Pipes vs Poverty Relief

Watching the Six o’clock News these days can be compared to staggering around a boxing ring. I’m left dazed, knocked sideways by the barrage of misery that slams into my head from the screen in the corner of our living room. Refugees from Syria. Armed militia tearing apart the Democratic Republic of Congo. Starvation in Afghanistan. And all this was before our heroic Mr Putin ordered his troops to ‘liberate’ that part of Russia that dared to call itself Ukraine.

After the main news comes ‘Look North’. Here we learn about the horrors of deprivation; how three times as many people need to visit foodbanks compared to two years ago. How 20% of children are growing up in poverty. You can help by visiting www.bbc.co.uk/…


One evening, having drunk our fill of the News, Jane and I went to church where we sat and enjoyed an organ recital. St John’s Rastrick is raising a large sum of money to refurbish our organ. As the organist demonstrated, it needs doing immediately or it’ll have to be scrapped. And that, he said, would be a tragedy. It’s a very unusual instrument that began life at the North Road Baptist Church in Huddersfield, then finding its way to a cinema in Harrogate before being installed at St John’s. Our PCC has agreed to go ahead, and this article doesn’t question that decision, which I now fully support. But I want to share my journey because I started off with doubts.

Yes, I was deeply troubled as I sat listening to all the reasons why we should go ahead and raise funds. I thought of the deprived people in homes around our town, of the provisions that could be bought with all that money. Of how many Afghans could be fed. How could we possibly justify spending so much? Suddenly my musings came to an abrupt halt as our fund raiser cheerfully announced, “You can sponsor a pipe by filling in the form in your programmes.”

I wondered how impressed the poor of our parish would be to know that their church will soon have a splendid-sounding organ. “Lord,” I pleaded the following morning, “Tell me what you think.”


I don’t presume to speak for God, but I can tell you how I believe he spoke to me. I happened, in my personal readings, to be studying the later chapters of Exodus, which describe how God gave Moses precise instructions for the Israelites to build a sanctuary (tabernacle) in the Sinai desert, and holy garments for the priests. The tabernacle consisted of an outer court, an altar for sacrifice, and a ‘tent of meeting’. When the time came, Moses invited the people to contribute freewill offerings.

“Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle, for all its service, and for the holy garments.” (Exodus 35 vs 21).

You can imagine teams of ladies spinning yarn into cherubim to decorate the tent. Teams of craftsmen sawing wood, metalworkers at forges melting gold before overlaying it onto timber pieces, moulding clasps and horns; bronze utensils being moulded, gold being hammered to create the candelabra…

The holy garments must have made Aaron, the chief priest, look stunning! We don’t think of old men looking sensational, but as God told Moses, these were ‘for glory and for beauty.’ (Exodus 28 vs 2).

Finally, after the sanctuary was all assembled, Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests. And what happened next? 

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting…” (Exodus 40 vs 34).

Moses had to hold back because God’s presence was so powerful. He was their God, who would bring them safely to the promised land.


I’m convinced God was saying to me, “Yes, I care about the poor, but first of all comes worship. I call my people to care about my house, including your special organ, to create a work ‘for glory and for beauty’. I want you to experience my special presence just as I showed my glory to the ancient Israelites in their tabernacle.”

So what about the poor? I remembered what Jesus said to grumbling Judas when Mary from Bethany poured expensive ointment over his head. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26 vs 11).

Could it be also, that those whose heart God moves to give towards worship, are most easily moved to give to the poor? Perhaps it isn’t ‘either/or’?

In case I ever need reminding, how precious is the Bible! Not just because we can study it. But because it’s living and active (Hebrews 4 vs 12), and God can use it to speak personally to us as part of His means of relating to us. Those chapters in Exodus were tailor-made to challenge my misgivings. What a privilege to belong to a God who loves to communicate with us!

And shortly, we’ll be choosing our very own pipe(s) to sponsor…

4 thoughts on “Pipes vs Poverty Relief

  1. Defo agree with you, John ☺️ ‘The poor you will always have with you.’ We have to invest in our physical heritage too in this country. There’s always enough money in this country to do both things, when we as individuals give cheerfully ☺️

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: