Service And Faith

by Hal Stewart, Parishioner-At-Large

Matthew 25:40: just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Or as it was paraphrased in our household, ".... as you did it for one of the least of these, you did it for me." Growing up in the Stewart family, service for others was an integral component of the family's life.

Among other areas of her service, my Mother volunteered at least one day a week at Evanston Hospital for 25 years, even while she was raising two rambunctious young boys. One of my early memories (approx. age 4) was taking some small toys to play with, while my Mother and several other mothers were rolling cotton into bandages for the Army for wounded soldiers fighting the Korean War. While she was rolling bandages, I was learning to share my toys with the other young children who were there with their mothers.

Shortly after we joined Holy Comforter, my Father began teaching Sunday School and taught during the tenures of Fr. Danforth and Fr. Hanner. He served on vestries for Fr. Hanner and Fr. Johnson, was treasurer and junior warden under Fr. Hanner and served on the search committee that called Fr. Johnson.

My Mother served on the altar guild and, in the days of a separate Women of the Church organization, she served as treasurer for the housewalk, rummage sale and of the Women's Board. (Mom said to keep an eye on the money.) Service to God and his church were important to them. It was an outward and visible sign of our faith, and as we grew in faith, my Father said, it should be reflected by our actions.

As a youth, I was an acolyte and as active in church as a young person could be in the 1950's. In college, I served on various committees for campus-wide activities --- it took me out of my cocoon of fraternity and frat bros and introduced me to people who are still friends to this day. After leaving grad school and entering "the world of commerce," I served on local heart association boards and United Fund drives for my varied employers. But lots of people, Christian and non, were doing similar things. Was any of this really reflecting my faith?

Fairly early in his tenure, Fr. Johnson asked me to become the Vestry Clerk. I stayed in the position for 23 years, both under Fr. J. and Fr. Myers. I realized, later, that I served with one-third of the parish during those years. What a great way to really get to know people! I ran three canvasses and worked on several more; taught Sunday School twice (I was not very good at that); was a Lay Eucharistic Minister and followed in my Mother's footsteps by joining and becoming a joint head of the alter guild. Why? Because my Church is a very important part of my life and Holy Comforter is a major part of my faith family. But there are a whole batch of needs beyond the North Shore.

While serving on the Board of the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Northwestern, two of the clergy members and I were discussing faith and acts. One of them said, basically, that if what you say you believe does not result in action, you probably don't really believe it. And that is why, eight years ago, I first stood for election to The Bishop and Trustees of the Diocese of Chicago. (I won, handily.)

Parts of my Diocesan responsibilities include serving on the Land Bank Committee that helps to decide where to purchase property in areas where demographers predict future growth communities, so the Diocese will be ready to plant new congregations. I was actively involved in the process leading to the reunion with the former Diocese of Quincy. Working with two congregations in the Logan Square area, we have just opened a daytime center for homeless men and women --- a place that provides a healthy, nutritious meal and is an island of warmth in cold weather, provides shade from the sun and heat of summer and is place of safety throughout the year. Through our outreach giving, Holy Comforter supports many similar services. But there aren't enough Holy Comforters to meet all the needs in our growing diocese.

When I am working on these types of projects, I feel a closeness and connection to God that I don't feel when working in the purely secular world. Through Bishop and Trustees, I have chosen to focus much of my time and energies to reach out and serve needs throughout our wider diocesan community.

In the mid-nineties, I headed a small non-governmental, non-profit, privately-funded human services agency. Through the vice-chairman of my board, I was introduced to the female CEO of a mid-sized corporation, to recruit her for our board. In my meetings with Diane, we discussed the mission of the organization, the programs we had initiated, and the board's discussions about how to turn the mission into actions, and my personal vision for the future of the organization. As she agreed to join us, she said, "I don't understand people who say they are too busy to serve on non-profit boards. If they can't make time to assist others and give back to
the community, what are they doing with all their time?"
I couldn't have said it better myself, and that is why service is so important to me.

James 2:18: But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.