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Saint James Chapel in the Fall

The following letter from Father Dunnan was included in the 2022-2023 Annual Report of Giving.

Dear Friends of Saint James,

I am sometimes asked by interested and brave alumni, “what would be the perfect gift?”  And here, I confess that my mind moves almost immediately to the amount: a leading gift to help with the Annual Fund or a larger gift to fund or even just finish a project or build the endowment or a huge gift to reduce tuition - all immediately come to mind, but I think that I am missing the point.

To get to the point a different way, I am always embarrassed and not entirely complimented when other heads or well-meaning friends and alumni refer to me as “an excellent fundraiser.” This feels false to me, as it is not the asker but the giver who deserves the credit – the one who makes the gift, and I am very aware of the many people who give to support Saint James so generously and indeed of the many who have given so faithfully in the past. I am also acutely aware that in asking people to give I almost entirely lean on my friends and therefore worry that I have imposed on our friendship in some cases for many years and for extraordinary amounts.

Several years ago, an eager young head told me excitedly about a very wealthy alumnus they had “identified” who could transform his school. I asked if this alumnus had ever given, and he answered that he had not, so I informed him sadly that he most probably would not. “Why?” he asked, shocked and disappointed. “Because he is not a giver.”  Unfortunately for the school, the head, but most especially the alumnus, I was right. We of course have some of these, but they will not be reading this letter. You are.

Jesus said that “the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mk 4.31-32)

So, in the end, my answer to that question can only be this: the perfect gift is you, each of you and all of you who support us.

Thank you so very, very much.

Yours faithfully,

The Revd. Dr. D. Stuart Dunnan

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