Generosity Lessons

The past 5 months have been, for me, an intense study in generosity. It began with a call letting me know that a historic period pipe organ was available that might be appropriate for our Victorian church.  It turned out that the instrument was too large for our facility. The conversation that initially produced that fact, then resulted in the offer of a 10 rank pipe organ being donated to our church by Jim & Ruby Miller. Jim knows St. Paul’s from having served as a guest organist here for more than a few years.

Their donation created a challenge for our small congregation to find the funding for transporting, preparing our space, wiring the console and switch system to the pipes, and voicing the instrument to the new space. The total cost is currently estimated at $51,000.  St. Paul’s congregation has been generous in their expressed willingness to assist with love, labor and funds but it is a project larger than we can manage alone.

The Center for Congregations gave us a matching grant of $2,500 to help with the cost of a consultant to help us make the right decisions about placement, engineering and instruct us in the work we could do ourselves. Even before the grant was in place, our consultant, Jim Miller, has been most generous with time and information to help us make certain we could both begin and finish this project. And that the end result would be of great benefit to the church and the community.

On the basis of a questionnaire and parish conversation the Vestry voted mid-December to go ahead with the project and to begin soliciting donations from the parish, and also to solicit donations using a crowd-funding site.

Our son generously volunteered his video editing skills to produce a video which puts forward our history and our need for partners to finish this project. ( ) The result has so far been astounding. We have already received contributions from Mexico, Indianapolis, Florida and Western New York. There have been a few notes attached indicating their support – and more often a story.

On the basis of a newspaper article, for example, we received a contribution from a retired professor from Taiwan Theological Seminary.  He recalled his own desire for a pipe organ at the seminary and how the generosity of others allowed it to happen in 1978. “Since then our seminary became the main force in promoting great church music in Taiwan… From 2 pipe organs in Taiwan in 1978 there are now 36… In Chinese there is a saying ‘throw a brick to attract Jade’ (do something small to accomplish something of great value) I prayerfully hope that our small check may become ‘the brick’.”

We also received encouragement from James Taylor whose song “Fire & Rain” we used as our theme for this project.   We are using his music with his permission and are in conversation regarding his help in securing more publicity for our project.

A woman living 30 miles away sent  a sizeable donation recalling her own church getting a used organ and restoring it and the joy it added to thri life as a congregation.

People we do not know are reaching out to help us.  Generosity creates more generosity and once we as a parish have accomplished our goal we will have the responsibility to pass the generosity we have experienced on to others known and unknown to us.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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