Why did the Faith Temple in Brighton give away free stuff?

Why did the Faith Temple in Brighton give away free stuff?

[The Big Give 8/20/16.  Photos by David Kramer and Ramona Scott]

Like many, in the week or so before August 20th, on Westfall and Winton I saw large signs reading BIG GIVE with arrows pointing to the open field on Winton next to Buckland Park.

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Then on the 20th we saw a large white tent raised on the field. At the tent, hundreds of people from near and far were shopping through tables of free items, also getting free back to school haircuts for kids courtesy of MVP Healthcare of Rochester. There were plenty of water bottles on that very hot day.

People were giving and receiving stuff of every variety and shape. It was the Faith Temple’s 5th annual Big Give.

The tents and booths felt like a mixture between a huge church social and a neighborhood yard sale. People came as much to fill their two bags worth — kids got book bags no doubt ruefully signaling to them the end of summer vacation — as to socialize, meeting old friends and making new ones.

David Kramer with Big Give volunteers manning the bike [Photos: Ramona Scott] 8/20/16

I got a blue windbreaker that felt sweaty on the 90 degree day but will come in handy during a drizzly fall football game.

While the festive spirit in the air was its own answer — inquiring mind as ever — I wondered, why exactly is the Faith Temple giving away all this free stuff?

I turned to Executive Director Kim Edlin. We had a wide ranging conversation from biblical scripture to the doctrine of good works to the Native American Potlach (gift-giving feasts).

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Gifts given to guests at a potlatch held by Tlakwagila in 1983. Traditionally, potlatch gift giving ceremonies functioned to both reinforce intratribal status and prevent individuals and families from accumulating too much wealth.

First, I wanted to know about the recipients. How could the church know which people really needed the stuff? Were “deserving?” What if they sold the goods and used the money improperly?tent 2

Fundamentally, as Pastor Kim explained, there are no restriction or “means tests” involved. No doubt some people have taken selfishly. But the church makes no judgments whatsoever. How much people need things or how the items are used are strictly individual choices of conscience. Kim also used the term “open vessel” to describe the Big Give. The Big Give is open to all, no questions asked.

And what might motivate the donors? Could they be feeling guilt? Or worried that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? Or that their “good works” will be spiritually rewarded?

While Kim acknowledged that individual donors had different motivations — not for her to judge — the way to think about the Big Give was not to emphasize “stuff” but “free.” By free, Kim didn’t mean “free of charge.” Kim meant freely given and freely received:

The Bible is full of reasons and references to giving. It is the cornerstone of Christianity. Jesus Christ gave Himself as a pure sacrifice so we can be forgiven of our sin; that set the model of selfless giving for the sake of others.

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Pastor Kim Edlin

As a Bible believing church, we are motivated to give to others just as Christ gave to us. It is a heart thing, not an act of works to attain some “spiritual points.” True Christianity is about freely giving out of a heart of gratitude; not what you will get in return. Matthew 10 says “…freely you have received, freely give.” The Big Give helps hundreds of families, we are excited about that; but what it does for the person who contributes, or the volunteers who serve these families, cannot be explained in words — it’s a heart thing. We are grateful to do it. We are grateful to serve our community.

I began to see what Kim saw in the tent. The tent was an open vessel connecting open hearts.

see also Time Warner’s coverage of the event

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Faith Temples’ People First Director Ramona Scott 8/29/16

When I got home, I realized I already have a multitude of blue windbreakers. Before next year’s Big Give, I think I’ll remember to give the windbreaker back. And gladly receive something else in return.

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Faith Temple, 1876 Elmwood Ave in Brighton, 8/29/16

Today I saw Faith Temples’ People First Director Ramona Scott who had introduced me to Pastor Kim at the event and made sure I didn’t leave the tent empty handed.

With donations first accepted in June, the hard work done by congregants, families, friends, community members and community sponsors was worth it. Over 740 people were served by over 150 volunteers.  And — whether they wanted summer to end or not — over 400 kids got brand new books bags.

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About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY and Lake Affect Magazine.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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