The new priest at our parish gave an uncomfortable appendix to the homily (that is to say, he sounded uncomfortable) explaining that our parish has an operating budget deficit in excess of $15,000 and that we’d have a special collection next week to work that down, and also that we’re forming a finance committee to cut our budget even closer to the bone than it already is.
My initial response (of course) was to explain to God that if my agent sold my book for some ridiculously high figure, I’d have to tithe that much and everything would be great.
Immediately I felt/realized no, that’s not how God wants us to respond. God’s not looking for our parish to pick up some kind of Sugar Daddy who will swoop in and meet all our needs. The ideal response (especially on Pentecost Sunday) would be for all the parishioners to contribute in some way toward working down the deficit.
And it doesn’t have to be financial contribution: it could be an accountant joining the finance committee. It could be an enterprising mom offering to kid-sit during parish activities for a nominal fee, which would then go back into the parish funds. Back in our old parish, I “fund-raised” by bringing my beading tools and beading supplies to a coffee hour and offering simple rosary repair for a dollar apiece. Did it raise fifteen grand? No, but it raised something, and several broken rosaries were repaired, and some people told me the stories about these special rosaries.
If God were to magically remove the need, then our motivation to work as a community would dry up, and then we’d be right back where we are now.
I said to my Patient Husband afterward, People are more likely to contribute if they’re emotionally invested in the community. And he replied, “You have to make a community. It doesn’t just happen because people show up.”
Maybe what God wants is us to work together, not just for us to pay our bills.
But having said that: God, if my agent sells my novel for a skazillion dollars, I’m totally tithing to my parish.
A community happens when you get people to 1 sing together 2 eat together 3 work together. In other words, you need to mimic the traditional tribe, clan or extended family. The world we’ve built is mostly good at pulling these apart and reducing everyone to individuals.
I remember when Australia took a lot of refugees from Timor on a short term basis. They ended up in Northern Australia and a flood of various kinds of social workers went up to help them. Some were friends of mine who came back very puzzled. They had a lot of government money to house these people in good accommodation, like motels and hotels. But the Timorese families preferred to live in the local camping ground in tents, so they could be together in larger family groups.