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Issues and Voices that Matter April 15, 2010

The Reverend & the Rabbi: Coping with the Economy

Central Florida Matters’ feature – Coping with the Economy in Seminole County, continues with an examination of the recession’s impact on local places of worship. In this instance these places are a medium size church in Oviedo, Florida and a small-ish synagogue in Winter Springs, a few miles to the west of the church. Feature length – 15:20

(Produced, reported and edited by Stephen McKenney Steck)

We must confess – which seems like an appropriate way to start a piece centered around the economy of religion — that we were expecting to hear of troubled local church budgets. We were fully prepared to learn that the impact of the recession would yield examples of hardship, diminished giving, staff turnover and all the usual challenges of which we read in the local news of cut backs and budget reductions facing our local businesses, or governments, or media and other institutions in our area.

So, why should 2 local places of worship and their respective clerics — Reverend Jim Lake and Rabbi Gary Perras – bring budget news other than what we have been accustomed to hear from countless other organizations?

After all, data from national religious research centers, polling for such information, has reported declines in giving by nearly 40% of churches in 2009.

In this feature we learn why each place of worship seemed to be better than our unfounded expectations. We found these two unscientifically selected places of worship in Seminole County and their respective head clerics to be blessed in these uncertain economic times with a modest prosperity.

That blessing, as they will report, allows each to focus less on coping with their own institutional economic challenges and more on helping their members and the greater community in which each is rooted.

With that as our initial findings, we introduce you to the reverend and then the rabbi…

At age 67, Rabbi Gary Perras has served 43 years in the rabbinate. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, and for the past several years he has served as the interim rabbi for this Winter Springs synagogue. Serving in an “interim” capacity sees to be a specialty for which Perras has developed a preference as he thrives on bringing well-being to an otherwise troubled congregation now in search of a more permanent rabbinical leader. A self-described “wandering Jew,” Perras will be leaving Temple Israel this summer to make room for a new and younger leader and to work with another synagogue in need.

Since its founding in 1954, Temple Israel has served Winter Springs. Today, 200 families worship there regularly. Rabbi Perras would not disclose the synagogue’s annual budget.

Pastor Jim Lake is the senior minister at the First United Methodist Church in Oviedo about 5 miles east of Temple Israel.

A graduate of Emory University with a master of divinity degree, Lake is 49 years old and has been an ordained theologian for 27 years. He has served in this church for the past 2 years.

First Methodist is 130 years old. Today it maintains a membership of 1700 people and a $1.2 million dollar annual budget.

On the Central Florida Matters’ Website we have provided Steve’s extended interviews with Rabbi Perras and Reverend Lake along with a bio of each. You’ll also find still photographs taken during the interviews. We’ve provided web links to external sites offering relevant information about religion and the economy and you may leave a comment on the site about your reaction to this feature as well as emailing a link to the feature to a friend or colleague.

Extended Interview & Pictures

Click on the picture(s) to enlarge.
Rev Jim Lake, senior pastor, First United Methodist Church/Oviedo, Mon 4/5/10 Reverend Jim Lake, Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Oviedo (photo -  CMF Public Media)
Pastor Jim Lake and Stephen McKenney Steck
Extended interview (59:23)

Rabbi Gary Perras, Temple Israel,  Winter Springs, Fl (photo - CMF Public Media)
Rabbi Gary Perras and Stephen McKenney Steck
Extended interview (41:04)


Additional Feature Information

One Response to “The Reverend & the Rabbi: Coping with the Economy”

  1. connie bennett says:

    My favorite question was the one about how sermons might have been preached on the subject of the great recession…the response was politically correct, I suppose, but did not sound as thoughtful as one might expect from folks in this particular field (followers of Jesus or Abraham). On the other hand, I was surprised by the spontaneity of the answer to the question about believers and non-believers, one I was expecting to be a non answer, and sure enough the answer sounded spontaneous.

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