What will your legacy be?
Have you noticed that part in the baptismal service when one of the clergy lights a small candle from the Paschal Candle, and offer it to the newly baptized (or to a parent if an infant) with the words, “Receive the light of Christ, as Christ’s light in the world.” The symbolism is the passing down of Christ’s legacy to the most recently baptized Christian; as Christ illuminated with world with God’s love, the torch of Christ’s light is passed to us as we become his disciples. Similarly, at confirmation there is a symbolic passing along to the next generation, of the traditions and practices of the church which have kept that light alive in the world for nearly 2,000 years.
The idea of legacy and the passing down of what came before is particularly important in the Christian movement as it is only through the selfless dedication of those who have come before us, that the Good News of God in Christ continues to be shared today. As I look around the campus of St. Bart’s, I can see evidence of the lasting generosity of others all around us staring with the very land we are standing on likely purchased at great risk, but also with great foresight. I appreciate the wonderful view of the valley and the refreshing breeze that whisks its way up our hill each afternoon. I notice our sanctuary, the parish hall, the administration building, and all the various offices and meeting rooms and am reminded of hundreds of lives that we have been saved – both spiritually and even literally – because there was a physical place to find God’s love when they needed it most.
I see the Education Building, the Preschool, the Youth and Godly Play rooms, and envision the thousands of children who have been introduced to the love of God in one way or another. What fruit has been born in their life from the many seeds we helped plant? What ripple effect will knowing God’s love have on their lives and on the world they will create?
I see the Parish Hall and it reminds me of the homeless families who have been temporarily housed there as a vital link in a chain that kept them off the streets at their most vulnerable time. How will they one day pay forward the generosity they were shown to the next family in need?
I think of the thousands of adults whose life-saving recovery from addiction has been supported because we had room for their groups to meet. And I think of the LGBT kids who are a high risk of suicide, who meet here because they see our campus as “safe space” from a hostile world.
Each one of these additions – be it the purchase of the land, the construction of the Parish Hall, the Sanctuary or most recently the Education Building and Preschool – are just a few examples of the legacy left to us by a past generations of those who called St. Bart’s home today. At great risk and knowing full well that they will not live to see the fruits of their generosity, they trusted in God to build this church and then over the years, add to this campus so that it might benefit those they would likely never know or even meet. In the same way that the light of Christ is past from generation to generation of Christians, we here at St. Bart’s and countless others in our larger community, have been the recipients of the courage, risk and foresight of those who have come before.
So what are we called to do? How can pay forward the legacy that we have benefited from?
One way to do this is through the ministry of Planned Giving. Joining St. Bart’s Legacy Society by remembering St. Bart’s in your estate plans in some way, helps to build our endowment and is a beautiful way to make a lasting gift that will touch the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people long after you are gone with the greatest gift of all – the love of God. Like our campus itself, our endowment is a lasting cornerstone of our mission and ministry and exists to help fund new ministries, special projects and other opportunities to expand the Kingdom of God in ways that our normal operating budget cannot.
The Parable of the Talents reminds us that all that we have, all that we have earned and worked for – our accumulated stewardship – are gifts from God which we are called to put to work, building not our own wealth, but building the Kingdom of God. Making a legacy gift not only honors the generosity of those who have come before, but is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on what have we been given, and how it can be used to spread the Gospel. It is also an invitation to remind ourselves of our own mortality, and the reality that at the end of the day, what we will be remembered for will not be the stuff we own, or the things we have enjoyed, the trips we have taken or the rounds of golf we have played, but how we have impacted this world for the better.
What will your legacy be? What will be my lasting contribution be to the mission and ministry of St. Bart’s?
If you would like to learn more about including St. Bart’s in your will or making a planned gift of some kind, contact the Rev. Chris Harris, 858-487-2159, for help getting started.
~The Rev. Chris Harris