Monday, September 21, 2009

Borrowing and the Economy

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
Proverbs 22:7

I've been thinking about earning money, spending money, and borrowing money for several months now. Not the actual act of doing those things (which I do all the time), but the fact that while it is comparatively difficult to earn money, borrowing and spending it take a mere few mouse clicks. In fact, I can spend literally thousands of dollars, either borrowing it off a credit card or (if I have enough) pulling it directly from my bank account at places like Amazon, eBay, or any one of thousands of online vendors. Even if I have to go to a retail location, a swipe and several keystrokes get me my product and deprive me of a certain number of hard-earned dollars. Heck, even churches can get into the act, with both online donations and even giving kiosks right in the church building!

What is interesting to me is that our entire economy is dependent on such instant gratification and the ability to transfer money in seconds. The "just in time" method of inventory control has now morphed into the "get it now" method of consumerism. Recall that what former President Bush did shortly after September 11, 2001 was not to call us as a nation mobilize for war, but to call us as a nation to shop, shop, shop and otherwise go on with our lives as if nothing had happened. When that adrenalin-jacked up economy finally collapsed late last year, the collapse was huge, in part, because people could instantly move money away from investments that people were newly unsure of and partly because the ability to borrow money was slowed to a crawl.

What's the solution? Well, part of it is what we are seeing now--increasing savings and decreasing spending. Increasing savings frees us from the dependence on borrowing to sustain our chosen lifestyle, both forcing us to live within our means and also helping us to serve God rather than being a "servant to the lender." This is obviously easier said than done--as I've already noted, it is very much easier to spend money than it is to either earn it or save it. So, perhaps as we enter what we in the church euphemistically refer to as "stewardship season" it would be well to reflect not only on what our spending says about our priorities, but exactly how we go about doing that spending says. Do we save for what we need and consider ourselves rich (which, in comparison to the rest of the world, is what we are) or do we constantly long for what we don't have and willingly subjugate ourselves to the Visa or MasterCard gods? Something to think about, especially before the holidays...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Moving "The Library" and Thinking Ministry

As you might imagine, I am in the midst of packing up my church office and preparing boxes to be transported to my office at St. Edward's. As I do so, I am struck again by how many books I have accumulated over a mere thirteen-plus years of ordained ministry. Book accumulation is both a personal inclination and a professional near-necessity. Yet as I begin to sort through this decade-and-a-half (includes three years in seminary) accumulation, I am struck not only by the volume and variety, not to mention the many that I have either not read at all or not read in a decade or more, but that most of the information I get now is most readily accessible via the Internet. Why do I need a big heavy tome of "Who's Who in the Bible" when a couple of keystrokes can get me the same information? The answer, most of the time, is that I don't. Hence the "donate" pile grows ever larger.

As I think about that, and about ministry in general, two things strike me. First, that this readily accessible information fits in a bit too neatly with our culture's frantic pace. Rather than walking over to the bookshelf, bringing back a book or three to my desk, and bending over the desk for some serious, protracted, and substantial research, doing things like sermon preparation too easily fall into the "check the Internet" temptation. Want to know what others have written on that? Check the Internet. Want a good sermon illustration? Check the Internet. Don't get me wrong, I'm in many ways a child of the Internet, and I grew up (and will now once again be ministering) in Silicon Valley, so I am hardly averse to technology. Yet a computer screen is necessarily a less prayerful and deliberate medium than the pages of a book. As I transition to this new call, perhaps there are some lessons to be learned there.

Second, I have been working my way through Kevin Martin's "5 Keys for Church Leaders". The first key he explores is that of the myth of the Pastor as CEO. His point is that in the twenty-first century, the Pastor or Priest is less the all-knowing expert and much more the group facilitator and encourager. I'm realizing that if I had actually read all of the books I own, I would have a huge amount of knowledge--only a fraction of which would likely be useful to me in the day-to-day activities of pastoral ministry. As someone who loves books and learning, it will be good for me to remember that.

Back to book sorting.....

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New Call: St. Edward's, San Jose

As my current congregation is now aware, I have been called to, and accepted, a position as Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Church of St. Edward the Confessor (otherwise known as St. Edward's, or St. Ed's) in San Jose, California. My last Sunday at St. Alban's will be October 4th and my first Sunday at St. Ed's will be October 18. September will be a month in which my family and I pack all of our worldly belongings as well as all of our memories from what will end up being over seven and a half years of life and ministry here in Albany, Oregon. I have only just begun to process the move within myself, so perhaps some of that processing will eventually make it to this blog.

Until then, however, the moving boxes come out, the goodbyes have already started, and we're officially in transition!