Many strands of thinking recently seem to have been taken up by the notion of priorities: what do we put first? Are we called to think of ourselves first, and others later – or is it the other way around? Do we put our country first, and others later? Do we put our family ahead of our neighbours? If our country and our faith clash, which one wins?
We can find ourselves asking the same ‘priority’ questions when it comes to money. For example, how much priority should money be able to buy? And what are our priorities when it comes to spending money? For some, that question might be about cars or holidays, clothes or meals out; for some, it is whether you buy warmth or food. For some, of course, there may be no need of priority talk – anything and everything is possible.
Such fortunate people, however, are very much in the minority. Either as individuals or as organisations most of us have to work out our priorities – because we can’t do everything. And that is also true for us as a congregation. The planned work on our building had already made us look at our possibilities and our choices, but then the priority of repair to the stonework took over. And we are now in the position where those essential repairs have set aside all the more imaginative things we had hoped to do, using up all our available money. And so, probably beginning in April, our whole building will be encased in scaffolding until mid-July. It will not be pretty, and the resultant benefits will be invisible, and the improvements we had prioritised will have slipped over the horizon, out of sight. But it has to be done – because that is the priority if further erosion is to be avoided, along with the hazards that come with crumbling stonework.
The point about which we need constantly to remind ourselves, however, is how fortunate we are to have money at our disposal. Many, many congregations can have no discussions about financial priorities because the money is simply not there. We cannot do everything, but we can do something; we can do what has to be done. All that is possible because of the generosity of previous generations. Now we have a discussion about priorities with which to engage once again. Where do we go from here? What, of the previously identified projects, do we want to hang on to? Where do they sit in our list of priorities for the future of our congregation? And, not being able any longer to use money we have inherited from the past, what will we do to build our future?
Lent is not far away, beginning on Wednesday 1st March. It is a time, based on Jesus’ time in the wilderness, of self-examination, of self-discovery, of re-dedication. It need not be solely about us as individuals; it can also be about our communal existence as the people of God.
With every blessing,