Making your list and checking it twice

Church consultant Mike Durrall has proposed an interesting idea. Why not figure out how much money you’re going to spend on Christmas presents this year, and budget that same amount of money to give to your congregation’s social justice programs? Wouldn’t that be a great present to give to your congregation, and to the wider world?

This makes sense to me from a religious perspective. Christmas has not been completely secularized, and from my Unitarian Universalist perspective the Christmas story does have some interesting religious themes: the hospitality of the stable, and the lack of hospitality at the inn; and the magi giving expensive gifts to a family that is not particularly well off. And thinking about this gives me a specific idea of how we could donate money for social justice uses to our congregations at Christmas.

The minister’s discretionary fund in most congregations is used (at least in part) to provide confidential financial aid to people who need money right now. If, for example, a young couple were traveling and suddenly discovered that they had no money to rent a room at the Best Western Bethlehem, they could stop at the Bethlehem Unitarian Universalist Society and get money from the minister’s discretionary fund. However, in the present state of the economy, most minister’s discretionary funds have been sadly depleted. Often that money goes to members and friends of the congregation who are financially desperate, some of whom may have no other place to turn.

Why couldn’t we all budget some Christmas money to give to the minister’s discretionary fund of our local congregations? We can take a tax deduction, people who need it will receive confidential help, and we’ll feel good about giving one of the best Christmas presents ever. What do you think? Would a minister’s discretionary fund be a reasonable destination for this kind of Christmas giving?

P.S.: It occurs to me that if you don’t belong to a local congregation, or are a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, or if your local congregation doesn’t have a minister’s discretionary fund, you could give money to CLF’s prison ministry (PDF flier on how to sponsor a prisoner) as a sort of equivalent idea.

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