It started as a casual conversation, as such things often do. I’m not sure who brought it up, but I posed the, shall we say, awkward question.
“Why should people give to the presbytery? In today’s world, where so many of the ‘givens’ – like ‘if we put a church on the corner people will come worship with us on Sunday mornings’ – are no longer so ‘given,’ how do we answer that question? In the olden days of say, 40, 50 years ago, it wasn’t that the answer was necessarily more obvious, but that the question was not even raised. Of course congregations give to the presbytery – just like people tithe, attend committee meetings, and worship on Sunday mornings. It just was.
But, that world is a world that seems to be behind us, not in front of us.
Thus the casual conversation that led to the uncomfortable question.
Why should people give to the presbytery? Why should congregations give to the presbytery? There are a lot of other ways a congregation can use its resources, for its own local ministry and mission in the world. If we sense that we are in a time of scarcity, which it seems like many sense whether or not it is actually true, then isn’t it wise or even prudent or faithful to carefully steward those resources by using them directly for the congregation and its mission?
It is an uncomfortable question for those of us who benefit from the presbytery – if I ask this, will I pull a thread that dismantles it all? What will that mean for me, financially?
One might think that the appropriate thing to do with such a question would be to stuff it, to hide it, to pretend that it never came up. Instead, I posted it to Facebook. The responses were interesting, but also not entirely surprising.
They were similar to the responses that came up in the instigating conversation – a presbytery is essential when things go wrong, to help the congregation. A presbytery provides the fiduciary responsibilities. A presbytery is there in times of need.
“Sure, those are important things,” I remember saying. “But I want farfegnugen!” You remember it, right? The Volkswagen commercials promoting the joy of farfegnugen – essentially, the driving pleasure, or driving enjoyment – but also so much more – freedom, the open road, beauty, limitless possibilities and adventure.
I want farfegnugen. I want an answer that provides farfegnugen.
What is the farfegnugen of a presbytery? Of course, in order to have farfegnugen one needs the ‘fiduciary’ components such as an engine that actually works, tires that have air, gas in the tank. But those are so boring.
My Stated Clerk reminds me though that the same company so exciting for its farfegnugen was the one that was hit by scandal because it failed to attend to the boring, fiduciary components that hold it together. “It’s hard to have farfegnugen if the car is not actually drivable.”
But what about adventure? Open road? Limitless possibilities? I do believe that God not only invites but calls us to a life of adventure, beauty, and freedom in our mission and ministry in the world.
But to live that out we also need a ‘car that will drive.’
It seems to me that our presbytery can give us both, if we let it. Of course it can provide us the essential fiduciary components – the, ‘in case you need it, we are here’ kind of stuff. But if we just settle for that, I think we are missing something that is also essential. Because, I want to believe, that as a presbytery we can find farfegnugen together – that we are actually better together than alone. Farfegnugen should be a shared experience – one that we share together, so that we might also share it with the world.
See related article: “Why First-Fruits Giving is Good for Your Soul and the Church“