Tuesday, November 23, 2004
On Eucharistic Frequency, Paedocommunion & Tithing
At the risk of sounding like a less than devout young punk, one of the few things I like about being an Episcopalian is that I'm not beat over the head/conscience about things like Sabbath observance or tithing, and I can worship at the Eucharist more frequently than ever before. I work for my parish right now, and they can't afford to pay me enough, so I still work weekends at FedEx Kinko's. I've always hated working Sunday mornings in the past because that was the one and only chance I had during the week for communion; but not so in the Anglican world. At present, there are three communion services on Sunday at our parish and two other regularly scheduled Eucharists on Wednesday, not to mention the other Eucharists that often occur during the week (e.g. prior to monthly vestry meetings or Order of the Daughters of the King meetings, or in conjunction with other special events like weddings or funerals). My rector is enough of a fundamentalist to view Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, but he's enough of a realist to understand that the modern world requires many to work on Sunday.
On tithing, like I said, my parish can't afford to pay me enough, so they understand when I have to work Sundays and when I can't afford to tithe. They encourage the biblical ten-percent tithe and proportionate giving, but they also acknowledge tithes of time and talents, and ultimately they view it as a good and helpful Christian standard, not a matter for church discipline. Our parish has an annual stewardship campaign - an annual pledge drive - that is currently underway and nearing completion. We pledged to our parish for 2005, but we pledged somewhat less than the tithe.
One day I was talking with the rector about my stewardship. At the end of the conversation, I told him that we had pledged, but less than the tithe, and I started to tell him why. He stopped me, kindly: "You don't have to tell me; that's between you and God." I had already told him that I was accustomed to tithing religiously, that I had been taught to do so since childhood, but that we were living on a low income, trying to get out of a bad debt-to-income ratio, etc. I added that, after studying the issue, I had come to the conclusion that the tithe is no longer required as law per se in the new covenant, but that likewise in the new covenant we should expect the net effect of all kingdom offerings to far surpass ten percent (and, if they're not, we need to go back to our good schoolmaster from ancient Israel, the tithe). And, despite the rector's insistence that I didn't have to explain, I added one last thing. I reiterated  my conviction that my children should be given communion (which they aren't at our parish) and  that we visit one or two other churches pretty regularly where our children can receive and where we feel we ought to also contribute what we can; in other words, we're not just giving to one parish (I might add, in good protestant fashion). He responded, "Well, we just have a different view on that [i.e. child communion -jon]. You're coming from a more Orthodox tradition, where they spoon-feed babies, and we're not there yet, the Anglican tradition. We may be eventually, but just not yet." And I thought to myself, "Boloney. Paedocommunion is reported to be the majority practice in the Episcopal Church." But I didn't say it (then). I just thought it and smiled, confirmed in my decision to pledge less than a tithe, and at the same time to give thanks for how often I (at least) can receive communion at my parish. Sure, my whole family can't, and that stinks. But our rector is a great man. And our Lord teaches us to give thanks - and to be shrewd as serpents - all at the same time.
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