Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing


A discussion around generosity with Liz Kerry, Chair of the Developing Stewardship Group and Vice Chair of the Newcastle Diocesan Board of Finance

You know when you get a phrase going through your mind and can’t quite place it? Well, I was walking the dog (always good thinking time for me, and not bad for listening either), and wondering what to write for this article, and I just couldn’t get that saying about ‘knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing’ out of my brain. Google reminded me - it was Oscar Wilde. It started me on a train of thought about giving and generosity which somehow seems to get lost whenever we talk about ‘stewardship’.

Stewardship is one of those words with lots of different meanings: stewarding our money to make sure it’s spent in the most efficient way; investing wisely; using our assets of time, money and skills to strengthen our infrastructure and provide a stronger base from which to grow; stewardship as part of our discipleship.

We know (or can easily find out) the price of everything we pay for. In our churches we see the direct relationship between bills, payments and outcomes: mending the roof, paying for heating, meeting our parish share. They all feature in our annual accounts, and we often talk about the challenge of increasing our giving to meet them. But, I wonder, where does ‘value’ sit with all of this? This is an important question as we look at commitments for the forthcoming year and the choices which lie ahead – choices about investing in the future of church and its role in individual communities, and throughout the Diocese as a whole.

To me, value lies in our vision of ‘growing church bringing hope’ (and there are many examples of this around the Diocese, just waiting to be shared). This is our mission, and if we believe it and uphold those values of generosity, engagement and openness, we will find the resources we need. The north-east as a region is not the poorest – either financially, or in skills, ideas, goodwill or leadership. This is ripe territory indeed for aspiration, and for generous giving to support growth and create a kinder, fairer, more sustainable society. Perhaps we do, in fact, have an inkling of what value is, as well as price, after all.

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