Sarah is a woman that more are talking about. Not, however, because of another slimming product launch by ‘Fergie’. No, this Sarah is one of the new generation of successful young women who are ‘Single and Rich and Happy; highly paid professionals with active social lives like the ‘Sex in the City’ girls, to quote an explanation of the acronym.
Once rich single women were often ecclesiastical benefactors, founding or beautifying churches and religious houses, and, in one case, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, establishing a denomination.
Today with church attendances falling and with rich folk of either sex being less likely to support religion, the ordinary churchgoer has to dig deeper in wallets or purses.
Many Anglicans have increased their giving (though over-large central bureaucracies seem to take a disproportionate share of the pounds in the plate) but some congregations still contain Alices – A little in the collection each Sunday’ or Freds -‘Fairly regularly evades donating.’
The most generous givers are often found in Protestant groups like community churches where tithing is frequently urged. They may be following Wesley’s maxim ‘Earn all you can; save all you can; give all you can’ or have pastors who imitate the Scots Wee Free minister who was heard to say ‘I’m no standing here to give thanks for a plate of thruppences.’
However, thrift can go too far. I recall a Sixties Battersea church with a devoted parishioner who saved milk bottle tops for eventual sale. Where she stored them puzzled us until the church was engulfed in an aroma that resisted the most vigorous censings and suggested that a maker of ripe French cheeses had set up business nearby. The bouquet, and her store, was eventually tracked down to a long-forgotten cupboard in the tower and we breathed again.
Long before Sarahs sashayed on the scene Paul wrote that ‘The Lord loves a cheerful giver.’
Time then for any Alices and Freds in our congregations to join Paul’s cheerful company; but go easy on the milk bottle tops.