|I was at a meeting yesterday where a member of the group said, "This is not a rich church." I shut my mouth tight -- uncharacteristic of me -- as I knew I would fly in into an instantaneous flash of rage if I said anything at all. "This ... church" he was talking about has $6+ million dollars in endowments. Of course that number is down a little from the $8 or $9 mil they had a couple of years back because of the market down turn, so I guess they could be feeling a little poorer.|
It is important to give a person the benefit of the doubt. Think the best of them first. Perhaps he meant that the people of the church are not wealthy as they once were many years ago. Early last century most of the elite in our small city went to our church, which at the time also owned a country club on the lake. Yes, the church owned a country club. It complemented the billiards room with Stickely furniture, bowling alley, pool and theater in the 56k sq. foot church very nicely. Certainly we were rich then but our parishioners now weren't so wealthy or elite.
Even if he did mean that, in the room that night was a VP for an investment firm, an architect, a masters level counselor, an insurance salesman, a marketing person for a tech company, a retired music teacher, a real estate appraiser & investor, a director of a major non-profit, a banking exec, a pharmacistcist, an administrative asst. and two very well paid clergy. We are not among the uber elite in wealth but compared our region and the rest of the world, I can't believe how much money we make! But this isn't a rich church?
None of us lacked health insurance. All except one owned a home (but a couple owned more than one) but all owned a car (or two) and had internet access and could take vacations and had stuff galore! But we aren't rich? Who is then? Are only millionaires rich? We only had maybe one of them in the room. Maybe we need a few more to be qualified as rich.
Could he have some how meant the church institution wasn't rich? Six million dollars in endowments. That's $6,000,000.00. Now certainly all of that money is not liquid. There are restrictions on certain funds and principle that must not be touched. But that is only our endowments. What about the multiple millions they own in property and church paraphernalia? What about their half a million dollar budget, which is funded by about one third from offerings and the rest from interest on the endowments. But we aren't rich?
Our church is in a county with the second highest unemployment rate in the state, and we border the leader in that category. There is real poverty in the area, where people don't make enough to eat or pay bills. Many of them receive public assistance but some do fall through the cracks and rely on charity organizations. Of course, most of those people don't go to our church.
At this same meeting, was a coworker who arrived home from a visit to El Salvador. In her 10 days there, she saw streets filled with maimed beggars, people sifting through garbage bins looking for something of value, people who lived off rain water and ate beans at every meal because that is what they could afford ... she saw poverty.
At this same meeting, a teen came to request support for her trip to Tijuana, Mexico, where with a group of 29 others they will build 2 houses in four days for people who live in slums ... homes made of cardboard, scrap metal, with no plumbing, no doors, no decorations, no computers, no insurance, no food, etc.
Imagine this scenario ... a world conference for the poor people, where they were flown in from El Salvador, Mexico, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Viet Nam, India and of course, the US would send their delegation of poor people also. They would have lectures about being poor and support groups. The US people would share their pain, "My welfare check just isn't getting me to the end of the month and I'm falling behind in paying my phone bill." "Yeah me too. And I'm just embarrassed every time I have to go to the grocery and pull out my 'coupons' and everyone else in line starts staring at me and rolling their eyes." "I really appreciate being able to go to the Urban Mission to get a bag or two of groceries because I don't qualify for food stamps. But they never seem to have enough personal hygiene stuff. I haven't been able to shave my legs in months." "My husband beat me and my son. We had to escape to a women's shelter. It was awful." "I'm homeless. Sometimes I stay in the shelter at night. There's no privacy and I hate it. The breakfast they serve is terrible." "I just can't stand those 'do-gooders' who work at the soup kitchen I eat at. Why do they think they are better than me?"
How does someone who lives in a dump in Bogata, Colombia respond compassionately?
But we aren't rich. And this isn't a rich church.
There just has to be a DSM IV category for us. Delusional? Narcissists? Idiots?