Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Wealthy Church

I find that I think about money more these last two years, and the associations I have with it tell me that it has something to do with my new congregation.

I want to be very careful not to blame them.  It's me doing it.  Yet I have to imagine I can't be the only one in the world this happens to, and churches may want to be aware of it.  I suspect it is not so much church itself as it is any group of people one sees frequently.  There were wealthy and pretty-durn-wealthy people at my last church, and people in my current congregation who clearly aren't.  But the overall trend is pretty clear.

I hate to think of myself as so easily influenced.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Show me a wealthy church and I'll show you a pack of pharisees jockeying for social standing and destined for Hell.

Texan99 said...

My Episcopal church has got everything from the couple who won a $1 million lottery last year (but for whom the added wealth wasn't that remarkable considering how rich they already were) to folks on such a limited retirement income that they have to think seriously about whether they can fit an after-church lunch at a cheap Chinese joint (our usual hangout) into their weekly budget. Oddly, though, it's not that easy to tell who's who until you get to know them pretty well. Even clothing is not always that reliable an indicator in this warm coastal community with its beach-clothes ethic. We're mostly retirees, so perhaps the differences show up less when you're not raising kids and sending them to expensive or not-so-expensive schools, and when you're no longer strongly identified with a high- or low-status job. The church building is a small, modest one with a moderate annual budget. We pay salaries to one priest, one choir director, and one secretary; an unpaid vestry handles everything else.

Notwithstanding the usual jokes about country-club Episcopalians, therefore, it's a mixed bag economically -- some in the country club but many others in the numerous trailer parks that are a prominent feature of this area, with its many migrant "Winter Texans." Our priest does a semiannual "blessing of the Winter Texans" as they reach their traditional times for heading north or returning here.

The same goes for politics. Every now and then someone drops a comment that gives me a hint about blue or red, but usually it's difficult to tell. There's a strong reluctance to engage on the issues that are threatening a schism in the Anglican Communion.

Grandma Bee said...

Anonymous: Jesus said, "In the same way you judge others, you shall yourself be judged, and the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt.7:2) What you say is not the Gospel; you're preaching Country Western (see "Paper Rosie" and "Rusty Ol' Halo).

The question is not whether the church is wealthy financially. The question is, are they rich in the Spirit? What do they do with their financial wealth? Does more money, time, and effort go to spreading the Gospel, or to maintaining the Holy Huddle? How active is the congregation in serving the community? How much does the congregation love people inside and outside of the church body? How much of their giving goes to sharing the Word of Christ, as opposed to supporting politics and nonessentials like creationism and End Times? Look at their fruits, not their bank accounts--and look at your own, first.

Sam L. said...

If'n I had some idea of what you were thinking about money, or some generalizations about what aspects of money thou thinkst about, maybe i could say something that could be worthwhile. I got nothing to go on.

(I know that doesn't stop most commenters.)

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Gringo said...

Retriever is back in business.

Dubbahdee said...

I'm with Sam L. Exactly what in Sam Hill is the content of these fiduciary ruminations?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

My reading of Luke 12 suggests that money should take up as little space in our heads as possible. Worrying about money is perhaps a more precise problem, but even general concern strikes me as an avenue for temptation. Is your reading different?

T99 - "Then there was the episcopal church that was so wealthy they have a wine list for communion." Johnny Carson.

Texan99 said...

Yes! -- and it takes two Episcopalians to change a light bulb, one to call the electrician and one to mix the martinis. Luckily we are well defended against this besetting sin of Anglicans by the fact that this is a small church serving a small, rather isolated community of not very great wealth. Around here, you don't attend the Episcopalian Church because it's where the country-club set goes, you attend because you're attracted to a very old, traditional liturgy with a somewhat high-church style of ritual and lots of scriptural readings. Although my fellow parishioners avoid the hot-button schismatic issues, they don't at all belong to the new-wave or fashionable humanist, secular Episcopal tradition. On the other hand, especially since they tend to be retired, they are passionately interested in a variety of local good-works volunteer programs. It's just that they think that's what individual Christians should do, not that that's the whole point of a church.

Gringo said...

AVI- do you realize that Retriever is baack?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, but weirdly, my sidebar does not update her automatically. I keep trying stuff but can't make it go.

Sam L. said...

Money is only a tool (or it should be). Unfortunately, most people hear "tool" and think "hammer". Thus beginneth the descent into Hell.

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