23 January 2009

THE ADVENTURES OF GRAYING PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

As some of the visitors left the room, Pastor Rex asked Ed Carpenter, the session’s liaison with the Trustees to present the Trustees Report. Ed noted that three Trustees were present and then read, verbatim, the written report that had been provided to each elder.

He then asked that privileges of the floor be granted to the three trustees in attendance. There then began a 45 minute discussion of the budget that had been adopted only six weeks earlier.

Matilda Gaap gave a detailed analysis of the weekly financial breakdown from Sunday’s collection, the monthly financial breakdown, the year-end results for 2008, and the trends from the previous quarter, complete with charts and graphs. She reported that the Trustees were already concerned that the 2009 budget was too ambitious and “demanded” that spending be curtailed within the various ministry committees until it became clear that 2009 would be a “profitable year.”

“Well, now, that’s just not right,” exclaimed Paul Peters. “The Session determines the budget of the church and the benevolence objectives of the congregation. That’s what it says in the Book of Order. The trustees cannot ‘demand’ anything. Now, I have no problem with holding down our spending to make sure we have the money to keep operating, but there is one item that is just not negotiable. As we all know, it has always been our policy that the first twenty cents of every unrestricted dollar that comes through the door goes to mission. And I can tell you that Mission Committee will meet our commitments. Any idea that anyone has that we can shortchange Mission, even for a week or two, is unacceptable.”

“Wait a minute, there Paul.” Earl Regis, the Clerk, was getting red in the face. “Are you suggesting that if the choice is heating oil today with a temporary shift from Mission to Operations is wrong, so long as Missions ultimately gets its 20percent?”

“Darn tootin, Ed. Some of the other committees can eat that. I mean, we’re gonna have Sunday School whether or not CE has some modern la-ti-da ‘curriculum.’ What’s wrong with just reading the Bible, anyway? That’s what we did when I was a boy, and it worked just fine. But Mission budget just cannot be touched.”

Ellen Klass shook her head. “Paul, things are different today. You teach the “Basement Class” and that works just fine for you. But you’re one of the younger members of that class and I seem to recall that we just celebrated your 71st birthday. The teachers we have for the children are working moms and folks who are still learning the ropes of Christianity themselves. Thank goodness we have them. But they are not folks who can just open their Bibles and present a lesson to six and seven year olds. They need the organization and direction that we get from good curriculum. If I tell them that they have to prepare lesson plans and get materials on their own, I’ll lose some of them.”

“Calm down, Ellen. I see your point. I’m just saying that the other ministry committees need to figure out where the money is coming from. Mission will not give up its share!”

Pastor Rex interrupted. “Let’s get the Trustees report out of the way and then we can discuss remedies later. We have already blown through the 30 minutes allotted to Trustees and we still need to review the work-order list, the investment report, and the cemetery report.”

After a ten minute discussion of outstanding work orders and five more minutes on investments and rates of return, Jim Jordan presented the cemetery report. “It’s all in my written report. Any questions? None? Thanks.”

“OK,” said Pastor Rex, “it’s fifteen after nine. We’re a little behind schedule. Does anyone need a break or can we continue?”

Red shuddered. An hour is ‘a little behind”, he thought.

Ellen Dyess gave the Deacon’s Report. “We have been very busy this month. We delivered flowers to six shut-ins. We have added nine names to the prayer list—please pray for them. When the trustees can fix the recording system, we will begin distributing tapes of Sunday services to anyone who asks for them. The benevolence treasurer’s report is in my written report. Any questions?”

“Uh, yes ma’am,” said Red. “Do you remember when Mrs. Frobisher was here? She asked if some of the Deacons could help her teach a twice-a-week Bible study at the Hidden Cove Shelter. That seems to be a pretty good idea. What do you think?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I mean, we’ve never done that sort of thing. We are more a prayer ministry, you know. I’m sure Sandy means well, but that’s really more in the area of CE or Outreach, don’t you think? I mean, we already ask our Board to deliver flowers and tapes—if the trustees ever get their act together—and that might just be too much for us. I mean, CE probably already has materials that they could just send over with their regular teachers. I mean, that would be so much easier for us, don’t you think?”

Red saw. Red saw red. How much longer, oh Lord, how much longer?

Well, what next? Will the trustees ever get their act together? Will anyone actually pray for the “names” on the prayer list? Will our faithful listeners—er, readers—be able to contain themselves until after the meeting ends so that we can begin to dig around in this mess? Will an aging two-fingered typist be able to keep this up? Tune in tomorrow for more action at Graying Pres.

6 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

And my former church is starting a Pilates class!

These guys forgot the Yoga and Pilates class items on the agenda.

Stushie said...

Excellent Satire!

Quotidian Grace said...

What's the cemetery report?

I hate to think....

Reformed Catholic said...

Well ... SPG rents its hall Tuesdays thru Thursdays to a dance studio. They do this exercise dancing with the music so loud, we can here it at the other side of the structure with all the doors closed.

The rent is a pittance, and the elders tell me this is an outreach to the community.

My response ... and how's that working for us??

The answer ... well, er, um ... (silence).

Nuff said!

Reformed Catholic said...

Oh .. the best part is this.

The CE Ministry is trying to get its youth group together. They'd like to have the church hall next fall on Wednesday nights for youth night.

Horrors ... the dance studio has it that night, we can't just chuck them out for a church function.

Me: !!?????!!!!?????!!!! WHAT ??

Others: let's not put the cart before the horse, lets make sure that you will have youth to use the hall, rather than give up an income source.

Me: ARRGGGHHHHHHHH !!!!

Mac said...

QG: We have a nearly 300 year old cemetery, with its own trust fund. The cemetery report is usually "Two buried, three plots sold." or words to the effect.

RC: That is one thing we do very right--anyone who rents space long-term (none right now) is made to understand that our activities and needs come first.