The Rev. Shirley Stockdill

When it was suggested that I write something on the life of stewardship I wasn’t sure I had much new to say. Those of you who have heard me over the past five years in this diocese know how important I believe this is to our life in the world and before God. However, I thought you might like to know how my understanding of stewardship has developed.

I was born at the end of the Second World War to parents who had lived and suffered through the previous ‘Great War’ and the Depression. Left unable to work and with a very small pension, my parents moved to the west coast to begin life over.

My four brothers and I learned lessons of frugality; save string, brown paper bags, and “turn off the lights.” Good manners were sacred.

In today’s language we recycled and composted. Nothing was wasted. We bartered the vegetables our parents grew, the eggs our hens laid and the milk and meat our cows produced. In the summer, my brothers and I sold gladiola that my father grew by the thousands. We were a cute and diligent lot and the money we made went to buy our clothes and school needs.

This initially all took place on about 5 acres of land. I look back now and think what remarkable, determined parents we had.

As the youngest growing up through the prosperous years of the 50’, 60’s & 70’s, I heard the message that through hard work, doing the right thing and being kind to pets and people, anything was possible. Even the church I attended faithfully seemed to accept and support this notion. We were after all the wealthiest generation in decades. We could do anything. And we did.

The fear of war, the penury of the Depression faded and we played, spent and trashed. A lot of good came out of this time as well but as we began to look more toward our own lives we began to forget that not everyone was benefiting from this overwhelming prosperity.

In the 1970’s I sat in the family room of a very comfortable home in the Fraser Valley. We had it all. Two cars, horses, swimming pool, two perfect children and access to anything we thought we wanted to buy.

I had for some time left the church of my youth and yet as I sat by myself one morning in this beautiful sun-filled room I felt so unhappy. The question that came to my mind was, “Is this all there is?”

The answer that came to me in that silent space, as I looked out onto the Golden Ears Mountains, was “Look around you.” There were young families with no transportation, living in poverty with no one to talk to. There were elderly looking after loved ones who are ill with no respite and here were children who could not read.

And I realized these people and the issues that needed to be addressed were not on some other continent or in some other community. They were on my road. These were literally my neighbours who had come to mind. I realized that the lesson that I had forgotten from my childhood was about looking beyond my own family to the needs of those around me.

I remembered my parents housed a man for several years in the spare room because he had been abandoned by his family. And I don’t know how many people they fed. I do remember my mother inviting people to huge dinners that she cooked. Those people were at our table because they were worse off than we were. I remembered the joy doing for others gave me.


Shirley Stockdill’s family in 1942. She is the little girl with her parents and four big brothers.

But what could I do now? I immediately thought of the church and a neighbour who went. We had coffee together. We discussed the plight of so many of the people in our community and how a program to reach out to them from the church had failed. A third woman was also interested. We began a fresh look at the resources that had gone unshared or used in our community.

We three went to our local parish and spoke to the clergy who doubted it would work this time either but we were so joyful at the thought of trying that he said we could use whatever resources were available in the parish. And so began a great adventure.

A local radio station gave us tapes of talks by Herb O’Driscoll and by Bud Phillips, later the principal of the Vancouver School of Theology. The parish bought six tape recorders and a group was organized and trained to go out with these to visit the shut-ins of the parish. Once a week tapes were traded and a new visit was made. Hospice visitors were trained for the first visits to the long term care and hospice facility. Education programs were organized, open to everyone.

We who were involved in this program long ago all went our separate ways. We still recycle, compost and live a life of stewardship. God blessed us with a new vision of how this life could be lived. And we had such a joy-filled productive time because we were able to follow.

I have learned that at any stage of life we have a gift to offer. That offering can be called stewardship of our life or our calling. The offering makes our lives worthwhile.

Continue to recycle, compost and to stand up and work for the wholeness of God’s and our world to the best of your ability. “…do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before your God…” There is nothing more to be said.

The Rev. Shirley Stockdill retired this summer as Diocesan Stewardship Officer after five years in that post. Previously she served at St. Francis, West Vancouver, and St. Stephen, Burnaby. She continues working to assist parishes in the area of stewardship, currently at St. John’s, Squamish.