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To be honest, yesterday was a bit hard. Our meetings start at 10:30 am, and nobody was there. I looked outside at the empty parking lot. It was a beautiful day, and I literally thought, "I'd rather be fishing!" This happens once in a while and I always feel a wave of fear try to roll me over. I remember just after the split ten years ago when Sundays like this started happening. I never knew from one Sunday to the next if we were going to make it. Sometimes I get the same feeling. We are sitting on a huge piece of valuable property and our mortgage as a community is very high. A third of the people who started this mortgage over 10 years ago continue maintaining the same high payments, so it's very difficult. Bottom line: fewer people means lower income. We are house poor.
Some of my friends get angry with me because I refuse to use tactics to increase the community's income: increase attendance through marketing ("evangelism"), strongly encourage tithing, campaigns of this or that sort. I won't have anything to do with it. We just occasionally inform people of the community's need and leave it up to them to decide without any kind of coercion whatsoever. I'd rather go down in flames without having manipulated anybody than live on successfully as a community by even slightly applying any kind of pressure. I don't claim to be innocent, but my conscience is clear.
The attendance was low, but the meeting was good. The band and community sang for a long time and it was wonderful. I taught but the talk rapidly morphed into a rather lively debate. Very lively. I had to break a couple of people up (not really). I enjoy those times. It's real, authentic, and awfully human. But I have to tell you, it is terrifying. We are riding on the edge of serious financial trouble unless something happens soon. Sell property? Sell the whole lot and building off and move into something more our size and more affordable? Reduce me to part-time? Fire me? Start applying for grants? I really don't know. In the past, when we've gotten frighteningly close to the edge, someone spontaneously and surprisingly gives a lump sum or someone comes along and asks to buy gravel out of our back 40 at a good price or someone offers to clean up our woods and pay stumpage fees or something else. We never know and we can never count on it.
Strange though. I must say that even though I feel some concern about it, I'm not really mortally worried about it. The thing is, we are friends. And friends should remain friends even if the materials around them get blown away. And in the end, that's what I'm counting on.
The pics a watercolor painting I did recently of an imaginary fishing trip I took in the recesses of my mysterious mind.