I always get back more than I give

by John Grimes


One World, One Faith, One God

A personal reflection shared at church Sunday, November 16

Good morning everyone! As Mother Shelley said, my name is John Grimes, and I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in many aspects of parish life here at Ascension since I wandered in through the “open doors” in the fall of 1990. I came from across Washington Square, where I had just started law school at NYU. I was confirmed here in 1991, and I’ve served in a variety of roles, including Vestry Member and Warden in the past, and I’m currently involved in Altar Guild and on the Finance Committee, among other activities.

John Grimes

Since being confirmed here in 1991, John Grimes has served at Ascension in a variety of roles, including warden, vestry member, chair of the Altar Guild, acolyte, usher, and a member of the rectory task force and stewardship and finance committees. He is on the board of Voices of Ascension and currently serves as that organization’s president.

In my work life, I am a tax lawyer in the Corporate Tax department of JPMorgan Chase, advising the Asset Management area. So, I’m dealing with financial issues and funds pretty much all of the time at work. But as far as the church is concerned, I can remember being taught about giving at an early age.

I mentioned that I was confirmed here as an adult at Ascension, but I was raised in the Baptist church, which has a strong emphasis on stewardship — including an open discussion of the tithe, or a gift of 10 percent of one’s income to the church. I remember preparing for church each week by filling out my envelope, which in addition to being used for our weekly contribution also had pre-printed boxes to mark whether we had prepared our Sunday School lesson, brought our Bible with us, or even were “present” at Sunday School that week. This might sound like a bit of overkill or Big Brother-ish, but it definitely instilled a good discipline around my commitment to the church at an early age … including my financial commitment.

As an adult, I have tried to translate this discipline into thinking about making my church the priority for my giving. I’m involved in other charitable organizations and am particularly committed to giving to the arts and my schools. But I believe our first responsibility has to be to our church home, meaning our home parish. It can’t just be an afterthought, but it needs to be part of an intentional plan to provide for both the day-to-day and ongoing operations of this place.

For my own annual pledge, I take a percentage of my income and divide it by 50 weeks a year. (I figure I might miss a couple of Sundays.) Somehow, the number is not as frightening if you do it that way, and you may find that you can give more than you thought when you break it down. Look at your gift from last year and see if you can increase it. Read the materials that are all available online and through the links in your bulletin. Then pray about your gift and see if God is challenging you to do more.

What I just talked about is the annual pledge process that we go through every year. In extraordinary years such as the next three in front of us, we are also asked for extraordinary or “stretch” giving to provide for the capital needs of the church through a capital campaign, such as the current work on the Rectory. This truly has to be considered as a separate gift, otherwise we are shortchanging what I believe is our priority to give to the ongoing operations of the church. For this type of giving, I think longer term.

While you can always pay your capital campaign pledge week-to-week or month-to-month, as many people do for their annual stewardship pledge, this is an area where you might look ahead to something like a tax refund, or some type of bonus that you anticipate in the next three years, and use that for your pledge to the capital campaign. Or just see what you can do to stretch yourself and set aside funds for the church.

In both cases, annual and capital giving, ask yourself if you are truly making Ascension a priority for your giving, and have an honest discussion with God about what you can do. It can be scary, but I remember something I heard from a member at the Baptist church where I grew up: “I always get back more than I give.” I have indeed found this to be true in my own pledge life, and I encourage you to give it a try!

Thank you.


Originally from North Carolina, John Grimes came to New York in 1990 to attend law school at New York University and was soon thereafter drawn to The Church of the Ascension. At work, he is a Managing Director in the Tax Planning Group of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Corporate Tax Department, where for the past 11 years he has supported the Asset Management business. Prior to joining J.P. Morgan Chase, John was counsel at White & Case LLP, where he worked for 10 years as a tax attorney. He holds an LL.M. in Taxation, a J.D. and an M.A. in French Studies from New York University, and a B.S. from Duke University.

He lives in the West Village of Manhattan with his husband, Hank Lewis, whom he met at Ascension in 1992.