Of Casinos and Rain Outs

If you want to rile up some United Methodists bring up either casino gambling or the use of Native Americans as mascots.  Today I’m doing both.  I hope you’ll look past these offenses to find the message behind my post.

Saturday was Faith Day at Progressive Field.  So I packed four Sheetzes in the minivan and headed to downtown Cleveland.  I paid $10 to park six blocks away, had my game ticket scanned to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit, my wife had her purse inspected in search of illicit bottled water and we were herded in to watch the game.  Five outs later the heavens opened and we dashed for the cover of the stadium concourse, next to the guy selling hot dogs. 

For two hours we heard nothing from Tribe management:  no weather update, no prognosis for when they would start, no indication that as they sat in their warm, upscale offices they even knew they had 10,000 paying fans standing in the cold on concrete waiting to find if they would get to see a game that day.  Finally the game was postponed and we were told that our tickets, assuming we had not lost them, could be redeemed when the game was made up.  If we were not available for the make up date, we were out of luck.

I don’t want to sound like the Indians are doing anything different from any other pro sports team.  We are expected to build them stadiums (stadii?) and agree to be treated like this.

But as I stood in the cold, wet stadium I thought about coverage in the Plain Dealer that week about plans for the new casino.  The developers said they needed to find thousands of close parking places that would be offered free of charge, have valet parking available to those who wanted to feel like VIPs and create a Times-Square like feel when people arrive to lay down their cash in hopes of striking it reach.

When I pay $5.50 for a dog at the stadium, I assure I don’t feel like a VIP in Times Square.

Mike Greenberg, morning talk show host on ESPN Radio, points out that if any other company treated its customers like pro sports franchises, they would quickly go out of business.

Yesterday morning I visited a smaller church in the Firelands District to do a planned giving seminar.  I showed up a few minutes early for the first service.  I was quickly able to figure out which door to use and when I made it to the narthex I was warmly greeted by someone who was not an official greeter.  We visited and he showed me to where I would be doing my talk afterward.

There was no shortage of smiles, greetings and handshakes at both services.  The words to the hymns were projected on the front of the sanctuary, making it easy to follow along the service.  The introduction to the offering was far from heavy-handed and afterward there was again warm conversation.

Although there is no shortage of United Methodists who cringe when I use this analogy, that church gave me the casino treatment yesterday.  I got the impression they were glad I was there, made sure I was welcomed and comfortable and in spite of the ridiculously early hour I had to leave home I would welcome the opportunity to go back.

I’m not sure how you would divide the nearly 800 churches in our Conference.  But I’m sure that many are Casinos and many are pro sports teams.

Take a look at your Sunday morning operation from the point of view of a visitor?  Do you welcome them like a casino or do you do so like a stadium?

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