Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Slippery Slope

I recently read this question on the blog of another young pastor: "Should a church be allowed to increase the minister's salary if they cannot pay 100% of their apportionments?" That is, what is church's responsibility to itself versus the connection. I remember the first district meeting I ever attended, which was in Albuquerque, several of the pastors had "scarlet A's" on their chests indicating that they had hired new staff but not paid their apportionments. I don't really know the correct answer to this and think there are strong arguments for both sides. But this question came to mind last night in the trustees meeting about what is the right thing to do.

The roof on the sanctuary has lots of cracks in it. Those who have been up there have serious concerns and give thanks to God that the roof has not yet started to leak. But they don't think they can put the repair off any longer and so have gotten bids to get a new roof to the tune of $32,000. At the same time, there are several other repairs that also need to be done. One of them is to fix our elevator which is currently out of service. It was asked whether that could be put off and the money used for other things.

I said that from a theological perspective, we welcome everyone into this congregation and therefore if someone comes in who needs access, either a child or a parent, we need to make sure that it is available to them. I was very proud that they all immediately understood this argument and supported it. But that did not change the very difficult question on where the money would come from.

The discussion then moved to whether the roof repair would be put off so that the elevator repair could be done. And here is where it gets difficult for me. I said I considered them both priorities, but in ranking them I would put repairing the roof first because the potential ramifications if the roof starts leaking are much greater. We can make accommodations to have Sunday school classes upstairs if necessary, and therefore can put off fixing the elevator for the moment.

Is that the right decision? I don't know. Does putting money into the building in the form of the roof impinge on our message of inclusiveness and welcome if someone needs the elevator? I think it does, and I'm concerned about the slippery slope that it creates. But I'm also concerned that while we can still accommodate someone in a wheel chair or someone who has difficulty with stairs, if the roof starts leaking and the plaster on the ceiling starts coming off we are in serious trouble. This is one of those dilemmas where I just don't think there is a right answer. In a perfect world, of course, we fix both, but until the Kingdom is here, we don't live in that perfect world. What are your thoughts?

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