Last weekend I was at church for a dinner which was held in our Great Hall, a space that’s known as the fellowship hall in other churches. It’s a big room with a stage at one end and a kitchen at the other. Pretty much everything happens there – coffee hour after worship, Christmas pageants, chorus rehearsals, Qi Gong, youth fellowship, congregational meetings, congregational dinners. The whole schmear.
So I’m in the Great Hall, a place I’ve been hundreds of times, and once again I notice the curtains. Dear Lord in Heaven, they are in terrible shape. On some of them the rod is detaching from the wall, so they hang at a nice slant. On others, the curtain pull mechanism is broken and they look a bit like wilted lettuce (if lettuce were beige, in which case I wouldn’t eat it.) Most of them are stained, and a few have some holes in the lining. So I’m sitting at this dinner and make some sort of remark of exasperation about the curtains.
Not five seconds later, I regret the remark. I’m sitting next to a visiting Presbyterian minister who is one of our denomination’s missionaries working in Mexico along the Arizona border. He has come to speak at the dinner, to teach a class about his ministry and about our relationship with Mexico, and to preach on World Communion Sunday. I bet the last thing he noticed were the curtains. And I wonder if he heard my comment and thought, “with all the need in the world, with all the need I see on a daily basis, with all the need even in your own backyard of Portland, you’re worried about the curtains?”
He didn’t say that, mind you. He made a general comment about taking care of spaces and I, chagrined, quickly changed the subject. I wrestle with it – how do we spend our resources? On the one hand, I want to take pride in our facility, because it is used not only by the congregation but by a variety of groups in the community as well. A few weeks ago we held a memorial service there because there was a wedding in the sanctuary. Did the mourners notice the dilapidated state of things? On the other hand, there are people going hungry; isn’t it better that they are fed than that the curtains look nice?
I suppose it’s good to struggle, but today, I wish for an easier answer.