I write thank you notes. I write them a lot. I know they matter. But sometimes they don’t get read by the people who need to see them. Maybe if I write to the internet…

Dear Living Tradition Fund contributors,

Yes, even you, even the one who put five dollars in the plate at the last installation you attended which was when your minister was installed fifteen years ago and haven’t done anything since. Even you, who don’t know really that the Living Tradition Fund exists.

Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you also on behalf of my congregation, which has no idea what a difference you have made in my life. I received my second LTF debt reduction grant this week. It’s not much in the face of my debt load: between three and four percent. Last year it was smaller. Every year I hope I won’t need it the next year. It won’t get me out of debt tomorrow. But it makes a difference. Here’s why it matters:

It matters because it helps. Every little bit helps. Even small drops eventually fill the bucket. If a thousand people give five dollars, that’s $5000. If all 100,000 of our people gave five dollars that would be $500,000. And if we each gave $50, that would be 5 million dollars, if my math is right. And if we did that for 10 years, 20 years,30 years…you can see where this is going. Every donation matters.

It matters because it says to me that I matter. It says that my denomination, its members and leaders, are interested in, and committed to, supporting the continuation of an educated clergy. Clergy education is taxing. We ask a lot of our ministers. It asks of us four full-time years (or many more at part-time), and somewhere in the neighborhood of $75,000 dollars. It asks that we move, along with our families, or it asks that we travel extensively for our education. It asks that we study hard and lose sleep and dismantle and reassemble ourselves into the shape of this thing called minister. We’re working on developing new systems, but that’s how it is right now, and every one of us gives up a lot because we believe in this faith and want to work to strengthen and deepen and bring it to the world. We believe in us. That’s why we do it. But we also need to eat. And these grants mean that people get that, and they are supportive. That matters so much, especially on the hard days when it’s easy to believe that what I do doesn’t matter. And yes, we do have those days. (Don’t believe me? Look at Mother Theresa’s diaries. Or Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s). It matters.

It matters because eventually the debt gets smaller, and when it does, I will have more to give. Economic stress makes me less available to everyone in my life: less available to my congregation, less available to my family, less available to strangers on the street. Whatever energy I don’t have to devote to thinking about lining Citibank’s pockets I can instead direct toward pastoral care and prophetic outreach, study and preaching and ministry. I am a better minister when I have less stress about money. Grants reduce not only the immediate strain, but the overwhelming sense of debt that presses on the psyche. Especially for those of us paid under and in the low ranges of the pay scale, it can feel like we’re never going to get out. Your gifts help show us the light at the end of the tunnel.

All of this doesn’t even touch on the support that you give everyone else: ministers in financial crisis and retired ministers and spouses of retired and deceased ministers who need help. The LTF is the means by which the ministry is supported…by you. All of you.

So thank you. Thank you for giving your money to the Living Tradition Fund so that it could support your ministers and the ministry that we all do in the world.

Thank you.

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