I’ve been stewing about this for several weeks. My husband has had an earful. Since he’s parish treasurer at our church, it was partly his job to hear it all. I’m having a difficult time not making a big deal of it when I meet with other parishioners, though, so I decided I’d better get my soap box out and make a big deal of it here, instead! No names, but you’ll get the idea.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on the selection committee to find a new priest for our Episcopal parish. That means the priest we have right now is an interim rector. He works “part time” – a service on Saturday evening and a service on Sunday mid-morning. It used to be 2 services on Sunday, one early, one later, but he changed it for the summer and decided to just stay with it. Hmmm… Part time, by the way, includes those services as well as working on Monday and Tuesday. 3 and 1/2 days a week.
At the time our diocese recommended him for us, he was living on Long Island in New York. As you know, we are in central Massachusetts. Quite a drive!! But he wanted to do it, so we agreed to hire him. He would drive up Saturday afternoon and drive home Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. That left him 3 days a week to pursue his second job – selling real estate.
When he arrived at our parish, we noticed that his car has Montana license plates. When asked about this, he explained that he has a residence in Montana that he plans to retire to, so he registered his car there. Ohhh….
He drove the trip from Long Island and back until this summer. His wife, who was a music teacher, retired at the end of the school year and moved up to Massachusetts to be with our interim rector. So no more trips to Long Island, right? Wrong! He’s making trips (3 this fall!) to fulfill prior commitments (e.g.,perform weddings at the prior church). When he does this, we have to pay for a “supply priest” (substitute for him at our church), while he likely gets a stipend from those he going to marry and he’s still collecting his salary from us. And he’s billing us for the mileage and tolls to get there and back! Huh?!!!
I should tell you that this interim rector has already begun drawing his pension besides. And I think he’s still selling real estate in NY.
This summer, he spent the month of August in his retirement home in Montana. He flew there with his wife. They did not take the cars with them. They flew out of New York and my guess is that both cars were left on Long Island. I doubt those cars have seen much of Montana, if they ever have. Well great, we should all get a month off in the summer, but it’s in the contract, so he’s entitled. But I don’t think he’s entitled to ask our parish to pay for mileage and tolls to and from New York so he could go on the vacation!!
As I mentioned, my husband is parish treasurer. And he’s really good with numbers and dates. Imagine his surprise when he received the interim rector’s mileage request and noticed it was for dates he wasn’t even here!! The priest never said anything like, “By the way, I’ve billed for these to make up for other dates.” He just handed in the form and expected to get a check – not happening, if my husband has anything to say about it!
When this last episode came up, I started thinking about what this man has done with regard to money over the past year. He wanted to keep as little of our payments to him as possible in the salary column. He registers and likely insures his vehicles in Montana, although he has lived in New York for about 6 years and “commuted” to Massachusetts for the past year. He wants to be paid for mileage while he’s on vacation.
He’s also spent our parish money faster than it comes in. New air conditioners for the office (necessary) and rectory (one in each room – excessive); new computer and accessories; name tags for the parish (he wanted us to buy a digital camera for the parish to put photos on the tags!). Those are just a few items. Now he wants the office remodeled. No way! Let the new guy make those choices.
Please understand – although we were at one time a much larger parish, right now we are a small parish struggling to stay alive. We have made it thus far by being frugal. I don’t think this man knows what frugal means.
I think it is the dishonesty that bothers me most. Not being upfront about payment requests. Trying to slide them through when they are irregular at best. I’ve been trying to keep my mouth shut and not “start something” because the parish really doesn’t need that, either. But I’m going to pop a cork soon. I almost lost it on Sunday.
The Gospel reading included Luke chapter 16, the parable of the dishonest servant. Our interim rector concluded his sermon with the verse that says, “He who is honest in a little will be honest in all and he who is dishonest is a little is dishonest in a lot.” Sounds like self-conviction to me.
I know priests are nothing more than human beings who have the privilege of presiding at the sacraments. But I expect more moral character and ethics from them than I see here. Maybe I’m being unreasonable. Maybe I expect too much.
What do you think? Would you trust this man with your money and your church? I’d love to know.