Adventures in Generosity

The occasionally coherent ramblings of a Stewardship Advisor in the Church of England

Archive for outreach

Trouble brewing ?

Ever had one of those conversations where you thought you were talking about one thing but it turned out that what you were actually talking about was something else entirely ?

Twitter went a bit manic today when a seemingly inoccuous discussion about Coffee and its general quality in church uncovered a seemingly bottomless well of discontent and frustration – which it turns out isn’t really about coffee at all !

The collective conversation which ensued is too lengthy to repeat here – suffice to say that the potential for a book exploring the subject in-depth was mooted as a possibility. But in a nutshell the flow of the conversation went something like this:

A Rev. twitter buddy of mine was in trouble with member or members of her church because the coffee being served at lent groups had been switched from instant to ‘proper coffee’ !!!

Trivial, yes ? we thought so and had a brief titter – but then, someone else asked – why the concern over such trivial matters and why do they seem to blow out of all proportion so very often ? And why, while we are on the subject is the coffee generally served up by churches so woefully awful ?

Tweep after Tweep seemed to join the throng, observing that not only was the coffee generally awful, but the tea and biccies were usually fairly low rent too, and while we’re at it – why do churches insist on sticking up badly designed posters all wonky on scruffy looking noticeboards, what’s with all those old piles of dusty parish mags at the back and why, in short was the church so generally determined that ‘that’ll do’ would do ?

As the conversation continued it seemed the original problem arose because ‘proper’ coffee was all too expensive and that whilst ‘young folk’ could fritter their money on such frivolity as ‘posh coffee’ the church ought to be above such pointless frippery and stand up for… what exactly? bland, second rate beverages?

So now we see – this isn’t about coffee at all ! this is about piety ! self denial ! we are shonky and a bit amateurish because it is what God wants! Away with your warm hospitality, we don’t want to offer the best we can afford to our brothers and sisters, even less to occasional visitors – what God really wants is for us to offer a grudging mug of luke warm sludge and a broken digestive to our guests – right ?

Erm, well, not exactly.

The Bible is fairly clear on the subject of hospitality – my current bible study plan covers passage after passage in the OT commanding Israel to offer the best of their hospitality, to welcome all comers with the very best they have to offer.

Jesus didn’t turn water into any old cheap plonk – He saved the best for last. The prodigal son does not return to a warmed over pot noodle.

The bible exhorts us again and again to treat others with the generosity, love and welcome that we would wish to receive – why ? Because when we honour each other we honour our Creator – because “when you do this to the least of these, you do it to me” .

So what are we saying when we offer less than the best of ourselves ? Whose money, exactly, are we saving ? And what message does our welcome give about the Gospel we proclaim ? Are we guilty of perpetuating an image of the church as cheap, scruffy and deteriorating ?

There is much more to be said following todays discussion – about how this ‘second best is good enough’ attitude spills into our financial stewardship, about attitudes to change and attitudes to the young, about Fair Trade, about our image of ourselves and of God – but for now I would like to exhort each of us with the words of a fellow twitterer @crimperman:

Lets give up bad coffee for Lent !

In our time of preparation lets prepare our churches for Easter morning by throwing open our doors, welcoming all comers with warm and open arms, tidying up a bit and putting on a decent cuppa.

Given the cost of Good Friday I’d say a couple of quid on a packet of Fair Trade Costa Rican was a small price to pay.

Let yourself be built ?

Hmmmmmm the parish church. Ancient monument, architectural gem, heritage site, place of worship or money sucking millstone strangling the life blood of the C of E ?

I used to be 100% sure exactly where I stood on this one. Yup, burn the font cover, pull down the rood screen and above all tell those nosey parker ‘pickle it in aspic’ hideous stained glass adoring anoraks at the Victorian Society where they could stick their butt numbing pews !

But …

We live in a spiritually hungry age. Yes I know, secularisation is rampant, Dickie Dawkins and his buddies are taking over the airwaves. But despite what the Daily Mail says, people are seeking.

And if they are seeking – where will they look ? What does Christianity ‘look’ like to the average wanderer in the street ?

The fact is, ask any 4 year old to draw a church and they won’t produce a sandstone, single storey, glass vestibuled, double glazed and fully DDA compliant ‘church in a box’.

To many, the Parish church is Christianity – that leeky tower, those bells, those b!**dy pews and all that stained glass are Christs ‘brand image’ – as powerful a symbol as the Golden Arches of Mcdonalds.

Looking back at ‘The Diana Effect’ it was clear that people needed a place to run to in times of uncertainty. So where did they go ? you guessed it …

The argument that flogging the lot and starting over, would release vast chunks of funding to ‘real’ mission is all well and good but isn’t it just further evidence of our loss of confidence ? We’ve bought into the tabloid myth that ‘if the church sold all its buildings it could do some good in the world’.  Instead of being proud of what we’ve inherited and making the most of it, we’ve become embarrased by it.

But …

 What if we actually started using the buildings iconic status as a draw, combine the shiny and alluring ideas about opening up the church hall for community use and instead  open the church doors – surrender ‘our worship space’ and make it an exciting and interesting space to be used.  Perhaps if we can get the community thinking of the inside of the church as relevant, useable, an enjoyable place to be they might stick around after aerobics and find out what else is going on ? 

Mission doesn’t have to be all about new and shiny, it can be about taking the best of the old, combining it with the best of the new and producing something that honours our inheritance as well as our vision. 

One thing I will never change my mind on though ….

The Victorian Society can have the pews !

Latest Updates

Just added a whole host of helpful links.

We’ve got resources for planning stewardship campaignsSpecial accounts to make your own personal giving simpler.  Study materials for individuals or house groups and one or two blogs for entertainment

Personal favourites at the minute are my good friends at Christians Against Poverty – awesome what they do to support those who get into financial trouble – especially at the moment.  If your church isn’t already engaged with them please take a look – they have a great financial training programme that you could deliver – brilliant outreach and at the same time a gentle way to reach out to those within your congregation who might just be suffering in silence.