All Saints has been the one constant in my life.
When my mother Pat Kelly, asked me to attend a new church in Pasadena with her, I was reluctant. Ten years earlier the church I grew up in had rejected my being gay, and I was not ready to allow religion back in my life. She said, “They have really great music at All Saints,” something she knew I would appreciate. After several weeks of her cajoling me to attend with her, I acquiesced to her request. It was All Saints Sunday, 1990.
Hearing Coventry Choir sing the Mozart Requiem at the 11:15 service, I began to think All Saints may be the place for me to reestablish a spiritual connection — something which had been missing from my life. The second service I attended was November 11 of that same year. George Regas’ sermon title that day was “God, Sex and Justice,” a sermon which openly addressed the issue of LGBT equality and same-gender blessings within the church. With my mother sitting next to me that morning, I knew All Saints would be my permanent church home.
After feeling God’s acceptance, sitting in the nave was not enough. I joined the church and went through baptism and confirmation. Within a year of first coming to All Saints, I was volunteering with GALAS, Parish Council, and, most importantly, I was singing in Coventry Choir. To me, my spiritual connection comes not only from the sermons and collective parish energy every Sunday, but from the musical connection I gain between the congregation and my personal spiritual journey. Singing with Coventry Choir is the most important non-negotiable item on my calendar between September and July. This involvement with the Choir has also led me to know the importance of giving financially.
I am a realtor and never know how much money I will make in a year. While I have a good idea what my income may be, making an exact pledge has always been extremely difficult. Over the last 15 years, having given what I could by placing weekly offerings in the baskets, when the calls from the Stewardship Office came at the end of each year asking for a set amount, I was always reluctant. Then, when the financial crisis in 2008 nearly paralyzed my ability to give anything, I still gave what I could although, at times, the amounts were almost negligible. When the real estate market rebounded last year, my concern for pledging a designated amount subsided. The pledge card in the pew rack finally got my long-awaited attention.
This year, I made a personal decision to pledge a realistic base amount and then contribute more if possible. As the year comes to an end, I have surpassed the base amount I initially pledged, and have now given more than ten percent of my income to All Saints. I offer my plan of making a base pledge to other people who have “irregular” incomes such as mine. It allows me the flexibility to give what I know I can afford and great fulfillment knowing I can give more when possible.
I am reminded every day that All Saints Church has been the one constant in my life. It is the one place which brings my spirits up when times are hard and keeps my faith going throughout the year. More than 20 years have passed since I attended my first service at All Saints and I am grateful for the ministry and vibrant energy I receive through its amazing space.
— Matthew Berkley