Richard the treasurer finally reached that item on St. Someone’s PCC agenda that had rattled them into action in the first place. Those dwindling reserves.
Despite the general feeling of positivity that had snuck into the room (perhaps coincidentally) with the arrival of Kevin and his trays of still-warm biscuits, there was a palpable shift when Richard mentioned their reserves, or lack of. The PCC looked exactly how Rev John felt. Strained, anxious and covered in crumbs.
Tim, who hated talking finances more than anyone, slunk further down his seat in misery. No sooner had Richard laid out the facts about their situation than Mary took off her spectacles and placed them on the table. She was gearing herself up. No one spoke. It was always best if Mary wasn’t interrupted.
Finally, sure of everyone’s undivided attention, she stated with characteristic closed eyes and head shaking, “This long-term approach from the Generous Giving Project might well help us to be sustainable in the future. It might well connect giving with faith, resources with mission and make us better disciples. But it isn’t a magic wand that will fix the hole in our accounts tonight.”
Faces around tables took on appropriately grim expressions. Heads nodded in agreement. She continued.
“Yes, it should never have been left this long, and yes, if only we’d been more explicitly and inclusively generous sooner, rather than relying on reserves, we wouldn’t all be sitting here tonight at this this crisis meeting… eating cookies!” She glared at her husband who was still chewing. “David!”
Realising far too late that he shouldn’t have been eating whilst she was holding forth, he carefully put down his cookie and kept his eyes on the table.
“But what’s the point in trying to change the culture when what we need is money now?”
Rev John picked at his sleeve again, his inner dialogue continuing in the background of the meeting, as it always did. It’s a jolly good thing we are running out of reserves, he thought to himself, blushing at this radical, private view. If only he had the confidence, he’d say that this was the best thing for the church.
Now they were running out completely, they could put all their faith in God and the generosity of their community, and not solely rely on good old Victor’s legacy. Incredibly generous though that was, he was only one parish member, and the man had been dead since 1996. What about today’s disciples?
In fact, Rev John fundamentally disagreed with storing great reserves. He held firmly to what Jesus said about not to storing up treasures on earth and God only giving Moses enough manna from heaven for one day, so the Israelites learned to trust in him. He looked back at knitted Moses and imagined him giving him a thumbs up, if Jaqueline had knitted him thumbs, which she hadn’t.
The problem was, Rev. John really hated social awkwardness, especially disagreements, and he expected his ideas would be unpopular at best. And, like David, Rev. John, was most afraid of Mary. He’d been watching Mary from behind his table, wondering whether David got told off at home as much as he got told off in PCC meetings.
He was paralysed into total inaction for fear of being unpopular amongst his beloved flock. His anxieties had led to procrastination which, in turn, had made him more anxious and… procrastinatious, which, he mused, probably wasn’t even a word. He tried scribbling it on his agenda, while Mary continued spouting her many objections and doubts.
He assumed he was the only one at St. Someone’s who felt this way about the reserves. What he didn’t realise, because he’d never voiced his reservations about reserves, was that Claire, Kevin and Amy felt exactly the same as him.
Claire wanted to say something, but she was the youngest PCC member. She thought she wouldn’t be listened to. Kevin wanted to speak up, but he was the newest PCC member. He didn’t dare. Amy wanted to voice her opinion but she was on income support and couldn’t give much money. She mistakenly thought her opinions about church finances counted for less, because she gave less.
If only these things could be discussed openly, she’d realise how valued her input and generosity were. If the topic of generosity wasn’t reserved for “crisis meetings”, and instead was discussed positively and openly, maybe they’d all find their voices. That was the problem with being so hush hush about giving, generosity and finances.
At that moment, just as Mary had found an ever so slightly different way of saying exactly the same thing for the seventh time (what’s the point in trying to change the culture when we have no money now?) the meeting was interrupted again, this time by the arrival of the Generous Giving Project Officer.
She hadn’t brought any freshly baked cookies, so her interruption was already a slight disappointment, though she wasn’t to know that. She assumed everyone’s strained expressions were looks of eager anticipation, so she smiled widely and greeted the room.