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A Monthly Message


Dear Salem Family,

Lent is just two weeks away as I write this. (Ash Wednesday is on March 6 this year) With that in mind, I’d like to revisit last month’s letter and look ahead to Lent, and how we observe it this year. You may remember that last month I asked you to try an experiment and take time to track your grocery spending for the month of February–so this would be a good time to ask how that’s going for you. Have you been doing it? Have you encountered any surprises? I know we have. Let me tell you about us.

Going into February, we were thinking that we probably spent in the vicinity of $400 to $450 dollars for food, for our household. (Remember: we are counting both groceries and other food purchases, including eating out. In other words, no fudging on groceries by hitting up the pizza joint on the way home.) Coincidentally, that estimate put us right in line with the Food Share program limit for a household of four, $465, so everything looked copacetic.

And then February actually came…and as of this writing we have spent $587.

I normally would not be so free and easy with talking about how we spend our money, but I have to be honest—it was a surprise. And sobering. If we were one of the 1 in 6 families that absolutely depend on Food Share to put food on the table, we would have been in trouble already. There are a ton of explanations and exceptions that could be made, but the bottom line is that if we were playing for keeps, we would now be looking at either living entirely out of the pantry and freezer for the rest of the month, or looking for other sources of food—like the Sharing Center, or another local food pantry.

We would also be looking ahead to next month, and figuring out where we could cut expenses. But I want to stress this: while we eat well (a little too well, in my case), we do not eat extravagantly—we’re not living on lobster tails and truffles, but Rachel does try to use healthier foods…and those are not always the cheapest on the shelf. (This is why she generally doesn’t allow me to grocery shop…but that’s another story.)

But enough awkward self-justification. If you’ve done the same tracking, and find that you, too, have exceeded the Food Share benefit, I invite you consider the next step of the Lenten Challenge:

Now that you know what you spend, and what the target amount is—for Lent, try to live within those means. If you don’t recall from last month, this is the average monthly Food Share Benefit:

Single person, $134

Couple, $247

Household of four, $465

If you don’t fall into one of those categories, just extrapolate and you’ll be close.

As you go through the month, set aside the difference between what you are spending based on the Food Share budget vs. what you would normally spend, and make it a Lenten Challenge offering. These offerings will be collected at church, and donated to the Sharing Center when Lent has ended. (For example, if you spend $500 a month and are challenged
to spend $465, you would make a $35 offering.)

If you have questions, I’ll be happy to answer them, but I think this could be a very instructive Lent for us, as we spend it walking in the paths of people who are not as fortunate as we are. There will be a new Lenten Challenge post on the church Facebook page during the week of Ash Wednesday, and I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences there throughout the season.

So what do you think? I know we generally think about giving something up for Lent—chocolate, cigarettes, TV, whatever— but maybe this year we can learn by taking something on, instead, if we spend these weeks living with another person’s challenges. Who knows what we might discover?

See you in church! Pastor Keith

(Earlier A Word from the Pastor messages may be found in Newsletters.)