Hello and welcome to the Generous Giving Project!

Here’s some background on the story so far.

The Generous Giving Project was launched in April 2016 to help explore why giving generously is a central part of our Christian faith, and to encourage us all as we take part in it. I have been appointed to run this project for two years, and in that time I will support you in every way I can, whether you are reading this as a clergy person or a lay person.

In a nutshell this is about us understanding God’s generosity and considering how we are called to respond as individuals and as a church. It’s about what part generosity plays in our lives and in our worship, and maybe looking at this area of discipleship anew, because, as you may already be able to tell, this isn’t a traditional stewardship campaign!

I’m supporting churches in practical ways by providing really easy to use, innovative and adaptable resources, by writing articles for church magazines and websites, by running workshops and delivering presentations to groups, committees and clubs and by being here ready to answer your queries or signpost you to an expert if I can’t answer your question myself.

I’m very excited to be serving the Diocese of Durham in this way, and to see how the Generous Giving Project will change the way we think about this key expression of our faith. I want to share some personal stories of how my own life has been transformed by God’s generosity, especially how my own approach to giving has changed since I heard about this project. I also think it’s important for you to know who I am, as I intend to interact with as many of you as possible!

So who am I and why am I running the Generous Giving Project? Well I’m from Darlington, I’ve studied at Teesside and Durham University and I’ve spent the last 13 years serving in the British Army on both a part-time and full-time basis. I wasa Royal Engineers Officer, but most of my career has been in non-engineering roles. In Afghanistan, Bosnia, Denmark, Austria and the UK, I’ve mostly been employed in community support. My jobs have had various titles such as Stabilisation and Support Officer, Cultural Specialist, Linguist and Community Support Officer, but essentially they’ve all been quite similar.

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At the heart of everything I’ve done has been talking with and listening to the ordinary people who have lived near the bases I’ve served. I’ve acted as a mediator, negotiator, sign poster, meetings organiser, project planner, bridge builder (metaphorically and literally) communications facilitator and even interpreter (I speak a few languages).

In Afghanistan I patrolled out to villages with the infantry soldiers, to meet with the communities and their representatives, whether they were the village elders, the teachers, the police officers, the religious leaders or the elected councillors.

I talked to them about the security mission of the British Army and I listened to their opinions and hopes and concerns, and fed this back to my commanders so they had a better picture of the communities we were working with. The job involved lots of cups of tea, sharing stories and meeting some fascinating and diverse people. It turns out, this job isn’t so very different! But instead of talking about the security mission, we’re talking about Jesus Christ’s mission. It’s also a lot less dangerous!

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Afghanistan was the place I became a Christian. Though I had attended church as a child (All Saints, Darlington), I had no interest in or even belief in God when I became an adult.

And even though I had lived in religious communities abroad, and had been surrounded by faithful Muslims, living out their religion in all aspects of their daily routine, I was never inspired to question who God might be to me, until a completely out of the blue experience in a shipping container in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The full story can be found here (I’ve written other stuff about being new to faith, the church and trying to understand my calling here), but suffice to say, having my eyes opened to the wonder of God…well it was a bit of a shock!

My faith has grown daily since that experience, and later, on the night when I came to be confirmed, I felt I heard clearly that God was calling me to something specific. Since then I have been exploring what this is. I’m worried it might be ordained ministry… and that would be a strange turnaround.

To try and work this out, I’ve left my job in the Army and returned home to the North East. I studied theology at Cranmer Hall, Durham University, for a year, alongside people who are studying to be vicars.

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I hope to bring all that I’ve experienced and learned to this role, to encourage and inspire my fellow Christians in the Diocese. I write blogs on all aspects of giving generously, including practical hints and tips for your churches, unpacking the Biblical reasons for our giving, and sharing stories about hospitality, prayer, money, generosity and faith from around the world.

If you have a story of generosity you’d like to share, you can contact me at Rachael.phillips@durham.anglican.org

With many blessings,

Rachael, the Generous Giving Project Officer