Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Curse of Property

Once, while a Pastor in NY State, the congregation I served was disallowed a property tax exemption for property we owned  but was not strictly used for worship (i. e. we did not have a worship service on that site).  Some complained loudly about the terrible old imposing government.  I have always found property to be a mixed blessing and felt the law was the law...

I am reminded again of the "mixed blessing" property is... this week another HVAC unit died (burned through the heat exchanger -- 11 year old unit, 5 year warranty on the heat exchanger).  It will cost us about $10,000 to replace -- the entire annual maintenance budget on our facility.  Got to get it done because it is in the preschool area and the dear little ones will be cold if we do not do something... Is there a silver lining?  I am not so sure... you remember the old Tom Hanks movie, "The Money Pit," don't you?  How much of our attention and dollars are consumed by the necessary evil of buildings and property...

Oh, and another one... repeated bad service led us to switch to Charter Phone (internet based) saving us about $600 per year -- only to find out that it will cost us $700 for a link to the fire alarm system since internet phone service does not satisfy the legal requirement for our fire alarm connection... oh, well...

I could go on... but I won't... even Pastors cost the church money, dontcha know!  And I am sure that there are some in my flock who look at me and think, "Mixed blessing!"


George said...

I disagree. Not that property isn't annoying. We have 2 church buildings -- one from 1866 (oldest building in the area by far) and one from 1970. Both are beautiful in their way. But the maintenance... my heavens. And we definitely can't afford it.

BUT -- the idea of a church without a sanctuary -- a dedicated space for worship, taken care of by God's people -- more than annoying, unthinkable.

Not that that's what you were saying, but I think that we are too "practical" these days. One side of me would rather worship in a rented space in a strip mall. That side I try to drown daily.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Property means one must exercise stewardship. Stewardship always involves work. It is truly the simple fact that we, as fallen creatures, see our work of stewardship as a curse -- and of course, after the fall, that curse is expanded.

Anonymous said...

From 1979 to 1997 I was a member of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, a congregation supported by 5 US based denominations including the ELCA. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, services were held in the US, Canadian, and British Embassies. Afterward we rented an auditorium for Sunday services and Sunday school. For any number of reasons, the rental arrangements did not last for very long periods of time. We moved from location to location without the assurance of any kind of secure, long-term arrangement. Pastor John Melin (ELCA), among other charity efforts, organized soup kitchens in the early nineties, in which up to 1,000 Russian old folks were fed six days a week. Financing was provided by the parishioners, both through personal and corporate contributions.

When it became possible for us to purchase a place of worship, I mentioned this to Pastor Melin. His response was, “God forbid! A building would become a millstone around our necks. All of the people we now feed would starve, because all of our resources would go into the building.”

Your post reminded me of that. The fact is that most congregations use most of their money to provide for themselves, unable to help their needy neighbors. This is at a time when every minute somewhere in the world 10 children starve to death.

It raises a question to which, quite frankly, I do not have an answer. I suspect that the answer is not one I really want to hear. It also makes me marvel that our Lord came from the glory of the Father, in joyful obedience, to a world of sin and suffering, to suffer grievously Himself, while always being concerned about others.

Nevertheless, Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

'In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?' 2Samuel 7:7

There are days when a tent is rather appealing. Then I remember the three foot high snow drifts last winter, the daily rains of spring, the heat and humidity of mid summer and I thank God for the facilities we have.

As I say that, other thoughts flood my mind; I think of the 18 year old girl from California my wife and I dropped off at a rescue mission some 50 miles from here. It is a large facility converted from a retirement home but hasn't enough staff for the number of guests. I look forward to the rescue mission in our own town which is a former dairy barn/car dealership/bodyshop, being converted to care for the needy and wonder why it is I've never seen a rescue mission of any sort that was purpose built. Always the mission finds a home in some facility that no longer serves its original purpose, or cannot be sold because of the location. Meanwhile the city is full of purpose built houses of worship made of bricks and stone. I feel the sting of hypocrisy when I consider that the opposite should be the case. Quite true George, its an answer I don't really want to hear either.