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A Message From a Fellow Congregant

In the recent film, The Big Short, which tries to craft an informative and entertaining story out of 2008’s global economic crisis, the narrator of the tale freely admits to the audience that he has a problem. Money is something that most people don’t want to think too much about – beyond wanting more of it, at least. And his story is all about money – particularly the complicated details of it that would make almost anyone lose interest. So, in order to explain the more obtuse financial concepts that are essential to the movie, he brings in an assortment of movie stars, pop singers, and celebrity chefs to provide the necessary background with simple, accessible metaphors. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it helps people to listen to a message they might not otherwise hear.

In a way, it’s not so different from a practice we follow here at First Parish each year. During our annual pledge campaign, we normally invite a few members of the congregation to share with you some of their own story and what motivates them to lend their financial support to our church. I always appreciate the folks who say, ‘yes’ to doing this, because hearing from your fellow members and friends makes real the message of stewardship and generosity in a way that I don’t think my own words from the pulpit can. (Those of you who have seen The Big Short may now be noticing that, in drawing a subtle parallel between my annual role and that film’s narrator, I have cast myself in the role played by Ryan Gosling – for which I make no apologies.)

But at the moment, I am on sabbatical. I’m still your minister, of course, but I’m refraining from the normal work of that role. Which means that right now, my most active responsibility to our congregation, in some ways, is as one of its many members. So I’m going to take a moment here to do what I normally invite and recruit others to do – to explain why I pledge my financial support to the church each year:

If I picture my and my family’s budget – and I invite you to picture your own along with me – most of the recipients of the money spent by my household are places like Speedway and Market Basket. Merchants who provide things that I need – gas and groceries – in order to get through my daily life. Some of those companies I might feel a little bit better or a little bit worse about doing business with; some of those products a little more comfortable or uncomfortable about my having to buy them. But the overwhelming majority of the items on my list of annual expenses are neutral ones: they have no deeper meaning than to meet basic needs.

Giving to support First Parish changes that. It puts something on the list which is not just about the material necessities of life and work. Having First Parish as a part of my family budget helps to ground that budget as an expression of our values as a family, and so each year we commit to making what is, for our income, a serious contribution to the congregation. To ensure that this statement of our values reflects more than just our day-to-day needs, or passing wants. We give enough so that it changes what else we spend our money on. Because being a part of our congregation changes each of us, here in my household, and its work is to change everyone else whose life is touched by it. I pledge to First Parish because First Parish matters to me. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t, but because it does, I must.

Now is the season for having your own conversation, within your household or within yourself, about what First Parish means to you, how it connects to your values and to the vision of the world you would one day wish to see. You’ll make your own decisions, as each of us do, each year. But if First Parish matters to you, as it does to me, then I call on you to make it something that matters to your budget as well.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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