Friday, 27 April 2012

What price salvation?

This is a slightly technical post, I suppose, but it has caught my interest.

Those of us who are professionally involved in the business of running a charity (e.g. incumbents of churches or the like) will, of course, have spotted an HMRC consultation on a new Gift Aid Small Donation scheme. This will allow charities (and similar organisations) to claim 25% tax aid back on £5,000 of small donations, without needing any donor paperwork or declarations. Jolly good, I hear you say: £1,250 (or so) more income. There are strings attached, special procedures, definitions etc. But that's the gist of it.

But in reading the consultation document, I spotted one of those lovely little gems... (well, I think it is)

What sort of thing is this scheme all about - what sort of donations? Well. it says: "when a charity has a bucket collection to raise funds, or where a religious group passes a plate around for its members to make donations during a service"

Fair enough.

But then a string is attached...

"Qualifying donations under the scheme must be pure gifts ... no benefits may be provided to the donor in respect of a small donation on which a scheme top-up payment is claimed, although charities ... will be able to provide a small token of negligible value to recognise the donation, such as a lapel sticker."

Could be good reformation theology - placing money in the plate gives no benefit to the donor: no sale of indulgences here!

Or, if putting collection money in a plate is a sign of church membership - then eternal salvation has been entered into by faith, accompanied by worship, devout stewardship and renewed discipleship. Salvation is intertwined with popping a penny into the plate. So that salvation must be of 'negligible value'!

Or maybe we should give people a sticker to thank them for putting pennies in the plate - that is definitely allowed. Let the Lord sort out the eternal salvation with HMRC...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The first light 2012 in Dunoon woomphs up: courtesy of goforchris on Flickr

That's the traditional cry in churches up and down the land as Easter Day finally arrives - with the response: 'He is risen indeed, Alleluia!' echoing back.

It's been a good Holy Week and Easter in the linked charges of Cowal and Bute. It's a week of hard work, lots of services, lots of themes and different encounters. Some churches (as I follow them on Twitter or 'like' them on Facebook) have a greater degree of formality. Latin phrases abound as the days of the week, wrapped in unreformed tradition, are played out. Devotional artwork is splashed all over the web, and in church buildings.

The usual slightly competitive edge also seems to appear when clergy blog or tweet or status update about these things. It may just be a desire to articulate that things have gone well (or otherwise) that makes people talk about numbers at services, or running out of hymn books, or all the rest of it. But it is not, in my humble opinion, very healthy to splash the pages of the service register for public display on the web.

Does that mean, Mr Swift (I imagine you say) that your Holy Week and Easter was a poor one? There you go - the desire to prove that we are doing a good job, it is growing, all is well - it can even dart out in the middle of a blog post about it actually being about our Lord and Him being risen!

My statistics I choose to share for this Holy Week and Easter:

Number of candle drip screens gone up in flames in services: 2

Number of tins of petrol consumed for 'first light': 1

Number of ecumenical services I nearly nodded off in: all of them (including my own ones)

Number of shoreline weddings: 1

Number of hours spent worrying about doctrinaire colleagues disapproving of shoreline wedding in Holy Week: 0

Number of business miles driven: 279

Number of business ferry rides: 10

(OK, those last two might be a little bit competitive, but I am a mere human!)

Number of last suppers, crucifixions, lights lit, alleluias shouted and empty tombs fled away from: the right number.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!