I’m going to our Local Governing Body’s (LGB) camp tonight with a couple of friends. It’s a beautiful place. Some compare it to a Bed and Breakfast, rightly so. It’s got lush, green meadows. It’s very peaceful, a perfect space to relax right outside of DC. It’s a spiritually nourishing environment. I can’t wait to go there.
I love the place as much as the next person. Although, I must admit, my love is mingled some trepidation. It’s like visiting an aging parent’s brand new mansion, worried that they bought something they couldn’t afford, and realizing that you’ll be stuck with the mortgage soon.
I’ve been a part of this LGB for a mere two years. I’m not on any inner circle of political knowledge or power. I have no history, no ties. Maybe that’s why I’ve been shocked at how the money’s spent. I actually try not to look, because each time I ask questions about how it happened, I feel like that daughter again, with someone patting me on the head saying, “There, there. You just don’t understand. Maybe when you grow up….”
When I try to explain that I am grown up, that I do understand spreadsheets, and I have a background in business, they smile, nod their heads politely, and say “uh huh.” And then completely ignore me.
Okay. So this is not what’s happening. It’s just how it feels.
Here are the strange facts, as I understand them. Please, anyone part of the LGC that wants to chime in and correct me, please do (but no head patting):
Our LGB sold their camp, and decided to buy something farther out. They bought the property in the meadow, and began putting the work into it to make it camp-able. They came up with a plan so that the project wouldn’t cost anything to anyone. But the plan included only a mere sliver in the margin of error, a high-risk hedge fund, and the projection of near-full capacity.
There was some debate when our LGB gathered for a vote. It was very emotional, as you can imagine. Everyone has memories of singing “Kum Ba Yah.” They know how camp has touched their lives and they want their children to have that same experience. Everyone loves the camp staff and couldn’t imagine doing anything to hurt them. And, after all, we’re in the faith business, and we need to step out in faith every once in a while.
But, as we all know, the price tags on construction projects have a way of ballooning outside of the projections. The last I heard, the projections have gone from 22M to over 28M. And the plans are far from complete. And the hedge fund? Well, we also know what’s been happening to the markets lately….
Meanwhile, all of our mission budgets are getting slashed along with the church development budgets.
Campus ministers are gasping for breath, hoping to be able to hold on to their funding.
The largest African-American church in our LGB is a new church start. They don’t have a building and the LGB has stated resolutely that they can no longer help with buildings for our new congregations.
We’re closing a church a year, but outside of one innovative Evangelical congregation, the LGB can’t do much to plant new ones.
The housing prices and cost of living are way out of reach for pastors who move into the area. There’s no LGB shared equity plan, and nothing in the works. Basically, a pastor needs to have a well-paid spouse or the last name of Rockefeller to work here.
On and on it goes.
But we have a lovely B & B.
I want the camp to work. I really do. I’m a woman of faith, but I’m also a woman who can read a spreadsheet. I’ll be enjoying the camp tonight. And I ought to savor it. After all, we’ll be paying for our decision for a long, long time.
the photo’s by stinkymcgee, and uploaded from flickr. You can check out this page for the photographer’s insider perspective on the camp project.