As ever after a gathering of the deanery clergy, I am left with a few ponderances. This is a good thing, I think. Today we met in sumptuous surroundings, over a glorious meal in regal splendour for a gathering that, in part, was dedicated to a talk from the Church Urban Fund (there are almost certainly some interesting comparisons to be drawn between venue and content, but that is not for here). It has been a good morning, and it is always a joy to chew the fat with other priests and ministers.
As part of the offering from Kerry of the CUF was the innate plea for dosh, for wonga, for some green, coin if you will. And so it was that we all went around our Anglican circle and said how well (or otherwise) we were doing.
There were some who were doing sterling charitable work but weren't able to pay their own bills. This is laudable in the extreme but also begs the odd question. Does charity begin at home or not?
My parish is a charity and I bust my reverential buns to make sure that it has a lively income, well invested, appropriate Gift Aided - so that the ministry and purpose of this charity thrives. CUF is a charity and its officers do likewise for its ministry and purpose. Now - how would it be if the Church Urban Fund donated some of the money it is chasing hard from me and gave it to the favoured charity of the CEO, which could be for sake of example, Kalashnikov Anonymous. Would I be happy donating to KA myself? No. It asks the question, therefore, if a charity should donate.
I believe very strongly that I have a responsibility to my parishioners and the diocese to pay our share of the responsibility. After all, they pay me and they house my family. Paying our 'share' is equivalent of paying the mortgage - it is something that you just must do. Would I, as a private individual, say to my bank - sorry I couldn't pay my mortgage last year, but I helped some puppies find homes. I doubt that would prevent foreclosure.
To be Christian is, by definition, to have a heart to serve. This creates an issue, a conflict therefore in our hearts. Do we serve, or are we the service? Do we give to charity with money we have raised charitably or do we receive it as a gift to enable the work we do? Do we donate to charity before we successfully pay all our bills? Do those who give money to us as churches expect that we can do without that money? Do we misrepresent ourselves when we say that we need the money, only then giving to another organisation that is often taking donations from our donors too?
So many question to which I don't have the answer. The only thing I am sure of though is that we must pay our way first - and then choose what to do with the surplus (a nice problem to have, and a source of aspiration for most of us).