Congregation Collects Marlboro Miles, Decorates ChurchCategory: Church
WABASH, IN. — Bake sales. Car washes. Bingo.
Churches for decades have relied on tried and true methods of fundraising when tithes and offerings left vision-thick congregations in a lurch.
But Wabash Christian Center has taken a unique approach to supplying ministerial needs. Eschewing fundraising altogether, the 20-year-old fellowship collects Marlboro Miles to outfit its church.
Smokers for years collected Marlboro Miles from packs of cigarettes and redeemed them through the company’s product catalogue, which featured prizes ranging from T-shirts to camping tents.
Marlboro added “Spiritline” in 2008 and the congregation took full advantage.
“That’s how we got our new steeple,” said Reverend Tom Shipley. “Sucks to have that Marlboro logo on it but, you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Shipley encourages his congregants to toss their Miles into the offering plate, often reminding them of the church’s needs. In December, a set of red and white Marlboro choir robes arrived just in time for the Christmas pageant.
Shipley keeps the youth group in the main service, knowing they can contribute to the church’s projects. The teens hope to have a Marlboro skate park installed by June. A half-pipe arrived two weeks ago after Lucas Hawes, an avid smoker, donated five years of Miles.
The church has remodeled its sanctuary with new pews, a pulpit and stained glass—all ordered from Marlboro. The latest addition was a silverplate communion set.
But the avant-garde money stream is not without controversy.
Dr. Melody Rudd, a researcher at Indiana Institute for Orthopraxy, said Miles circumvent traditional faith routes and may ultimately encourage Christians to abandon waiting on the Lord.
“We’re about half-way down that slippery slope,” Rudd said. “It started with the indulgences, continued with the bake sales, and here we are. Pretty soon, they’ll scrap tithes and offerings forever and just pool their money for Powerball.”
Shipley disagreed. The 47-year-old pastor believes his church is taking its cue from scripture.
“The Lord promised to give us beauty for ashes,” he said.
R.J. Reynolds plans to unveil its church catalogue for Camel Bucks in 2009.