Bethany is a village of 1300 or so souls. We have five churches that are a part of our ministerial alliance. The catholic church is five miles out of town and no longer has a full time priest so they don't participate. It is my second time around as president of the alliance. The title is largely symbolic as we all work together and decisions are by consensus (Such as waiting until I had to step outside to take a phone call to elect me as president this year). We do things that have been done for as long as any of us knows. It is Christmas time and our big project is at hand. It is voucher time.
We have five community services plus a community VBS. We also give food voucher for the local grocery stores to those who may be in need in our village. The list includes families with single parents and both parents, as well as widows. We are editing a list that is a couple years old. Some of the people have died and some have moved away. Others have gotten better jobs. A couple of single moms have gottern married or are engaged and things while not great are much better and they aren't struggling like they were. After talking to the other pastors we all really want to help people who are in a tough place because of circumstances they couldn't control. But I wonder how much we are really helping some of the folks. Here a few observations.
1. All of the pastors have been here at least two years and yet none of us knew more than half (out of thirty nine names) of the people. The village treasurer didn't know all of them either but she knew more than we did. Ouch!
2. A couple of churches had no connection with anyone on the list. What are the implications of that?
3. Some of the widows have grown children who go to church and profess to be Christians. My opinion is that we shouldn't have to help these widows.
4. Some people have been on this list and have received help for years even though they don't need the help. I will probably receive angry phone calls from some of them when they don't receive their voucher. Some of these people make a comfortable living.
5. Is it my place to judge the economic needs of people I barely know? I'm still sorting through the decision making process.
I plan on bringing to begin a conversation on how our churches can be more effective in ministry to people with economic needs in our community. I have learned a lot about who knows who is in need in our town. I wish more of them were believers.