A visitor to General Convention on Saturday, from Louisville KY, decided to attend the Program Budget & Finance Hearing on Saturday night. He described it as a profound experience. To hear people speak of their ministry and the lives that depend on the funding from the church was wrenching for him.
LIke so many budgets in so many churches, dioceses, and families cuts are being made – hard choices to make and few without a serious consequence. Having been raised on a Navajo reservation where his father was a doctor he listened to the impassioned plea of theology students from the Diocese of Navajoland ask for funding to be restored for theological education citing the difference trained indigenous people would make for native peoples on Arizona and New Mexico.
A non-stipendiary priest from Alaska who spends her weekends flying to remote villages to lead worship in small churches asked to have the $44 per week it costs for her weekend flights restored so she can continue to give her many congregations the gift of her leadership, caring and presence. David told me these are people for whom the conversations about restructuring and mission strategy are a long way off. They are people on the ground who know the difference a few dollars can make – life and death differences about which they are passionate.
Then it struck him that the money they were talking about came from his support of his parish, that congregation’s assessment paid to the diocese, and their diocesan support of the national church. That linkage had never seemed as real. He had in small measure been supporting these students and this priest involved in life changing ministry – without knowing it. And now because of the several levels of funding crisis that support is being reduced or ended. It brought tears to his eyes think of that prospect.
PB&F is not about buildings, projects, committees and agencies – it is about people and the way in which the Gospel and the world of the church can change lives and communities. He left the meeting knowing that is the focus of the church and the result of a denomination pooling our resources to provide funding for areas, projects, and missions. Passionate people and the lives they seek to transform are the reality beneath the pages and columns of numbers. How do we make choices of what we support, and how will lives be changed or not changed by these choices?