Priest's Page...

Talking about Money...

(Based on readings for 8th August - Hebrews 11. 1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12. 32-40)

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

It is often said that the church doesn't have a shortage of money - we have a shortage of faith! Going for growth is not just about numbers in church - it is about the quality of the faith we take out with us into the world.

Let's stop for a moment think about the building that is the church to so many in Pattingham - St Chad's. A building we inherited from our forbears. Begun in the 11th century - added to over hundreds of years. Did those people build something that would do for their purposes and theirs only? No - if so the church would have remained wattle and daub. And we would be constantly rebuilding it in each generation. Our Ancestors built to last - for generations to come. People they would never see. They did it with faith in the future - and I am sure at great personal sacrifice and cost - for the sake of us, - as well as for their own personal satisfaction.

This church has had numerous benefactors over the years ... Earls of Dartmouth. More recently Colonel Butler - his legacy helps us do things like the lights and other improvements. We have a wonderful meeting room - The Loft, - proper loos - a kitchen - a dry vestry.... things that many would be envious of. Funded through the hard work and generosity of you and other people. Those facilities will be there for generations yet unborn.

But church in this place in Pattingham is not just about this building and these facilities. We meet here because we are part of the Church of England - a national church. As we sit here each week, we can feel linked with congregations the length and breadth of the land all joined in prayer and worship together. All listening to the same readings - all yearning to discover what faith in Jesus really means. How to live our lives so that we can be better - ie., happier people and bring greater happiness to others around us. Isn't that an inspiring thought?!

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The Church of England exists at all because of the generosity and sacrifices made by generations long past. If we think that is worth something, then it is up to us to make sure that - as an institution - it can survive into the future. So the contributions we make today go not only to fund the church you see here in Pattingham, but to support the ministry of the church throughout the diocese of Lichfield - throughout the land. Not just to pay for the local Vicar - but for all the clergy we need to train - whether stipendiary or self-supporting - and the lay ministers like Readers. And while I am well aware that many of you will be on fixed and not over-generous incomes, still there are many communities, many congregations, where the average standard of living is far below what most of us in Pattingham enjoy. They can never hope to meet the real costs of providing the ministry they need - so we give more in order that they too may worship and witness to God's abundant love and mercy. We have so many blessings - not least is that of living in such a lovely village with good neighbours and real community feel to it.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Two stories in the news this week to make us all think about our attitude to faith and to giving (for the two are closely connected!).

First the dreadful floods in Pakistan. Just as with other serious natural disasters, these call forth enormous compassion and generosity - not just from the Asian community, but from all people and communities - people of faith, people of no faith - all moved to help in whatever way they can. We recognize that we are all human beings with the same needs and wants. And we respond to that need - and especially to the needs of children - for the future of the whole human race - our species - depends on youngsters such as these.

Secondly, the efforts of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have persuaded so far 38 of the richest people in the USA - not just millionaires, but billionaires, to pledge to give up to half of their fortune away - either in their lifetime or on their death. This has been prompted in part by the experience of Bill and Melissa Gates who have sworn to do all in their power to eradicate Malaria in the next few years. And such are their resources, that such a dream - one that the UN has been talking about for the last 50 years, now suddenly seems a possibility. And Bill Gates is quoted as saying - "I have never had so much fun in my life!". Putting his fortune to work for the good of others - giving it away - has proved a deeply satisfying thing to do. That is the strange thing. For all the energy and effort we put into gaining our wealth and material possessions, the greatest pleasure, the greatest good, comes when we give it away again! Jesus knew that.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Now we can't all be billionaires - tho' it might be nice! But we can all think seriously about the many things we have been blessed with and what an appropriate response on our part might be. Not to scrabble around in your pockets or purse for whatever odd coins might be there, but to think long and hard about what we have and should give back to God. Not of course to deprive ourselves of what we need to survive and to thrive - but after we are safe in knowing we have enough to meet our daily needs, what then?- Yes it will mean we cannot now afford this or that little treat that we had been promising ourselves. But what might we not gain as a result? Giving to God what is right; not just the change we have left.

To those of you who are genuinely giving as much as you can, I say a heartfelt, "well done and thank you". And I am not saying that all your charitable giving should come to the church. I am sure that many of you, like me, give to a number of other charities and good causes. But do not forget that our Parish Church and the ministry it represents costs money to maintain. And we want to do more than just maintain, but to improve and play a more active role in our community and in those of our nation. To hand on to future generations something at least as good as what we inherited - hopefully better.

You know how much it costs to run your own homes and keep them in good repair. Your PCC needs to find something approaching £2000 per week to do all that we want to do. It is a lot, I know and we work hard to try and ensure that nothing is wasted. Events like the Church fete help enormously, but - as successful as that was, you will soon see that it is but a fraction of what is needed year by year, month by month, week by week. To those of you who are genuinely giving as much as you can, I say- again- a heartfelt, "well done and thank you". And to those of you who perhaps are still giving to church today what you gave last year, or 2 years ago, or 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ago - just spend some time in thought of how things have changed in that time, and ask yourselves whether your giving doesn't need to be reviewed too. And do you give only on the weeks or occasions when you come to church? How do you imagine it survives the rest of the time?

Some are very good about remembering to give regularly. Others may be a little less thoughtful. So in this modern age when we like to spread the cost of things, why not give by means of a standing order or direct debit? Both are possible and take all the hassle of searching around on a Sunday morning for the right money! And for those who feel they must hand something over as part of their worship, we hope in future to provide a card for you to put into the collection plate or bag.

I have great hopes for you and strong faith in what we can together achieve.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

8th August 2010