I remember over 35 years ago challenging the Provost of Chelmsford Cathedral about the proposed re-ordering, renovation of the organ, and creation of a choir endowment. This was a substantial amount of money (I can’t remember how much) and I questioned whether it would be better spent on the poor. His response was that for some people it is the architecture or the music that first draw them to church; at the time I think I was content to let this past.
However, this leads to the question of whether the relief of physical poverty should take precedence over spiritual poverty or vice versa. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly suggests that for an individual physical poverty has to be dealt with before spiritual poverty, but is this true for society?
The more I think about this the less sure I am. I can see a case for saying that everybody should be raised up at the same rate, but I can also see a case for wondering whether, if some are raised further up the pyramid, it might speed up the rate at which others climb it.
Now, I accept that this is slightly different from the question about whether church money is better spent on churches or people, but not perhaps that much.
The other issue is where the money comes from; whether we like it or not there are large sums of money available for buildings which aren’t available for poor people (eg the Heritage Lottery Fund – whatever else you may think of that).
Different people respond to different issues in different ways. I know of churches where people will give to the fabric fund rather than the general fund; and if any parish priest were to suggest closing a church…
For me the question boils down to whether it is effective (pragmatist that I am). And I don’t know the answer to that. Where do you stand?