Monday, February 18, 2013

The Spiritual Gift of Counting Money after Church

I tend to think that volunteer work looks a certain way:  it helps the poor, the dispossessed, those who can't help themselves.  If I'm not alleviating a social injustice, I tend not to count it.

Yesterday, we spent almost 2 hours after church counting the offering.  We have 3 services, plus there was the Ash Wednesday money and the Men's Pancake Supper fundraiser dollars that had never gotten taken to the bank.

You might say, "How difficult could it be?"  I would excuse your dismissal.  I, too, used to say such things.

We're not a very automated church.  We have a variety of slips that come back that have to be separated.  We have envelopes for this, and envelopes for that:  regular offering, special gifts, upcoming events that require flowers and dedications (lilies, poinsettias, etc).  We have people who forget to use their special envelopes, and so we have to sort the pew envelopes.

We have cash, and we have checks.  And then there are the forms.

Oh, the forms.  We've streamlined them, but still.  The bank requires forms, and we fill in our own forms for our records.  We make various tallies, and then they must match.

It's dizzying and headache inducing, and it takes time.  And then, when it's done, we take it to the bank, to the overnight depository, because it's just not safe to leave that much cash in an office.  And then we bring the overnight depository key back to the office.

When I take a tally to determine how much good I'm doing in the world, I tend to forget about this kind of work.  It doesn't feel like I'm making the world a better place by doing it.  No one says thank you.  No one exclaims how important it is.  Like straightening the kitchen after coffee hour, it's very much a behind the scenes kind of thing.  Even more behind the scenes than coffee hour clean up, I would argue--the people who stay for coffee hour can see the mess they're leaving behind.  People who donate money have often never stayed to count.

But just like the kitchen clean up, the money counting and going to the bank is essential.  There are bills to be paid, paychecks to distribute, social justice to be done--and none of it can happen if the money doesn't make it to the bank.

Anyone can clean the kitchen, but not everyone can be allowed to count.  Some people should not be subject to the temptation of that much cash, that much banking information.  Some people shouldn't be allowed access to the confidential information contained in offering plates. 

And you'd be surprised how many people don't have the basic math skills required for counting.  Or the patience.

I was tired before we started, and we came home to collapse on the sofa.  We watched a western, Open Range, where the bad guys are clearly differentiated from the good guys, and by the end, the town is cleaned up.  No mundane tasks like counting the money.  I've been shaped by this ethos.  It's no wonder I think that social justice work should blaze forth, not work behind the scenes.

Soon we will be in the season of Pentecost, that time where we think about our spiritual gifts.  I notice that Saint Paul never mentions counting the money either.

Sure, I'd like a flashier spiritual gift:  to be able to heal or prophesy.  Of course, those probably come with some fairly severe drawbacks.

Ah, the eternal task:  to appreciate the gifts that I have, without envying the gifts bestowed to others.

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