five recently planted communities to be awarded a Church Planting Grant from the Orthodox Church in America. At the time, Priest Joel Wilson anticipated that the grant “will help our community continue to mature in an organic and Apostolic way by being assisted both spiritually and materially by the larger and already established Body.”
Not only has the community experienced numerical growth during the past few years, but it continues to focus on interior spiritual growth through its worship, ministries and gatherings designed to emphasize the essentials of the Orthodox Christian faith and life.
Recently, Priest John Parker, Chair of the OCA’s Department of Evangelization, visited Annunciation Mission, where he offered a wealth of insights into the centrality of stewardship in mission growth. His presentation, titled “First and Finest,” drew upon the the excellent book and resource of the same name by Archpriest Robert Holet of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
“Every Christian is a student, a servant, a steward, and a sharer, and each of these areas must be cultivated carefully and intentionally in the life of an Orthodox believer,” Father John said in introducing his topic. “The level of the bar set for stewardship in a mission church sets a trajectory for the future growth, stagnation, or decline of a mission or parish. Stewardship modeled on Cain’s offering of ‘a little something’ will lead to stagnation and failure; stewardship modeled on Abel’s first and finest offering will be a foundation of stone.”
Quoting 1 Chronicles 29:14—“All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee!”—Father John turned his attention to the subject of tithing.
“The biblical tithe is the simple beginning point of our stewardship of thanks and praise to God, to Whom we do not ‘owe’ ten percent, but to Whom our debt of thanks calls for our ‘all,’” Father John explained. “The Church, in the eighth ode of the Matins Canon for the second Thursday of Great Lent, calls that season the ‘Tithe of the Year.’ This is indeed a season during which we ponder, in the very first words of the Great Canon of Saint Andrew, ‘what first fruit shall I offer Thee?’ If in the Great Fast, we strive to give our ‘first and best’ repentance during a tenth of the year, it is also high time to begin giving our first and best ten percent of our financial resources.”
Father John concluded by challenging his audience to take their approach to stewardship seriously, especially during the lenten season.
“If you do not already tithe, why not set aside this ‘Tithe of the Year’—Great Lent—to try it,” Father John said. “Tithe for these six weeks and see how God will visit you, and how your attitude towards your faith grows when you put your treasure there.”
In January 2018, Annunciation Mission began the second year of its grant. Planting Grant missions receive substantial grants that must be matched by the local community to support the full-time ministries and missionary work of their priests.
Visit Annunciation Mission’s website to keep abreast of the community’s ongoing growth.