“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

When I first came to the Diocese of Southwest Florida in 1994, I was just starting out as the new Rector of Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota. It wasn’t long before I became aware of St. John’s Church in Tampa, for it had a great reputation as one of the strongest parishes in the diocese. I also had a couple of parishioners, Chuck and Flo Miller, who had been members of St. John’s before they moved to Sarasota and became members of Redeemer. They told me what a great parish this is and one day they actually brought me up to St. John’s to see the church and to meet then Rector Fr. John Peterson. I have also known his successors and had the pleasure of working with Fr. Chip Connelly on the Standing Committee of the Diocese and becoming friends with him through that experience. Throughout my tenure at Redeemer, therefore, I knew St. John’s and respected this parish from the outside looking in.

Thus, about a year and a half into retirement, when I was invited to be your Interim Rector beginning June 1st, I was greatly honored, and after discussing it with Linda, I responded enthusiastically, “Yes!” Now, almost a third of a year into the experience, and after the personal adventure of a heart attack, we are well into getting to know and love you from the inside! We now know what a many-faceted jewel this parish is, and each new day brings new discoveries of the treasures of St. John’s. For the treasures of St. John’s are her people. I have found in many ways that the people of St. John’s clearly know that we are stewards of God’s creation, and that we are called to give of our time, talent, and treasure “for the spread of the kingdom of God.” (BCP, The Catechism, pg 855)

Stewardship involves so much more than the giving of our money, but we are now entering into the season when we especially focus on that aspect. Soon you will be receiving a pledge card for 2022. By filling it out and returning it to the church office, you will tell your Vestry the amount of money you intend to give for the operating fund for next year. The Vestry needs to know your intention because they base the final budget on pledges received. I hope that you, too, realize what a great blessing St. John’s is to countless souls, to this community, this diocese, this country, and to the world. As you prayerfully consider your pledge, give thanks for St. John’s, and ask for God‘s guidance as you seek to do your part in making your sacrificial gift for next year.

Linda and I are currently giving a tithe (10% of my stipend) to the parish while we are here, and we will make a pledge for next year, even though you will very likely have your new Rector by then, God willing. And so, I am not asking you to do anything that I myself am not doing.

A letter to you regarding the stewardship of our money would not be complete without encouraging all of our members to tithe, that is, to give 10% of the “first fruits” of our income to God through this parish. The tithe is the minimum standard of giving found throughout Holy Scripture, and The Episcopal Church adopted it as the minimum standard of giving for Episcopalians. So, as you consider your pledge, please do keep that in mind. I encourage you, if you are not already tithing, to strive to work toward a tithe in your stewardship. At the very least, consider giving from the “first fruits” of your income, rather than from what is “left over.” This has more to do with the spirituality of giving than it has to do with any particular amount. The spirit with which we give has to do with our response to God’s blessings, and therefore it is an important element in our stewardship.

What a blessing it is to Linda and me now to know St. John’s from the “inside” rather than from outside looking in, for to know you from the inside is truly to love you! Thanks be to God!

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Fred Robinson+
Interim Rector