It was a sunny spring evening in Madeupton- le- Tale, and the parish of St. Someone’s was having a PCC meeting. It wasn’t the third Tuesday of the month. It was the second Wednesday. It was an irregular meeting. It was a crisis meeting.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re running out of money. Our outgoings are far greater than our incomings. Frankly, folks, we’re heading for a cliff edge.”
It’s not that Richard liked being the bearer of bad news…per se. But he did love a crisis. In his head, he imagined himself as the person who could steer this ship away from danger. Though, tonight, even Richard was at a loss. He’d recently been appointed as the treasurer and if truth be told the accounts didn’t look great.
The PCC had the finance records in front of them. Usually they didn’t sit at tables, but tonight they were. It must be serious. Much paper would need shuffling. And, Rev. John thought, from the other side of the room, tables make great barriers to hide behind, before quickly repenting. He couldn’t bear conflict of any sort, and the talk of money, and lack of it, made him weak at the knees. He stared at the Jesus puppet in the toy box in the corner, and prayed for wisdom.
St. Someone’s hadn’t addressed the area commonly known as “stewardship” for years, until recently when Rev. John made several gallant efforts at preaching on the subject. But this hadn’t really gone down well, because it was a bit out of the blue.
What they needed was a much more joined-up approach. They couldn’t rely on the odd sermon to communicate this vast and important subject. After all, not everyone had attended those services, and the ones that had…well…some had clearly been troubled, even annoyed, by what he’d said, which had left Rev John with more questions than answers.
He felt awful about unsettling his flock. Sermons shouldn’t do that… should they? And the rest of the congregation. Had they even been listening to him? Was he the fired up preacher he so aspired to be? His eyes drifted over to knitted Moses. Rev John knew Moses would understand…
Yes, he thought as his eyed scanned over the oversized donkey, it was clear they needed The Generous Giving Project, which could help a church to completely rethink its attitude towards generosity.
And they had indeed enrolled the Generous Giving Project officer’s help, but was it all too little too late? What about the here and now? For years they’d avoided discussing finances, generosity, giving, stewardship or anything that remotely touched on these subjects, and had relied on an ever-diminishing pot of money left in a legacy by Victor Vaughan the vigorous verger.
But their reserves had run dry. And, truth be told, most of the community probably weren’t thinking about generosity when they set aside their weekly envelopes. In his darker moods, Rev John wondered if it was more out of habit than anything else. He thought about his own giving. Was he giving in faith or out of habit? He shifted his gaze away from the foam cross poking out of the toy box. Perhaps not.
Some people were absolutely faithful, prayerful and generous givers. Looking around at their faces he was sure of it. And those who weren’t, probably didn’t even realise that their regular giving had anything to do with God. Or that the church actually relied on gifts contributed by its members. They were ill-informed, unaware and blind to the larger issues. And, Rev John reflected, it wasn’t their fault. Besides it was only in this area. When it came to time and skills, everyone totally understood the need, and gave joyfully and generously of both.
But, Rev. John thought, as he flicked crumbs from his jumper while agendas were passed around, flower arranging skills, website design and help with the youth group simply wouldn’t pay the heating bills or the wages of the Parish Administrator. It was all they could do to meet their Parish Share pledge this year. What about everything else?
People had to be given advice and encouragement about all ways of being generous. But where to start? There was so much to do. His shoulders slumped. But then, as his eyes glanced down the agenda, he remembered the Generous Giving Project, and he allowed a flicker of hope to spread in his tummy, until he could no longer feel the gloopy worry that often occupied that space.
What a relief when the Generous Giving Project Officer had visited last month, and broken it down into manageable chunks, had lifted spirits, and had pointed out small and easy ways of tweaking this and that. Actually tweaking rather a lot. Because rather a lot needed tweaking. She’d been clear on that.
After their first meeting they’d been diagnosed as being in a critical but stable condition, for now, but that this would decline if they didn’t act. She’d prescribed them a self-assessment survey, which was like a “generosity audit”, and had booked them in for a check-up appointment. That was tonight. She’d be arriving for the second half of the PCC meeting. Good, he thought. That’s good. Here goes…