March 22-28, 2004





Not a Hand-Out, a Hand-Up


Habitat for Humanity has one terrific strategy for helping industrious families own their own homes. Grove Baptist Church of Churchland, Va., came up with another that should inspire all church stewards who are concerned with stable neighborhoods, affordable housing and the plight of the working poor.


Grove Church bought a run-down three-bedroom house for $50,000, spent $15,000 on renovations, and now rents it for $650 a month to 33-year-old Samara Parker, a schoolteacher who is raising two kids by herself. 


Here’s the genius of the plan: After two years, the church will rebate Parker’s total rent of $15,600 to go towards a down-payment on a home of her own. Then Grove Church will rent the house to somebody else who will build up money for a down-payment.


What a simple, creative plan to help working families get a leg up into home-ownership! While they are amassing a down-payment, families learn about budgeting, responsibility, self-sufficiency and home-ownership. It’s a win-win situation for the families, the neighbors and the church. Yes, the church made the initial investment, but it’s a no-risk deal. Grove can sell the house at any time and get its money back. The house will only appreciate in value.


But by renting the house to families and rebating their payments for a down-payment on their own house, Grove is helping working families break out of the rental trap that ensnares many. The plan is especially needed today, when many working families face stagnant wages and soaring home costs.


“We’re doing more than just spending money – we’re investing in the future of a family,” the Rev. Melvin Marriner, Grove’s pastor, told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “Jesus said if we do it for the least of his people, we do it to him. We feel this definitely is a service to God.” Amen! 


--Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster (



New This Week, March 22-28:


Making Christ Known 2004
PowerPoint presentation and publication available for free download from the ELCA. Professional, colorful resource outlines the domestic and global ministries of the ELCA that a member's pledge supports. Brochure available for publication in whole or in part. Articles can be reprinted in your congregational newsletter, used in an educational forum or posted on the bulletin board. ELCA congregations can get free printed and CD copies. From the ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries.




Jesus's Subversive Message
Often God lays it upon my heart to reach out to people because they need the church.  They need to hear the good news of God's love. We all do."
In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.



Stewardship in the Congregation

"The stewardship of the gospel begins where we are. It is within and outside the congregation that we share the responsibility and accountability with other stewards of the gospel. And it needs to be said as forcibly as possible that what we do is as important as what we say. Someone has wisely observed that 'It is not enough to talk the talk, unless we also walk the walk.' " By Roger Smith, deployed ELCA stewardship specialist, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.



 The Hidden Costs of Too Much Stuff
"Why do we have it, where do we get it and why do we keep accumulating more of it? And what is it costing us, not just in dollars, but in storage space and time spent buying and tending to our stuff? I blame it on the Pottery Barn catalog. Whenever I glimpse that evil source of home-decorating temptation, I succumb to the affliction of our age: SDA, the Senseless Desire to Acquire." By M.P. Dunleavy, columnist for's Money Central.



Cast-Aside Blessings
"In the world today, sometimes low tech and simple is ignored. Do you pay attention only to complex solutions to problems? Has your cultural training made you ignore God's simple blessings and look only for the dramatic, the large, the expensive? God gives lots of pencils. In fact, as you look around, you can observe blessings ignored by others--cast aside--because they are not significant." StewardLife, from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.


 Share Your God-Given Talents
"So much in life can be modeled on the stance of the couch potato, aimlessly flicking the channel changer, but that leads nowhere. A parish in which all are actively engaged is an exciting and rewarding community, not just a supplier of spiritual services, where we pull in to tank up with what is offered. It is a lively faith family that challenges us as disciples to do great things for Jesus, in the spirit of the Acts of the Apostles."  By Thomas Collins, Archbishop of the Edmonton, Ontario, Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.