In looking over the statistics for November in Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, part of the Jubilee Ministry Center at St. Mark’s, it came to my attention that in November alone we were able to serve 97 families for a total of 270 persons. What is amazing is that of these 17 families or 37 people were NEW clients of the Cupboard. That means that 17% of the families served had not been in the Cupboard before.
To me this is more evidence that the economic “recovery” is not trickling down to the lower strata of our economic structure. In other words, the problem is getting worse, not better.
In 2011 Church Finance Today reported, "68% of churches in the West-South Central U.S., and 64% of churches in the East-South Central U.S. have expenses exceeding income. These are the best regions in the country." This poses an interesting question: how are churches that can’t even pay their own bills with current income provide the safety net that is necessary for our own society in the long term? This is one of the fallacies that plague our current political debates over care for the poor: that “private sector” organizations (i.e. churches and non-profits) are the proper purview for this kind of work – that it is not part of government’s responsibility.
I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this leads me to a question I shudder to ask. Is this a way to accelerate the decline of main-line protestant churches, I mean the ones that are traditionally identified as “liberal” in their social justice stance? The logic is there: if these churches feel compelled to take care of the poor, let them. Soon enough they will spend their way out of existence and the social consciousness that they espouse will go with them.
Honestly, I do not think that there is any such conspiracy. However, the logic is inescapable and if we continue to ignore the proper role of government in providing a social safety net for those who are unable to care for themselves, we will in fact lose part of our national soul.
Meanwhile, the Jubilee Ministry Center at St. Mark’s will continue to feed those who seek assistance motivated by the love of Christ. Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Parishioners’ Outreach will continue to touch and change lives just when individuals felt that they were at the end of their fiscal rope. We will do so even as the parish struggles to keep its fiscal head above water because it is not about our institutional survival – it is about our fundamental commitment to the Gospel to care for the least and the lost in our community.