a message to my readers
I started blogging on the lectionary in December of 2003. I thought that there might be a couple dozen parishioners in the congregation where I worked whose work schedules wouldn't allow them to attend an in-person Bible study, but who would read such a blog as a way of helping them study and understand the Bible during the week. Thirty readers a week was my target.
Sixteen months and 100,000 hits later, a great deal has changed. With your encouragement, SarahLaughed.net has become a first stop or regular source each week for hundreds of clergy seeking inspiration for sermons, and a popular site for layfolk from Vancouver to New Zealand, including military members abroad, who want to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" (BCP, p. 236) the scriptures.
Some things have changed for me personally too. Many of you rejoiced with me in October when the Diocese of Maryland affirmed my vocation to the priesthood, naming me as a postulant for Holy Orders. The spiritual discipline of blogging the lectionary each week has improved my preaching and writing a great deal. And now when I travel or check my email, I'm often greeted enthusiastically by a friend I've never met, someone who knows me through their regular reading of Sarahlaughed.net reflections.
All of this has been a great encouragement to me in my walk with Christ and my ministry in the church and the world. I'm excited about helping even more clergy and layfolk grapple with the difficult issues and differing strands of thought in scripture. I'm committed to furthering biblical literacy and enthusiasm on as wide a scale as possible, and I always rejoice to see an email like this one, which I got in February and keep in an email folder labeled "encouraging words":
I have been so deeply moved by your web blog that I feel in love again with the scriptures! I so enjoy your way of looking into the deeper story of the gospel, and your ability to tell the story with such clarity. While my sermons are still my own, I have to give you credit for your direction in helping me with my thoughts. I have been an Episcopal priest for 21 years and I do not know of any better source for inspiration than your commentary.
Such wonderfully kind messages of support from you all, along with the spiritual growth I've experienced writing on the readings each week, make blogging the lectionary a profoundly rewarding experience for me, and one I want to continue for years to come. Indeed, I'd like to do even more. I'd like to make myself more available to answer emails and facilitate discussion among people wrestling with these texts and seeking to live and proclaim Good News to their communities. I'd like to offer my reflections with greater lead time, and on a more reliable schedule. I'd like to find more ways to be more helpful to you all.
And I find myself at a point in my career where that might be possible. The parish I work for hasn't been receiving the amount of pledges they'd hoped for, so the vestry is discussing eliminating my position. I'm taking this as a potential nudge from the Holy Spirit to step out in ministry in new ways, potentially expanding SarahLaughed.net to offer even more online and in-person services. Here's what I'm thinking.
If everyone who read the lectionary blog every week contributed about a dollar a week -- about $50 a year -- I could live on that, freeing me up for all kinds of ministries which full-time employment in a parish sixty miles away doesn't allow, including implementing every feasible feature requested by readers. For those with enough in continuing education or discretionary accounts, that wouldn't be too much of a stretch. Of course, a lot of folks who use the blog are seminarians or non-stipendiary priests who have little money to spare, and won't be able to contribute. And some of those who use the blog belong to a parish or diocese with enough resources to contribute significantly more, and also with unmet needs in areas in which I've got skills. So I'd like to propose this:
The lectionary blog will remain freely accessible to all. Period (i.e., full stop). I feel strongly about the Church's providing quality resources for study and formation for everyone who wants them, and I see doing this site for as along as I'm able as a part of my baptismal and priestly ministry. And if there are enough contributions to SarahLaughed to support me full-time, everything else I describe below will be free or offered on a sliding scale to every organization that has need.
Any donation will help. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and if enough people send what they'd spend on a tall cappuccino, I might be able to make my mortgage payment even while devoting myself full-time to ministry. You can also support this site by shopping at Amazon.com if you get there by clicking on a link from SarahLaughed.net, even if you're buying an item I didn't specifically recommend, or by getting Toddy coffee products (which I really do love -- best coffee I've ever had!) by clicking on the Toddy ad on this page (and you get 10% off too -- how cool is that?). If what you want to donate is prayers for me and my ministry, I'll be glad about that too.
If you're a regular reader of the blog, please consider pledging $50 a year -- about a dollar a week -- to support the site. Your generosity will be helping to support not only the ministry that SarahLaughed.net has in the church, but also the ministry I'm engaged in of outreach to unchurched and those who have drifted away from the church in my generation.
If you can afford to contribute $100 in a year, you could become a Sponsoring Member, helping to support the site on your own behalf and on behalf of a seminarian, a non-stipendiary priest, or someone else who can't afford to contribute, and those who give at this level or above are eligible to be listed in a new "featured links" section on all pages of SarahLaughed.net.
If you can contribute $300 in a year, you can become a Philippians 4 Member (so named after the generous support the church at Philippi gave to St. Paul's ministry, as described in Philippians 4:15-20). Perhaps you've got unused continuing education funds that could help me free up more time for things like starting an email list where I could participate actively in discussions around questions like "This Sunday is Youth Sunday, and the gospel in the lectionary is the 'little apocalypse' from Mark 13. Is there any way I can be true to both the theme of the day and the message of this passage?" I could help you put together a retreat for youth or adults, or a plan for a Lenten class or a dialogue around a difficult issue in the church.
If you belong to a parish, diocese, or other organization with the means to help sponsor the site for others, a $500 contribution per year will make you a Sponsoring Organization, and not only will I be grateful for your support, but I will be happy to visit you yearly to preach on a Sunday morning and speak at a forum or event following services (no honorarium necessary -- just expenses). If you've got an event of conference you want prominently displayed in the "featured links" section, I'll also be happy to do that.
And for my heroes, the Barnabas Circle members, who as an organization or individual contribute $1000 in a year, I'd love to talk with you about how I can be most helpful to you. I could help with distance learning for clergy and/or laity, do an overnight retreat, a conference or convention, or extended continuing education event, or consult with you in any field in which I have expertise.
That's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking that it's got to be possible, given the number of people who make use of what they see here and who write for extra help with issues they and their congregation face, for me to free myself up to help you in your ministry. God's people get together, and mission happens. How does that sound to you?
Let me know what you think. Keep the emails coming, and please also think about making a contribution via credit card or PayPal account by clicking on that 'Make a Donation' button at the top of the right-hand sidebar. For those who would prefer to send a check, I'll provide a mailing address soon.
Note added April 25, 2005: I've now got a P.O. Box. If you'd prefer to donate via snailmail, please make checks payable to Sarah Dylan Breuer, and send them to:
Sarah Dylan Breuer
P.O. Box 3055
Frederick, MD 21701-3055
Thanks for reading, encouraging, praying, and supporting this site as you're able.
Sarah Dylan Breuer