Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Stewardship and Anxiety

The word from the fellowship hall was not good.

It's an old building, one built with loving amateur hands back when I was young enough to come up for a children's sermon.  It serves my little church well, in the way an old and well worn hammer still does the simple job for which it was made.  It's not fancy, because we're not fancy.  We need a part of our common house that we can tap for...well, anything.  We need a multi-use space, suitable for fellowship and celebrations, for meetings and as an offering to community.  It's as well made for donuts and coffee as it is for a room full of dancing, squealing poms.

It's a significant asset of our fellowship.

And it looks like the roof is failing.  That big rain from the first days of winter lit up the first signs of it.  Moisture, pooled on the tiles near the back wall.  The tell-tale signs of water damage where it had seeped into the drywall.  The hope, of course, that it would all magically clear itself up, was dashed as soon as the next rains came.  It hadn't just blown into one of the roof vents, or come it through a door left ajar.

It was the shingles, designed to last 20 years, finally giving up the ghost after over twice that.

The question now, for my church, is whether we patch, or just replace the whole roof.  It's time, whether we want it to be time or not.

There are churches that would struggle with this choice.  We'd need to fundraise.  We'd need to be in full on panic mode, or raiding funds that were meant for other things, or talking about going to the bank and taking out a loan.

But that's not how good stewardship works.  Care for the things we as a community hold in common is not something we should do anxiously, or without foresight.  It's just part of the way that we take care of the world we inhabit.  Good stewardship...over family finances, those of communities, or of nations...is not a creature of immediacy, of pressing out against the edges of what can be done.  It leaves space for the unanticipated, space to be a little less fearful about what the future will inevitably bring.

It's an attitude, and a way of life.

And so for the last seven years, my congregation has been spending less than we put into the common pot.  It means, now, that the roof can be repaired by writing a check.  No panic.  No anxiety.  No ringing the alarm klaxons and preaching sermon after sermon about how God loves a cheerful giver, so smile when you write that check, dagflabbit.

In those seven fat years, we've stored up for the lean times that inevitably come.  It's just wise living.

As we move into 2018, we continue to reap the benefits of that way of life. 

And, hopefully, the benefits of a nice dry fellowship hall.