The Deacons’ Fund (Mark Chiang)

“And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.” Matthew 14:20

We have a Deacon’s Fund at St Andrew’s. I don’t know if we ever had deacons, but a small fund was set up in their name. It’s meant to be used in pastoral emergencies and to help the general community. But we never touch it.

It’s not that we’re not helping people. It’s not that we don’t need the money. But for some reason, our church as been shy about using the Deacon’s Fund. I can only speak for myself, but whenever I’ve handed out bus tickets or restocked the food pantry or made a small loan to a person in need, I’ve preferred to take the money out of my own pocket rather than the Deacon’s Fund. I think part of me is saving it for a “real emergency”, and I’ve been so afraid of using it up that it hasn’t been used at all.

At last year’s Annual Meeting, one member stood up and asked: “Why haven’t we spent any money out of the Deacon’s Fund? Are we not helping anyone?” The elders and I glanced at each other sheepishly. I suspect we were all doing the same thing: spending our own money in order to save money in the Deacon’s Fund.

We decided to change our behaviour. If we exhausted the fund, so be it. Receipts started pouring in, and money started flowing out. But somehow, the Deacon’s Fund remained afloat. At this year’s Annual Meeting, the treasurer was able to boast that — despite spending more out of it than we ever have before — the Deacon’s Fund had actually grown.

I imagine this is what the disciples felt when they gathered the twelve baskets of leftover bread. It’s humbling: a weird mix of feeling astounded and stupid. Why weren’t we spending the Deacon’s Fund? Why were we so afraid of running out? Why did we doubt that God would provide?

And worst still, how many times have I held back from being generous because I was afraid there wasn’t enough? The next time I find myself more filled with more doubt than faith, I’m going to remember this experience with the Deacon’s Fund.

Mark Chiang, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Edmonton