Navigating the Jungle of Wedding Gifts

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Faith influences many of our decisions in life: how and where we live, what jobs or careers we pursue, and what we buy. At least that is our hope. As we were preparing for our wedding earlier this fall, Shawn and I reflected on our desire to live simply. By living simply, I mean that we want to bike, walk, or bus instead of drive, read a book instead of watch TV, cook together instead of eat out, and engage in any number of other “slow” living practices. We do this as a way to have a richer experience of life, to tread more lightly on our Mother Earth, and to live out our faith by generally attempting to counter our culture of haste and thoughtless consumption.

We thought about our possessions. Having lived on our own for several years, we each brought various dishes, cooking utensils, and household items into our new home together. They may be a little eclectic, but they work! Many of them have emotional value too, such as my great-grandmother’s teapot that my own grandmother carefully preserved for me. We have been taught to care for our possessions as a means of stewardship. Why buy something new, albeit matching, that expends fresh resources, when we can preserve what we already have or buy a functional, secondhand piece for a better price? To us, it makes complete sense to keep and continue to use what we already have, instead of asking for brand new items just because we’re getting married.

Another factor in our desire for simplicity is the rich human experience we are able to have by not having to constantly maintain a plethora of unnecessary items. We have been blessed with rich experiences at Camp Amnicon in northern Wisconsin, where we guided canoe trips and lived in a nurturing community where work was shared and each person was valued for deep, intangible qualities. Our spirits were nurtured by others seeking God and by nature. We also believe that, as Christians, it is our responsibility to care for others who are in need. These experiences and desire for simplicity led us to request donations to Camp Amnicon, the Nature Conservancy, and People Incorporated nonprofit focused on serving those with mental illness and experiencing homelessness) as a way to lift up our nonmaterial values and avoid excess possessions that we might acquire as wedding gifts.

While we appreciate family’s and friends’ generosity, we didn’t want unnecessary stuff that would bog us down and hinder our enjoyment of how we believe God wants us to live our lives—enjoying the company of others, treading lightly on the Earth, and trying to use only what we need and to share the rest. Of course, many people still wanted to give us things—and most people did—but we appreciate those who saw that their donation in our honor is an equally valid gift to us because it helps us support organizations that give life and serve others.

-Casey Englund-Helmeke

This stewardship story is from the Giving: Growing Faithful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine volume 15, which is based on 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 and the theme "Found Faithful". Use Giving magazine and theme materials to create a congregational stewardship emphasis on "Found Faithful". The Ecumenical Stewardship Center offers congregational stewardship resources featuring 16 different, timeless biblical themes. Peruse them all and place an order in the ESC web store.

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