One of the reasons I have been avoiding blogging lately is because I have a lot of things I would love to write about, but I can't.
A couple are topics and discussions that are confidential on a professional level. Some are just things that hit too close to home for myself and I'm not willing/able to take that leap of faith and just put out there for all to read what is close to my heart. They are things I need to deal with in person before I am able to properly reflect upon them. Or maybe I really do just need to take that leap, get over the fear, and put it in writing. Leave it out there and maybe that will give me the courage to have the harder face to face conversations I have been putting off.
What I am able to talk about is the touchy subject of financial outreach.
Everyone I talk to has their own take on how to best provide real financial resources to folks in need and in the past few weeks I have whittled the differences down to three categories:
1) Contributions to a community fund that pastors then refer folks to. This method is very connectional, allows for a sharing of resources, and takes the burden off of any one congregation or pastor... especially if they are not the ones actually managing the funds.
2) Congregational "Love Funds." This money is held by a particular congregation, folks make donations to it and disbursement is at the discretion of the pastor.
3) Connections to outside agencies and networks of support. This takes a lot of legwork and knowledge by the pastor to have these contacts built up in the first place when the need arises.
4) Personal time/energy/money. Every now and then there is someone who needs a tank of gas or a meal and when we can and are able - pastors are extremely generous folks. As a colleague wrote me: what is needed and is it within my capacity to meet that need? I know of a lot of folks who go above and beyond and their mental health, energy and family suffer for it... your capacity is a lot different than your wallet.
I felt so guilty that we couldn't do more as a church or as a community. I felt personally guilty. I didn't want to call and say no.
I think I was feeling convicted by the idea from James that if you say you will pray for someone who is hungry but don't give them any food, then you aren't doing anything for them.
Money isn't everything. Sometimes it feels like that, but its not.
This Sunday, we lit the first candle on the advent wreath as a reminder that the hope of the world is Christ and Christ alone. Not a bank account. Not a fundraiser. Not a paid bill. But Christ.
And things out there are tough - all around they are tough. People are hurting because of broken relationships and they are struggling because of a lack of work and lack of funds. They are angry with systems that fail them and they are disappointed in the outcome of their work. And we sit and wallow in this muck and in the words of Rob Bell: yell at the darkness for being dark.
And when we do that... we have the strength to answer the phone call when the next creditor calls. We have the peace in our hearts that enables us to hold the hand of a loved one and tell them goodbye one last time. We can let go of the guilt and simply love the best we can, right here and right now.