On Being a Steward

It has been two weeks or more since I’ve posted a blog. The reason is mundane. I couldn’t focus on a single idea. Some flashed through the mind, but nothing settled. Is this writers’ block? No. I’ve been writing, but it has focused on my faith and my church.

This week it has been on stewardship. It is the time of year churches develop their budgets for the coming year. The governing body of the church asks members to contribute to the church financial program. It may include, and probably does, the minister’s compensation, upkeep of the buildings, and mission programs.

This is a very narrow meaning for the word “stewardship.” What does the word actually mean?

A steward on a cruise ship sees to the needs of the passengers assigned to him/her. Passengers tips for their stewardship are likely to be larger when the passenger has received special help or consideration. But again that concerns money.

Steward is also a verb. The dictionary says to steward is to manage. That makes us stewards of life itself. We must steward our health. We steward our homes, our home life and family. We steward our job and our income.

And one more thing we all have. Time. We must manage or steward our time. How do we use our time? It is so easy to fritter it away on next to nothing and then mourn we don’t have time to accomplish our goals.1-Autumn 20040004

Yes, I’ve thought about blogging these past two weeks. But am I honest when I say I couldn’t focus, or was simply not a good steward of my time and energy? I’m afraid it is the latter.

Stewardship. What does it mean?


Imagine:  You are a young child of ten years. You’ve always lived in the rural country side. Your father is a farmer. Your mother stays at home. She keeps the house clean, cooks three meals each day for five persons, including two men who work on the farm. Your house sits alone beside the road. You see friends at the little church and neighbors from up the road sometimes stop by. Other days you see no one but your family. This is all you’ve ever known.

One day, your mother packs your clothes and says you must go to live a city of 500,000 people. Yes, you know the people you’ll live with a little bit, but you’ve never been to the city. You’ve never lived in a house on a street with houses close to yours. There are always people walking by your house – people you don’t know. Is it difficult to get accustomed to a very different life?

I am writing a children’s novel with the opposite situation.  My ten-year-old girl has been sent to a dairy farm to live with her cousins and their parents, herFeatured image aunt and uncle. The time is the summer of 1943. She is there because her father is in the U. S. Navy. Her mother, like many other moms during World War II is working in a war factory.

She knows nothing of farm life, is afraid of the animals, and thinks of the barn as an awful stinky place. She is worried about the safety of her father.  How does she feel about being on the farm? Will she adjust? How will she lose her fears?

Do you think you would be able to change and love the farm?


Last Sunday, I became an elder in the Reformed Church of Fishkill. This is a new chapter in my church life.

For all the years that Richard was an active minister, being part of the local consistory (governing body) was not open to me as a minister’s wife. My opinions were rarely sought by the deacons and elders of the church.

Of course, I knew how consistory meetings went from Richard’s perspective. Sometimes we discussed issues that were raised. I even had advice, but I never any say in the outcome.

Now I will get to express an opinion on matters, perhaps even have an influence on the outcome of the discussion. I am looking forward to being an active member of the consistory as an elder. It is an office I take on with some trepidation, but serious anticipation that I may help in the church’s life and mission.


One man of my childhood—Bruce Thompson—has always been associated in my mind with Christmas and the Sanford Methodist Church.

He and his wife, Helen, owned a dairy farm at a sharp curve in the road. The buildings are gone now except in my memory, but I never drive around that corner without thinking of Bruce.

He was a man of God. He spoke kindly to and about everyone he met.

On a Sunday morning, he rose early to milk his cows and do his necessary chores. Our church often started at 9:00. In the winter time, he wouldn’t have those chores completed. No matter. He quit work, went into his house, cleaned up and donned his brown sharkskin suit. The chores waited until later.

Bruce worked very hard. I think the church service offered him a time to himself to think, contemplate, and sometimes to drift off. His head would nod for a few minutes, then come up straight, only to nod again.

After the worship service, Bruce stayed at church. He was Sunday school superintendent for as long as I knew him. He led a worship service for the children attending Sunday school, and taught one of the classes.

As part of being superintendent, he was the announcer for the annual Christmas program. I attended a one room school near the church. For many years (long before the present emphasis on separation of church and state) the school presented their Christmas program in the church. Bruce, wearing the same brown sharkskin suit, sat on the far side of the front pew. As participants we waited for him to stand. In his clear, resonant voice he would announce our name and the title of the piece we would be giving, the actors in the plays, or singers of songs.

When the program was finished, he called for everyone to join in singing Jingle Bells to bring in Santa Claus.

I was visiting my parents, when the telephone rang early on Christmas morning. The news was startling to us. Bruce was preparing for Church, when he quietly died. A true gentleman was greatly missed.


When my pastor husband, Richard, and I lived in Bloomington, New York, I became the choir director. The choir was small, usually not more than ten, but we had all four parts covered.
The choir had a favorite Christmas Anthem, The Snow Lay on the Ground, which they loved to sing and did it well–almost every time.

It was Christmas Eve. Our regular organist was away and Audrey had agreed to substitute. We had practiced with her, but she was still very nervous about playing for the choir. I wanted all the anthems to go as smooth as possible. We were singing several during the service.

The Snow Lay on the Ground was the opening of the evening service. The organist played the short introduction. I brought my arms down to start the choir. The choir came in with gusto–a quarter of the note sharp(too high). I thought, we’ll get through this first part, they’ll hear the organ’s pitch and all will return to normal. It didn’t happen. The choir was in perfect pitch with one another, but not with the organ. It was if the organ wasn’t there.

If our normal organist had been playing, I’d simply waved to her to quit playing. But Audrey was so nervous, I thought if I asked her to stop playing, she would think she had done something wrong. It would have wiped her out for the rest of the service.

The choir continued on its merry way, thoroughly enjoying the music with not a clue they were off pitch. They finished perfectly together in perfect harmony.

It was the first and last time I ever had it happen. I continued to direct different choirs for the next forty years. There were times, the choir or I weren’t in sync with the accompaniment, and I stopped the choir to begin again. Never again did a group sing more enthusiastically and just enough off to be painful.

The choir redeemed itself as they sang all the rest of the anthems just as we’d practiced. Perhaps the choir members forgot that evening. It makes me smile to remember. I’m sure God smiled, too.