From New Hampshire to Namibia, surging gas prices concern members
Hit particularly hard: Christians in areas where churches are few and far between. In New England, for example, some members drive up to 90 minutes to services.
“Gasoline and diesel are expensive enough now that some of our less affluent members are needing to forego services in order to have enough gas to go to work during the week,” said Park Linscomb, minister of the Manchester, N.H., church.
“And for those who do come, there is less discretionary money available and thus less to give to the work of the church.”
Nationally, the average retail gas price jumped to $3.72 a gallon at press time, up 22 percent from $3.06 a gallon a year ago, auto group AAA reported.
The New Hampshire congregation’s elders are discussing ways to ensure the more distant and less affluent members remain spiritually strong and connected, Linscomb said.
Among the ideas: gathering the farther members into house churches and sending a preacher or elder to lead worship and Bible study on Sundays.
A thousand miles west, rising gas prices have prompted the North Central church in Indianapolis to hold planning meetings before or after scheduled services — to avoid extra trips — and to encourage carpooling by members, senior minister David Mangum said.
“Like most churches, our practices and traditions developed during a time when fuel was cheap and living costs were lower, so our adjustments are just beginning,” Mangum said.
Gas prices are a concern not just in the U.S., but around the globe.
In the Republic of Namibia, in southern Africa on the Atlantic coast, the cost of fuel has doubled in the past six months, missionary Jerry D’Alton said.
“Namibia is a large and sparsely populated country with many towns 70 or more miles apart,” D’Alton said.
“We have established congregations in two towns — one some 250 miles away and the other about 130 miles away. It has become economically impossible for us to visit these mission points on a regular basis.”