Hello, lovely members of Ascension — and welcome to anyone who is new or visiting from out of town!
First of all, since I have the liberty of this microphone I would like to thank all of you. Whether we have had a conversation or not, whether we have kneeled together for communion or not, I want you to know that you are part of my new life in Christ and I am extremely thankful. All of you have welcomed me into this community by showing up and taking part in this gift of worship with me. You have welcomed me into Bible study, you have taken me to Africa, you have truly moved with the Holy Spirit and given me new life. Thank you.
For those of you who don’t know me, here is a bit about my story so far.
I was born and raised in New York City. I am the youngest of seven children, my siblings names are: Wylie, Ali, Maxwell, Roscoe, Aldo and I’m the end … hence “Endi.” My parents, if you aren’t sure, were and are, in fact, hippies. None of us were baptized, and my father was a huge atheist. I felt a strong calling to step into a church, but I was too scared I wouldn’t be accepted. Before I was baptized here April 19th of 2014 (yes, that’s this year), before I even stepped foot into this beautiful church, I was visiting my very dear friend, Stacey Carpenter. She was in the hospital for cancer and John Merryman brought her communion. Because John’s reaction to my “I’ve never been baptized, or had communion” was so gracious and accepting, I excitedly reached out my hands to receive my first communion. That’s right, I received my first communion via outreach, from a member of this church! I will be forever grateful to him for not denying me the opportunity to receive Christ, it is because of his outreach that I mustered up the courage to visit this church for the first time, and my life would never be the same.
Now, besides fearing not being accepted by the Christian vets in this room, I was also raised by parents who constantly spoke against churches. They would say many outlandish remarks, but most of the time it was that the Church was really just a business to take people’s money for greedy purposes.
And now I am giving a speech on pledging. And I do so, unapologetically, because I stand before you as a very real example that pledging changes peoples’ lives. Sure, we have set financial goals to reach. We have a vision for this church. But that number transcends so much more than greed. Pledging is a form of service, and it contributes to very real life changing experiences. It is through pledging that the Holy Spirit is spread out of these beautifully maintained church walls to new Christians like me. It is through pledging that the Good Word is spoken to people who are sick and suffering outside of this parish hall, and it is through pledging that small African villages, like our Gawaye villages in Tanzania, are able to go to school.
Your pledging sent me to Africa, and I cannot tell you how that trip changed my life, and those children, their elders’ and their priests’ lives forever. Besides the fact that your donations bought them very solid gifts of books, soap, desks, uniforms, etc, you sent me. And with me I carried the spirit of the Church of Ascension. To hold hands with these children, to let them play with my hair (which they really, really loved) and to dance, laugh, eat, and share the message that the Church of Ascension reaches out past Tenth Street and Fifth Avenue. That is invaluable.
I believe that by supporting this church, the church is supporting the reaching out to new Christians like me. Your support reaches out to children, their families, and their churches halfway across the world.
So I will leave you with this one request:
When you pray on your pledge, when you converse with God in regards to pledging, I ask you to envision how the money transcends into the very real creation. I ask you to envision the baptism of many, many more young adult women and men who seek New Life here at the Church of Ascension. I ask you to envision reaching out to help children go to school and get an education, but also to reminding them that they are very much with us in this parish.
Outreach carries God’s warmth and light beyond this block and into the lives of many who need God.
If you have pledged in the past, thank you very much for all that you do. If you plan on pledging, thank you for all that you do.
To everyone in this room, your contribution makes outreach possible, and your pledge makes the vision of spreading hope to the many that need it possible. Your pledge transcends these walls and reaches out to the hearts of many, and your pledge makes people like me say “thank you” for doing for me what I could not do for myself. Thank you for changing my life.
I pray we can touch the hearts of many others who are seeking, but need to be reached.
Endi was born and raised in New York City and is the youngest of seven children. She is just beginning her journey in Christ and was baptized in April of this year at Ascension. She was drawn to Ascension because of its commitment to educating Christians of all ages and its openness to people who are in many different stages of their religious journey. She says she couldn’t be more grateful for God’s grace in leading her to The Church of Ascension as she finds her wings in this life.