In which Ruth asks a tricky question about money and the church

Stewardship is dealt with by different churches in many different ways. Some favour the annual letter, signed by the priest, pleading for a much-needed injection of cash for some project and for everyone to consider increasing their giving. Then there are the different schemes which churches buy in to which involve bible study or invitation suppers. Some clergy do annual stewardship sermons either on one named day or over a month. All well and good.

giving envelopesBut something has recently come to my attention and I’d like your advice. Like most clergy I have no idea how much people give to church. Some give by Standing Order through their bank, some have a set of weekly envelopes which they bring to church, (I’ve heard of one person here who does both!) and others pop in a fiver or a tenner – or sometimes a few coins. I’ve noticed that the elderly favour the envelope method. Some even bring a pile of them if they’ve been absent for a few weeks and that’s how it should be.

However, we have noticed that some don’t bring a pile in if they’ve been off for a few weeks. But they’re elderly and so sweet that nothing is said. We are grateful for what we receive and we shouldn’t complain. Then there are those who are housebound. Many of those receive communion monthly and more visits from time to time. A few of them will hand over their envelope when you are there but these are really in the minority. I’ve just assumed that the others give through their Bank. But we have recently found out that they don’t. Many of them don’t give anything at all. Some have had the envelopes for the past few years but have never handed in a single one! (By the way, I’ve no idea who these people are nor do I want to know.)

The thing is… I don’t think people mean to withhold their collection. I think they are just forgetful. I don’t think people deliberately withdraw their giving to the church. I think they just get confused. Now you might all be yelling at your screen just now with fists flying and screaming, “Ruth! They are old. They’ve probably given all their lives! Let them off with it now. Who care if they don’t pop in a fiver every now again?” And I know that. My heart knows that and my heart bleeds. The widow’s mite is ringing in my ears.    But, and it is a big BUT, what if your congregation has more than 50% , or 75%, who are elderly and housebound? What if the future of your little flock relies on everyone giving their fair share? What if your church is at risk because so many givers have either died or just forgotten to give?

Is anyone getting this or am I just being mean? And why are we so polite that we can’t talk about this in church? Has anyone out there dealt with this? I know that some of these elderly people are not hard up. These are not breadline people. But I just don’t know how to improve the giving among those who have just forgotten to give.

Olympics? Good or bad?

I’m not a big fan of the Olympics. You will probably know that I am not particularly sporty. At school I did everything I could to avoid Games. In fact I took up fencing (the sport not the wood and nails thing) because it seemed fairly exotic and not as exhausting as running round a field in a short games skirt or Scottish country dancing. (Not a good thing when you are well endowed in the boob department.)

But its the money that gets me about the Olympics. I caught some of the Opening Ceremony and just couldn’t help but think of how many people could have been helped out of poverty with a portion of the money spent. Am I being too bah-humbug here? I just don’t get what the point of it was.

J did our intercessions on Sunday and brought to our attention the amount of food an athlete puts into his/her body each day to stay at their physical peak while others are starving, living on one meal a day. I just don’t get it. Is it just so that one country can be better than another? Is that a good thing? Is that not how wars start?

My son says that some Africans get out of poverty by being good athletes. But you don’t see any in the Dressage or Yachting because that involves money for equipment. It’s just not a level playing field, if you’ll forgive the pun.

How much money has it cost to train the athletes, fly them to China, feed and support them? Sorry, but I just don’t get it.

But perhaps you feel differently?

Money, money, money

Stocking up at the supermarket today trying to remember the list given to me by Son #2 last night. All I can remember is chocolate and crisps but I’m sure there was something more sensible. Bought a few extra toiletries for one of our Lent Appeals (toiletries to young homeless people in The Rock Trust). Got to the check-out, handed over my card and was asked ‘Do you have any other tender?’

‘Do you have another method of payment? This one is no good.’

Oh Lord, don’t you just hate that? It hasn’t happened to me very often because I do keep a tight record and couldn’t understand why this card was refused. The woman behind me looked smug. I looked as if it was all a terrible mistake but not brave enough to ask her to swipe it again.

On the way home I managed to convince myself that I had been the victim of some horrendous internet fraud and someone was spending willy nilly on my card. Drove like a maniac, dashed the shopping to the floor, logged on and checked the account on the computer and all looked well. Phoned the Bank and after inputting a zillion numbers and codes (well remembered!) got through to a human being.

“I’ve just had my Debit Card refused at the supermarket!”
“You and a million others,” she sighed. “The system is down.”

Oh that’s all right then. No apology though. You know, they could learn a thing from Bishop Ted (see previous blog entry).

I think today should be a day for saying sorry. Repenting, in fact. Oh, isn’t that what we’re all meant to be doing in Lent?