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Man on Main St for January 21, 2010

Is there a stimulus plan for La Veta/ Cuchara churches?

By Gary Rollins

LA VETA- My wife and I were driving through South Texas, en route to South Padre Island this past month, when we found ourselves motoring through San Angelo, a beautiful Texas city with a rich heritage.

    What caught my attention on that particular afternoon was a painted bulletin that said:

    “If we switch things around, will you come?”

    This was a painted bulletin that was purchased by a local Methodist Church and was rhetorically posing the question:  “What will it take to get you to come to church?”

    You may not be aware of the fact that organized religion – local churches, that is – are being challenged as never before to both attract new members and hang onto churchgoers who are seeking easy-to-understand answers to complex questions dealing with faith.

    As the trip continued, I was attracted again and again to outdoor advertising from churches of all stripes reaching out to invite those with a special need to seek the shelter and the comforting warmth of that local congregation that would welcome the opportunity to share their religious beliefs.

    I mentioned the fact that San Angelo has a rich history and one story I recently unearthed dealt with the fact that the First United Methodist Church in San Angelo’s founder, the Reverend A. J. Potter, was known as the “fighting parson,” because he preached at times with a pistol on his hip and a Winchester in his pulpit.

    As the journey continued, I found myself attracted to some highly provocative white-on-black, all-copy ads considered a part of the  God Campaign.  You’re going to love some of these messages:

     “Please, do not drink when you drive.  You are not ready to see me yet.”

     “Can you imagine what air would cost if someone else provided it?”

    “What do I have to do to get your attention?  Put an ad in the paper?”

     “If you missed the dawn that I made for you today, it does not matter.  I will make you another tomorrow.

    Each ad, of course, was signed:    — God

    As 2009 was ending, I sought out the pastors and the priests and the ministers of churches in La Veta and Cuchara and asked if they would mind sharing their observations as each place of worship dealt with the problems faced as the economy tanked and as each place of worship sought to confront the realities of making ends meet.

    Here’s the bottom line.  In an age where “stimulus funding” is touted as a solution to each community’s problems, there is no stimulus funding for the churches of La Veta and Cuchara.  Walsenburg, too, but that is a subject to be covered later on.

    I found it energizing to note there were some interesting, insightful solutions that represented “out of the box” thinking by various churches.

    One minister shared her discomfort at having to remind her congregation each week that the financial burdens of the church required each and every worshiper to dig a little deeper.  Although our community is blessed with a citizenry that takes great pride in attending church on a regular basis, there comes a point in time when everyone is, quite literally, tapped out, and that’s when it becomes important for one and all to creatively explore other revenue-raising opportunities.

    One such “bright idea” came from Mary D. White, who enjoys a quiet, yet productive life with her husband, Michael “Sandy” White.  Both are members of La Veta’s  St. Benedict Episcopal Church,  the “Tiny Church, Big Heart.”  Mary and Sandy are semi-retired attorneys from Denver.  Each is blessed with a wonderful, positive attitude and a friendly smile.

    Mary learned it was possible to generate additional income for their church by making credit and debit card purchases through an entity called eScrip.  This would have to be considered “found” money inasmuch as eScrip promptly credits St. Benedict Episcopal Church each and every time a credit card transaction is recorded.  The same opportunity exists for each and every church in the area to generate revenue from a previously untapped source.

    In a conversation with Cass Cruz, who serves a local combined ministries organization through his membership at Christ the King Catholic Church, I learned that church was dealing with problems tied to the economic turndown by redoubling their efforts to make ends meet.

    An influx of contributions as the year was ending made it possible for the church to increase their outreach program, an effort that allowed Christ the King Catholic Church to provide special holiday food/gift baskets to 105 needy families.  That’s remarkable progress from the previous year’s 88 baskets.

    And so it must be realized that God is truly listening and those who work hardest will undoubtedly reap the rewards as they seek to serve those who have a greater need in the community.

    Reverend Lyn Burns, the Vicar for St. Benedict, summed it up best.  She said she felt energized by the cooperative spirit of her Episcopalian congregation and felt quite positive about the future for all of those who seek to face the challenges of a difficult economic time.

    I guess the fact that football season is nearing an end allows me to end this week’s musings with a quote that seems appropriate:

    When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

     Do I hear an Amen?

    Thought so.