Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Concluding unscientific postscript

A postscript to this post, an anecdote I had forgotten, but which has some bearing on my point.

The UCC churches in Houston built a HUD low-income housing project in the '60's, and they still operate it today. It was, coincidentally, near the site of Osteen's church before it moved downtown. While I was a pastor of one of the Houston UCC church's, Osteen's church, which even then was both large and wealthy, donated turkeys to the residents of the apartment complex at Thanksgiving. It was a kind, generous, and much appreciated offer.

But one Thanksgiving, the church decided it wanted something in return for its generosity. It decided the residents should come to the church, a few miles away, and pick up their turkeys. In the years before (how long before, I don't know), the turkeys had been delivered. But this year, the turkeys had to be picked up. In person. By the residents.

Most of the residents, of course, didn't have cars. And they couldn't get to the church when it was open to give away the turkeys, because they had to work. The UCC congregations were mostly small, and composed of old people who, to be honest, felt little connection to the residents. But they were also unable to drive large numbers of them to the church to get the turkeys. The general consensus, too, from what was said by Osteen's church, was that the church wanted to evangelize the residents. They wanted, in other words, to recruit a few new church members, at a time when church membership seemed a bit more precarious (this was, if I recall, about the time Joel's father, who founded the church, had died unexpectedly, and Joel had not yet taken his father's place).

So the turkeys weren't delivered that year. Or ever again, so far as I know.

As I say, it can eventually become more important that you get something for your charity, than that you make the charitable gesture. It all has to do with a proper understanding of hospitality; but that's another discussion, isn't it?

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