Methodist minister's 21st century parable of the talents

In what is an excellent parable for our times, a Methodistminister has received a £4,500 return after giving 50 members ofhis church £10 notes each.

The Rev Howard Long, minister at the Mumbles Methodist Church inSwansea, gave members of the church a tenner each in October. Heasked them to use the money wisely to try to help raise money forvital refurbishment work.

Inspired by the Parable of the Talents in Matthew's gospel, MrLong thought he would try something similar to capture theimagination of Mumbles church members - and benefit the wholechurch at the same time.

In Chapter 25 of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the story ofa rich man gives three of his servants a sum of 'talents' or moneyto use wisely while he is away. When the man returns from histravels, two of the three servants have used their money to doublethe original investment. "Well done, good and faithful servant! Youhave been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge ofmany things," says the master.

Last weekend, Mr Long collected what the Mumbles church membershad raised - and was delighted to discover they had made a profitof £4,450 - which will go towards the £600,000 needed forrestoration work on the 125-year-old Grade II listed Methodistchurch.

Mumbles Church is a thriving 180-member church in south Wales.Its restoration scheme is also being supported by the MethodistChurch Property Office, while members are currently awaiting newsof a Lottery Heritage Fund application.

In comparison with the original parable, the profit of more thaneight times the investment marks an impressive return. Among thefundraising ideas that turned scripture into reality, Mumbleschurch members held a sponsored fancy dress event, while youngpeople put their £10s together to hire a pool for a swimathon.

Mr Long said today: "This is a lesson in what you can achieve asa church when you work together - and it shows that God is good.Any church could try something like this. It takes the onus forfundraising off property committees and puts it in the hands ofindividual church members."