Stories included a grandmother helping a mentally challenged neighbor, worldwide effects of generosity, and a challenge for people to invite others to be of generous spirit.
The Episcopal Network for Stewardship’s (TENS) “Journey to Generosity” conference May 19-20 drew approximately 85 people to St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral Church in downtown Minneapolis. The event featured keynote speakers that engaged and impelled attendees on topics such as advocating political change for human rights, social justice ministries, and expanding progressive causes on issues such as faith and justice—all through the love and example of Jesus Christ.
“There was more energy at the conference than I’ve experienced before,” said Richard W. Felton, executive director of TENS. “The conversations around the tables were a vital part of the overall conference.”
This year’s conference was unique in that it drew three bishops to the event: Bishop Brian N. Prior of Minnesota, Bishop Jake Owensby of Western Louisiana, and Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada. Owensby and Edwards sit on the board of directors for TENS.
Additionally, the Very Rev. Paul Lebens-Englund, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, preached the Opening Eucharist.
The bishops and the rest of the attendees were treated to empowering speeches from Dave Toycen, former president of World Vision, Canada; the Rev. Winnie Varghese of Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street; and the Rev. Canon J. Edwin Bacon, rector emeritus of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California.
“Dave Toycen kicked off the conference with an inspiring presentation on the ‘Power of Generosity,’” Felton said. “Using a video and telling powerful stories, Dave showed real-life examples of how generosity has transformed so many lives around the world.”
But it may have been Varghese’s speech that generated the most enthusiasm. “(She) challenged the conference attendees, first by reminding all of the challenges of growing up and living as a member of a minority group in the United States,” Felton said. “Then, she inspired us with a story of her grandmother’s care of her grandchildren and of a neighbor in India who was mentally challenged.
“She said, following on Jesus’s assurance that ‘My father’s house has many rooms,’ that it’s not important how many rooms are in your home, but how many doors allowing people to enter and the sounds of the city to energize,” Felton said.
Bacon then energized the attendees to go out and invite people into greater generosity. “Calling on his book ‘Eight Habits of Love’ he said the very first habit is generosity,” Felton said. “He said, ‘There’s no greater compliment you can pay a person than by asking them to give generously to the gospel of Jesus.’”
Inspiring people who lead stewardship efforts in their churches and diocese was a principle goal of this year’s conference, along with providing tools to ensure success in developing stewardship journeys, Felton said.
The conference also featured a new element this year with its pre-conference subject matter: developing transformational leadership teams. “Presented by a Table Group Principle Consultant, James Felton, the preconference gave leaders important methods to build and encourage leadership teams that can transform the mission and ministry of their local congregations and dioceses,” Richard Felton said.
Richard Felton added that the importance of stewardship cannot be understated: “Until we can acknowledge God’s awesome generosity in our lives with deep gratitude and then attempt to follow God’s example of generosity in all aspects of our lives, we will fall short of being living examples of God’s love.”