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A lesson in trust
During lean economic times, local churches encourage members that God will take care of them
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The Rev. Glenn Parrish and the choir sing during a Sunday service at First United Methodist Church of Oakwood. Parrish said many in his congregation are retired and watching the stock market closely, but the church is doing OK financially. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


The Rev. Glenn Parrish talks about encouraging people during the tough economic times.

When tough financial times hit, churches don't escape the economic pressure.

After all, just like everyone else, many church members are faced with job losses, a floundering stock market and the rising cost of basic necessities.

And while the church is called to offer support to its congregation, it often has less funds to do so with tithes suffering due to the economy, too.

"We really cut back to stretch a penny anywhere we could, and where our year-end giving would usually help a church get ahead, it's just helped us catch up," said the Rev. Sydney Magill-Lindquist of Unity of Gainesville Church. "We actually brought a deficit in from 2007."

Magill-Lindquist said she has heard of other churches with financial problems, as well.

"I've seen churches with as much as a $33,000 deficit, $53,000 deficit," she said. "So we're asking the question, ‘How are we answering this?' and ‘What are we doing about it on a spiritual basis?'"

At Unity, the congregation has begun a program called the 40 Day Calendar for Prosperity and Abundance.

"Let's just focus on the abundance of our congregation," Magill-Lindquist said. "Even in these times we can find our way through this and have an abundant time and blessing our congregants, and then that in turn will bless our church."

Magill-Lindquist said through the recent tough times, the church has seen a rise in attendance, and members are focused on supporting one another.

"This is a time that we get our connection with God, and God is greater than everything and every situation," she said. "Somehow we've always managed to get our bills paid."

Meanwhile, the Rev. Julia Demory hasn't seen the suffering economy hit Wesley Chapel Methodist, yet.

"At my church right now things are fine," said Demory, senior pastor at Wesley Chapel Methodist Church in Hoschton and an associate pastor at St. Paul United Methodist in Gainesville. "I've talked to other pastors, and of course they are feeling the crunch right now. But as far as Wesley, God has blessed us; we are doing OK.

"Things could change with layoffs that are happening to people. We believe in God for what we need right now."

The church in Hoschton has actually seen giving increase recently, Demory said.

"A lot of times people will tithe more because they are looking for more from God, and they feel like if they tithe more he'll provide more," Demory said. "In fact, I did a sermon last week and the title was ‘A Thankful Heart,' to be thankful to God for what he has done and not worry.

"The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow, that he will take care of that. If he says he'll take care of the birds, he'll take care of us."

Demory cited Philippians 4:4-7 in that recent sermon, which speaks of rejoicing always and not being anxious.

"You have to be thankful in all things. Even if things are rough, you still give God thanks," she said.

And at First United Methodist Church of Oakwood, the Rev. Glenn Parrish said his church is doing all right financially, but the South Hall Community Food Pantry, which the church runs, is providing more and more food to local residents in need.

"Last year we served a total of 938 people, and that's for a little food pantry," said Parrish, senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Oakwood. "Through Saturday, Nov. 22, it was 1,800. So we've already doubled last year, and it would be very surprising if we didn't surpass 2,000."

Parrish added that families can visit the pantry, which is sponsored by five local churches, once a month.

"If someone comes every month for food it would indicate that maybe there's some other ministry that needs to be done," he said.

The church itself has had more tithing and donations this year than any year in the past, but Parrish said his parishioners are worried.

"I know that there are others (churches) that have concerns about giving, and we have concerns, too," the first-time senior pastor said. "We have received more than we ever have before this year. ... I can't honestly say that we are struggling financially. I hear the concern from the folks about the stock market. We've got retired folks; they're looking at the stock market and what is happening with it."

But Parrish said people should keep faith in God through these times of financial hardship.

"I am convinced by faith that God will supply all of our needs according to his wishes and glory," he said. "I know there are good Christian people that have hard times too, but God some how provides."