I’m always surprised by what folks don’t know about our church. Just this week I found out a long-time member was unfamiliar with a huge piece of St. Luke’s outreach: the discretionary account. Since there are surely others who are unaware, here’s a bit about the account, its purpose, and how to get involved.
A church’s discretionary account holds money for the rector to spend on charitable purposes. It’s called a “discretionary account” because the money is spent at the rector’s discretion and also because the purposes to which the funds go often require some discretion. When people come to church looking for assistance with gas, rent, or in need of a night in a motel, I can draw on the discretionary account to help them out. Should church members to find themselves in need of financial assistance, the discretionary account could help. When kids have needed help covering the cost of youth activities or mission trips, the discretionary account is there.
In the past six weeks, I’ve spent about $900 helping people with gift cards for gasoline at the nearby Holiday Station, nights in the Motel 6, and money for rent to avoid eviction. Over the years, the discretionary account has paid for bus tickets so people could return home, bought clothes for people battling homelessness, and provided food and diapers for struggling families. I try to always keep gas cards and food-only Hy-Vee cards on hand to give to people who come looking for help.
The discretionary account is one way that our community fulfills Jesus’ commandment to give to everyone who begs from us and our baptismal promise to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We aren’t unique in having an account like this. Every Episcopal congregation has one (or ought to) because they’re required by canon (TEC Canon III.9.6(b)(6), edited for clarity):
The Alms and Contributions, not otherwise specifically designated, at the Administration of the Holy Communion on one Sunday in each calendar month, and other offerings for the poor, shall be deposited with the Rector, or with such Church officer as the Rector shall appoint, to be applied to such pious and charitable uses as the Rector shall determine.
As you can discern from above, the account is funded in two ways. First, on one Sunday of each month, the offerings that aren’t directed toward a particular purpose (like a pledge payment or specific project) are put into the discretionary account. At St. Luke’s that’s usually the third Sunday of the month—this weekend! On the other Sundays, such undesignated offerings (usually termed “loose plate offering”) are deposited into the general fund.
The second way the account is funded is by individual contributions. Send a check to the church office or drop it in the offering plate; as long as it’s clear the gift is for the discretionary account, it will get there. While tax deductions aren’t what they once were, contributions to the account are still tax-deductible.
At present, the discretionary account balance is a little over $1,200, which is a little low, historically speaking. (And so your generous contributions are greatly appreciated!)
Also, due to an unsuccessful phishing attack, the account owns five $100 Amazon gift cards. Since those are rarely useful in this context, it would be great to convert them into something more liquid. If you’ll be doing some online shopping and would be up for buying one or more of the gift cards, please get in touch with me.
I hope you learned something new about St. Luke’s discretionary account and the good work we do with it. Please consider making a contribution. It really does make a difference.
Yours in Christ,