My name is Angela Allen. I attend St. Matthews with my husband Mike Craighead and our 2 boys, Dominic and Zachary Allen. I’ve been asked by the Stewardship committee to speak on what service at the church means to me. I grew up in rural Minnesota and was a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls from birth thru college. My mom was the church secretary, so she knew everything that was going on at the church. She was a communion server and helped with funeral receptions. My dad enjoyed reading the lessons in church, serving as an usher, attending Men’s Bible Study, and teaching Sunday School to middle schoolers! My dad and I sang a duet in church one time – “Blessed Assurance” – his favorite hymn.

From an early age, I witnessed the service and stewardship my parents modeled. Every week I watched my mom write a check and place it in the offering envelope to take to church on Sunday. My parents encouraged us 4 kids to bring some change to the Sunday School collection or drop it in the offering plate during the church service. I quickly wanted to be a part of everything and get involved with as much as I could. I came to think this is “just something we do”.

When I left home, I attended Augustana College, in Sioux Falls, SD, where I joined the Liturgical Dance Team and read the lessons for several Sunday worship services at the campus chapel. I continued to give money when I could because it was “just something we do”.  

In 2001, I married, moved to California, and had 2 sons in 2004 and 2007. Being so far away from my Minnesota family, attending a Lutheran Church felt like home to me. My children were baptized at Ascension Lutheran Church in Citrus Heights, and I was employed as the Youth Director for 2 years. Boy, do you learn a lot when you have to prepare and TEACH Bible studies! That church and my experience there really helped me grow in my faith and taught me more about the meaning of stewardship and service in the church. I learned that “tithing” really meant 10% of my earnings, and I struggled with trying to reach that level of giving. I still remember what one member stated during his stewardship temple talk. He said that when he and his wife prayerfully decided to increase their offering pledge, God always provided a way for them so that it wasn’t a financial burden. I thought “wow, now that’s faith”.  And that’s intentional.

In 2007, I divorced and found myself a single mom of 2 little boys. Money was tight and there wasn’t much left over for the offering plate. I recalled the story from Mark 12:42-44 “And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And JESUS called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” These verses gave me hope that God can still use whatever I can give, little as it may be.

One of my favorite verses about stewardship is 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as they have decided in their heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. When shopping with a cousin years ago, she wanted to purchase the items I brought to the register. Assuming she earned less than I did, I didn’t want her to pay for my stuff. Her response was “let me do this, don’t steal my joy”. That was a profound lesson to me about giving. It feels good to give – the Lord loves a cheerful giver. I learned to let go of the old ways of feeling obligated and under pressure about my monetary offerings. I moved from “just something we do” to intentional giving, praying about my giving, and feeling the joy that comes when we give back to God what he has first given us: ourselves, our time, and our possessions.

After years of walking in the single parenthood wilderness and thousands of prayers later, Mike came into our lives and he and I married in 2019. We are a military family and moved to this area in 2020. We started visiting St Matthews in May 2021 and became members later that year. I have learned stewardship is more than just tithing money. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” As many of you are aware, I serve by reading the lessons, my husband and sons serve as ushers, and we have attended a church Work Day in the past – using our talents and skills to serve our Lord. Our family submits a weekly offering online, but now that we’re passing the plates again, we put in a little more– because it feels good to give.

I am grateful to God for the blessings he has given me, especially Christian parents who “started children off on the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6); a loving husband who partners with me in modeling for our children how to serve God and serve others; a job that allows financial freedom to give and help others in need; opportunities for my children to give – like the Christmas Gift Cards for Foster Care Kids; and a church family in the many places we have lived where we were able to grow in our faith.

Serving God and serving others is the loving response we make in gratitude to God for what has been given to us. I am not called to do the same things the person in the pew next to me is doing. I am called to serve and give from the time, talents, and treasures that I have been given. At times there can be a push from God that I am the one to volunteer, and I boldly say, “here I am, Lord”. Other times there have been signs that what I’m doing doesn’t match the talents that I possess, and I have had to be brave enough to step down and say that is not my calling. I know reading the lessons and ushering are the gifts I’ve been called to share because my husband tells me after the service that I looked happy and was “in my element”. Praise be to God! And thank you, St. Matthews family, for welcoming us and making this feel like home.

To God Be the Glory.

-Angela Allen