Next item on the agenda. An update on activity since the Generous Giving Project Officer’s last meeting with them. What had they done about their diagnosis and prescribed treatment? Well, in the last fortnight the PCC of St. Someone’s had been diligently meeting in pairs in the vicarage, the vestry and the pub, to work through their self-assessment survey.
They’d been answering questions ranging from “How does the offering/collection take place in church?” to “How do people know how to volunteer to serve?” to “Does your Facebook page link to the Generous Giving Project articles?” This wide-ranging list of questions had really helped them to look at their church with new eyes and ask, are we an obviously generous church?
The answer had been a reluctant no. Generous? Yes, in some areas. Obvious? No. In truth, no-one ever talked positively or joyfully about giving generously at St. Someone’s. There was a sense of anxiety and awkwardness. Reluctance. No. Despair. That was it. Not joy, not enthusiasm, not involvement or celebration. And God wasn’t usually part of the conversation.
There was no feel-good factor when it came to the topic of giving. It was avoided, or when it was talked about it was just an appeal for more. And that just wasn’t compatible with God’s message, with God’s abundant and lavish generosity, thought Rev John, filled with consternation. His tummy grumbled. Must have been the quiche.
Richard continued to present the accounts with unnecessary drama, Rev John thought irritably. Then he chided himself for those mean-spirited thoughts. He was ever so grateful that Richard had stepped up to be treasurer. For all his pomp, Richard was a jolly decent and reliable fellow, and it was Richard after all, who’d contacted the Generous Giving Project.
Thank God we’re being cajoled into action and encouraged to remove our heads from the sand, Rev John thought. This felt good. It felt fresh. It felt bold and a bit scary. It felt right.
Tonight they would put together a plan for better communication. No more leaving people in the dark, leaving them guessing, leaving them to work it out for themselves. And that’s just the regulars. Visitors and new Christians didn’t stand a chance. Until now, any whiff of giving was kept strictly under wraps. As though St. Someone’s didn’t want anyone thinking they were some kind of ambassadors of a generous God.
If you wanted to generously give your time, good luck trying to find a volunteer sign-up sheet. If you wanted to share your skills in piano playing or accounts or media, good luck finding someone to tell. And if you actually wanted to contribute money to St. Someone’s’ mission, good luck finding an envelope, a Standing Order form, the treasurer or even the collection plate! These things were very discreetly hidden away.
Yes. They needed help with communication.
It now seemed very clear that this was the reason they’d had to rely on Victor Vaughan the vigorous verger’s bequest for so many years. Rev John had never met Vic, but he was infamous in the parish for his verve and vivacity. Surely he wouldn’t have wanted his voluminous legacy to dwindle away in the vestry vaults, in place of parish-wide regular, committed generosity, leaving nothing but a vast, vulnerable void, where once there had been viable funds for growth and new life. How… how… Rev John put his finger in his mouth trying to think of another v adjective. Ahah! How vexatious, he’d have thought. Bingo.
Vocabulary triumph aside, Rev. John felt rotten. Whilst he’d not been in the parish that long, he’d not really tackled this obvious reluctance. But this culture had been the norm for decades and he couldn’t change it on his own. It needed everyone’s buy-in and lots of prayer. What a pickle, he thought. What a massive jar of pickles. His eyes darted back to the toy box and to Jesus. Help me out here Jesus, he thought. Give me strength.
His mood was immediately lifted when Kevin the red haired pastry chef threw open the door with his foot, armed with two large trays of biscuits (that were still hot so mind your fingers) and apologised for his lateness but the first batch weren’t quite right. God bless you Kevin you wonderful, generous man. Rev John loved his parish deeply. The PCC munched happily through the agenda items. And things were looking up.
They agreed they were going to have to be transparent about the needs inside the parish and also the wider diocese. Mary helpfully reminded them all, again, that “We are the diocese,” which had become a favourite phrase, with narrowed eyes peering over her spectacles, challenging anyone to contradict her. No-one ever did. Mary was frightening. Plus they understood they were indeed the diocese.
They agreed to add plenty of information in their magazine and their website. After all, this wasn’t stuff to be keep hidden. They weren’t talking about State secrets. They were simply agreeing to share ways people could do generous acts in the parish, as a way of serving God. It was so obvious that many were left wondering why they hadn’t highlighted this before.
They were on a roll. People were smiling.
Two more agenda items to go until the arrival of the Generous Giving Project Officer…