Sunday, July 3, 2011

More Acres for the Lord, 1941

More Acres for the Lord was published in Time magazine, July 28, 1941
Erskine Caldwell had some fun with the idea in God's Little Acre: a sly farmer kept moving his consecrated piece of ground to the weediest locations, to make sure that God took a loss instead of a profit. But in the rural South and Midwest the Lord's Acre Plan has saved so many churches that its director last week scheduled a nine-State lecture tour this fall to spread the idea in the Southeast.
Biggest problem in rural church finance is that farmers have little cash to put in the collection plate. But farmers usually have plenty of cotton, wheat or corn-on-the-hoof—and most of them can be induced to work a few extra hours to raise a bit more to help the church. The Lord's Acre Plan asks churchgoing farmers to till an acre or so, or raise extra livestock, and give the extra cash to the church.
Inspired by the ancient tithe (gift of a tenth), the Lord's Acre Plan got its start outside the churches eleven years ago, when James G. K. McClure, pious president of the Farmers Federation of North Carolina and son of the late theologian James Gore King McClure, decided the federation should have a religion department—something unique for a run-of-the-mill agricultural cooperative. Its project No. 1 was the Lord's Acre Plan, and its head was and is Mr. McClure's brother-in-law, the Rev. Dumont Clarke, onetime Presbyterian missionary and prep-school chaplain (Lawrenceville, Andover).
Over a thousand churches of 20 denominations in some 20 States have found financial salvation through the Plan. To Asheville, N.C., Lord's Acres' headquarters, churches in 47 States have written for advice. Many a group of missionaries on furlough has flocked to talk with the founders. An important visitor was Japan's No. 1 Christian, Toyohiko Kagawa. Lord's Acres now flourish in India, China, Brazil, Mexico and Japan, furnishing rupees, dollars, miireis, pesos and yen for the local missions.
A Lord's Acre project may be as modest as a pig—North Carolinian Betty Mae Cope raised one for her Methodist church, netted $15.50—or as big as the planting done by farmers near Hendersonville, N.C., who ran up a whole new $8,000 Baptist church with their tithing. Hendersonville's Baptists raised $2,352 in a single year by the Plan. Men fattened pigs for market or planted extra crops. The men's Bible Class grew potatoes as a group project, made $469. Women gave the "Sunday 5" from their flocks, grew flowers to sell. Children fed chicks until they were fryers, picked berries on the hillside and sold them in town.
There is nothing Caldwellesque about such farms. So proud of them are their owners that the Lord's Acre, often dedicated with a religious service, usually bears a neat sign setting it apart. In fact, there are two North Carolina farms whose enthusiastic owners have named them for the Plan: Lord's Acre Farm No. 1, Lord's Acre Farm No. 2.

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