Monday, July 21, 2008

FOR WANT OF AN ENORMOUS AND MULTIMILLON DOLLAR NEW BUILDING.......

I have written about my church's massive multimillion dollar capital campaign almost a year ago.

Well, even though they're a couple 'a million shy the original goal, demolition begins this week I believe, on the second phase of the project *drumroll please* the Children's Pavilion. Never mind that two of the pastors are now doing three jobs with less assistance. Never mind that the original building's goals have not yet produced the regular "programs" that were planned, because the plan was to staff the church mostly with volunteers who have not materialized. Although all the hype you would read or hear decries the opposite of what you would see and experience.

The macro tragedy is the enormous amount of expenditure into buildings so grandiose that many are now askance at said grandiosity. Not to mention the debt the church will be burdened with for many many years. (Financing is with independent banks, not Presbytery). And when, as I fear, a sizable amount of the pledges those loans are based upon, prove to be uncollectable, it's not gonna be pretty.

The micro tragedy (or actually tragedies) that draws my sight to the macro tragedy are personal experiences such as -

~I learned that a mission fund had an additional $6,000 to give away and was looking for needs. I called them. Twice. And e-mailed. With a most appropriate avenue. No one ever called me back or replied to my e-mail. Not even to say "Sorry, already spoken for".

~One of the pastors was to call me, during a difficult time, which I was really needing. Took my number. And never called. When I saw him some weeks later, not even a mention of the oversight.

~The deacons received new assignments this year. I received a postcard telling me that "K" was to be my new deacon. When I saw her on Deacon Sunday she said, "No I'm not. You're not on my list". I don't believe I was on any list. At any rate, three months later now, "K" kindly "adopted" me, after the pastor in charge of the deacons was not able to figure out what had happened. I've talked to several members recently who have said, "What? We still have deacons? What do they do?"

~And this, which really makes me sad in terms of the new 8 million dollar Children's Pavilion. I volunteered to teach Sunday School this summer. Such a big push for volunteers needed because summer is so difficult. I have never taught at this church, so I expected some kind of phone call, or flyer or something to prepare me. At least tell me where to meet. The Thursday before the first Sunday I was to teach, I finally got an answer to my e-mail saying that because of the early demolition on the Sunday School buildings there had been no time to prepare a lesson and that a video would be shown. The second week, it took my third e-mail sent late Saturday night to find out that VBS had taken more attention than thought and again, a lesson had not been prepared and a video would be shown.

~Wonderboy and I ran into a young woman who had grown up in the church. I asked her what she thought of the highly touted youth programs. She sighed and said that she had tried to get into the youth groups there, but as she neither lived in the area nor attended the same school most of the kids did that they ignored her. That it was a very cliquey group. And this surprised me because for years I've heard what a great program this church does with its youth. Though it misses the mark on most everything else. Certainly the children's choir has not been that way for us.

The upshot is that Wonderboy will participate in his beloved Children's Choir with Janet and Judy one more year. Especially since his school will be new. Then I believe it will be time to move on.

And I will never again volunteer for anything at this church. It makes me ill to imagine what good would have come if the building and upgrades (many of which were sorely needed, to be fair) had been done in keeping with the original architecture and done more modestly, with all that lovely money.

Now they will have a very fancy Children's Pavilion to show the kids videos on Sunday because there was no time to prepare a lesson.

20 comments:

cheesehead said...

(((PG)))

Well, dear, this reminds me that we are all just "monkeys with pants" (as WonderGirls says) no matter the size of our church or the opulence of our buildings.

Which I'm sure was not your point, but there you have it.

I'm sorry, on behalf of clergy everywhere, that this has been your experience.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

It sounds like the leadership of your congregation has a bad case of Madison-Avenue thinking. People go where there is life and love, not elaborate architecture.

I'm sorry they have proven to be so disappointing.

Reformed Catholic said...

It sounds familiar. The same faces run everything, and you don't see new faces because the old faces don't want to relinquish control.

In the meantime the church runs into the ground as families leave the church because they're being ignored as the church moves in a direction that does not server all the members, only the few.

Rev Kim said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. Like RC said, though, as much as we like to think it is the exception I think it's more and more common. I hear similar stories from my "home" church, a mid-size church in So Cal.

You write about this so eloquently. Do you think if you wrote a letter to the Session saying what you said here it would help raise their awareness of the deeper issues in the congregation? If it's happened to you, you know it's happened to many others.

(((PG)))

dust bunny said...

I'm sorry. When you and Wonderboy leave, that church will be losing out big time. Nobody to blame but themselves.

soul and culture said...

Suck. But I'm so glad Wonderboy has another run with Janet and Judy.

Singing Owl said...

Oh man. I'm so sorry. Like someone said to your earlier post about this, it is a different world than the one I'm in. We are happy to have 60 on Sunday, and when we remodeled our badly outdated building we did most of the work ourselves. The big children's pavillion where the kids watch a video...oh my, PG, that was SO sad. :-(

Jan said...

I'm so sorry. Too many churches get involved in the display and money, but forget the heart. I hope you and WB find a church that fits better to you and the Gospel.

mompriest said...

((PG))..so sorry...

Barbara B. said...

The deacon saying, "You're not on my list" struck me as hilarious. I know it SHOULDN'T be funny, but in a sick way it is. :)

Quotidian Grace said...

What a shame, PG.

These days it is really hard to find good volunteers for anything and church is no different. Your church leadership is being very unrealistic.

As for the youth group--that sounds very familiar. It is the way of the teenager to group with their school friends. And the bane of youth group leaders.

Mary Beth said...

Rats, rats, rats.

I hate this for you and for that church.

Definitely write the letter.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

augh... yet another story which confirms for me that the institutional church is dying a slow brought on by itself death. whenever will the Church rise up and BE the Church?

mocha java is whining in consternation as i post...

zorra said...

How sad. You know I remember a different church, twenty years ago. Things do not always change for the better. I'm sorry for all your hurt and frustration.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Rev Kim and Mary Beth,
the letter would be a waste of time. From what I can gather hearing other members talk, they are a rubber stamp session that never ever say no to the head pastor. I understand he's given to throwing some 5 alarm tantrums when he does not get his way. Almost got him fired about a decade ago.

Kievas said...

This is sad to hear...I hope you find a church where God is truly in residence, even if it's a tent.

Jan said...

Off the subject--

I've tagged you for a silly meme that could turn out to be interesting with your sense of humor!

ann said...

I refer to this as the 'ministry to impress' and it's all the rage in a lot of places. This phrase from AA sticks in my head - neither money, property, nor prestige interfere with our primary spiritual aim. (my paraphrase). So, where are the people in all of that.

Reformed Catholic said...

Presbyterian Gal said...
hearing other members talk, they are a rubber stamp session that never ever say no to the head pastor. I understand he's given to throwing some 5 alarm tantrums when he does not get his way.


(sarcasm mode on)
Hmm ... guess he's trained his Session well.
(sarcasm mode off)

I guess that Session does not realize that the Pastor is answerable to the Session, and vice versa. There is supposed to be a 'check and balance' there that in many cases works, but sadly in others doesn't.

Jodie said...

Oh Oh...

Another victim of the 'corporate model' church.

I'd say its time to find another church. One that will recognize and use your gifts.