Hello Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church,
It is with great humility and excitement that I write this letter to the congregation, staff, and church council. While I have had the chance to meet many of you, I look forward to developing these relationships over next two years. Truly, I am excited to begin my new role as Vicar this fall among you all Shepherd of the Hills.
It has been a long journey that brought me to Sylva. From my roots near Dayton, Ohio, to teaching high school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to attending seminary in New York City, my call to ministry has led me to new places and adventures that I could have never imagined. Since finishing my Masters of Sacred Theology in Lutheran studies this past May, I have been searching for a place to begin the next step of my process towards ordination—the internship. It is with great joy that I formally begin my Lutheran internship this fall with both Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Asheville.
Since moving to Western North Carolina, I have been teaching at Warren Wilson College, near Swannanoa. As part of the religious studies faculty, I have been able to teach courses on world religions, interfaith engagement, environmental justice, and Islam. Moreover, I have been able to incorporate service-learning and my passion for interfaith dialogue (especially Muslim-Christian dialogue) into my courses at the college. My time teaching has been incredibly rewarding and I have grown to truly love my time in the classroom.
Outside of these endeavors, I have grown to love Asheville and Western North Carolina. I have developed a taste for vinegar-based barbeque and a newfound love for hiking in the mountains, as well as a deep appreciation for the people who make this place so special. In my spare time, I love watching/playing sports, cooking (especially Cajun food!), traveling locally and abroad, having deep philosophical conversations, and engaging in interfaith work. Additionally, I hope that you all will get the opportunity to meet and know my partner, Samantha Gonzalez-Block, who is an associate pastor at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville.
I am looking forward to beginning this adventure and getting to know each of you. I trust in God’s presence and guidance as we enter into this new endeavor together.
Grace and peace,
Vicar Matt Hoffman
5 Reasons To Consider Tithing
1. Ancient and Biblical Model. Tithing is our most ancient model for giving. It is an example for us. (Genesis 28:10-22, Genesis 14:20, Leviticus 27:30-32, Deuteronomy 14:22-23, Numbers 18:22-29, 2 Corinthians 8:12-15, Matthew 23:23, Matthew 5:23-24 are just a few of the many places in scripture to learn about tithing)
2. Trust in God. Tithing helps us to worship God more fully in our whole life. It cultivates our spiritual growth and trust in God.
3. Financial Wisdom. Tithing brings God’s presence into our financial planning. When we involve God in planning how we will use our money, we are exercising a healthy spiritual discipline and that helps us to combat the destructive influence of materialism and greed that can infect and destroy our lives.
4. Ministry Support. Tithing provides the means to keep a full time pastor at our church as well as supporting staff, office and a well maintained building.
5. Congregational Strength. Tithing strengthens the ministries, outreach and health of our congregation and helping to mold a Christian community of faith love and grace.
Tithing is the practice of pledging and offering 10% of your income. In the Old Testament, tithing was part of the Law and it was considered the minimum amount one would offer to God. In the New Testament, we have been freed from the requirement and obligation to follow this as Law. However, it has been a common practice in the Christian church for centuries to use tithing as a good, concrete example for giving to the church that we are not obligated to obey but given as an example we may choose to adopt.
If you are interested in tithing or in percentage giving, here is a chart that may be helpful. At first, it might sound overwhelming to think of giving what may seem like a huge amount of money especially if we’ve never considered tithing before. This chart breaks down the amounts into weekly portions and gives smaller and larger percentages to start from and grow into in the future.
Weekly Offering 4%
Weekly Offering 6%
Weekly Offering 8%
Weekly Offering 10%
Weekly Offering 12%
Weekly Offering 15%
As Shepherd of the Hills begins this year’s Stewardship Campaign, we invite everyone to examine their relationship with money. This personal money autobiography, created by the ELCA, is a great place to start.
Writing a Personal Money Autobiography
Writing a personal money autobiography is an important step in expressing one’s stewardship journey. The process reveals one’s attitudes, behaviors and feelings about money. In this activity it is important to focus on different points in your life (childhood, adolescence, young adult, mature adult, etc.) Take a sheet or two of blank paper and write out your responses to the questions below. Reflect on these experiences and how specific understandings developed.
1. What is the earliest experience with money that you remember?
2. As a child growing up, did you feel rich or poor? Why?
3. What was your attitude toward money as a teenager? How was this influenced by peers or siblings?
4. How were your attitudes and behaviors about money shaped by your family members?
5. What role did money play in your life as a young adult? How was this influenced by a spouse or co-workers?
7. What is your happiest memory in connection with money?
8. What is your unhappiest memory in connection with money?
9. How does your faith guide you in your use of money?
10. How do you feel about your present financial situation compared with a past situation?
11. Are you generous or stingy with your money? In what ways?
12. How do you decide what to give to churches and other nonprofits? Why do you give to these causes?
13. What kinds of risks are you willing to take with your money?
14. What will you do with your money as you approach the end of this life?
This and many other resources on stewardship can be found here
Here’s an excerpt from a previous edition of The Shepherd’s Voice newsletter. We will be posting parts of the newsletter throughout the month. Don’t get the newsletter in print and want one? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request one!Good Shepherds of the Earth is our Environmental Stewardship group.
This column is dedicated to a cleaner healthier environment for every one. It is the responsibility of all of us as good Christian stewards of the earth.
Since we’ve been writing this column, there has been a noticeable improvement in people’s awareness of environmental issues.
We are thrilled to see the many environmental changes at Shepherd of the Hills. We are using less electricity as we pay careful attention to turning off the lights and especially how we use our heating and air conditioning system. Individual coffee mugs continue to be a financial and ecological savings as do our new soup bowls and the use of our silverware. Pastor has contributed to this effort by designing the beautiful and plastic free stainless steel water bottles and by her gift of the gorgeous and practical new glass water urn since we know our well water is good to drink. Pastor has taken a leading role in improving our ecological foot print at Shepherd of the Hills. We continue to recycle and to promote organic and Fair Trade coffee, chocolate, and tea through Lutheran World Relief and for farmers in the Third World. This year we have also added a bluebird box and a butterfly garden to provide habitat for them and to bring joy to our lives by their presence. Thank you everyone for participating in being good stewards at Shepherd of the Hills.
Beyond our congregation, we are seeing big changes in the rest of the world. We are seeing fewer idling cars and more smaller cars and more bicycles. People have mentioned they are planning their driving trips more carefully to use less gas. They are buying more organic products especially at the Farmers’ Market.
Industry sees money in going green and has created many new products like Bonnie’s new solar wrist watch. We are happy to see many more windmills and solar panels. (Have you seen the the big solar array off Highway 40 by Biltmore?) Schools have also included environmental causes in their curriculum.
Many positive changes have taken place locally and world wide as people become aware of the need for being good stewards of the earth. Thank you to all the Shepherd of the Hills family for joining us in this effort.
Remember to visit the Jackson County Farmers’ Market in Bridge Park this Saturday from 9 AM til One PM.
Bonnie S. and Margaret S.