These days, American businesses seem to be outsourcing more and more products and services. Call a firm for information about Aunt Ethel’s airline flight, or to get help with a computer problem, and you’re more likely to talk to someone in a cubicle in Bombay than Buffalo. (Although those outsourced workers tend to adopt American-sounding nicknames – think “Buddy” with a distinctive Indian accent.)
It may be that the trend has gone a bit too far, however. Outsourcing has hit the church.
I recently read an article from The New York Times explaining how the Catholic Church is compensating for a shortage of priests in the United States by outsourcing prayers and special masses to priests in India. (Offered up by “Father Tommy,” we can presume.)
The Times explains: “American, as well as Canadian and European churches, are sending Mass intentions, or requests for services like those to remember deceased relatives and thanksgiving prayers, to clergy in India … In Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast with one of the largest concentrations of Christians in India, churches often receive intentions from overseas. The Masses are conducted in Malayalam, the native language. The intention-often a prayer for the repose of the soul of a deceased relative, or for a sick family member, thanksgiving for a favor received, or a prayer offering for a newborn-is announced at Mass.”
Most such requests arrive via e-mail. While a local prayer request might involve a donation of 40 rupees (about 90 cents), American requests typically include about $5 or $10 – a welcome contribution in an area where the average priest earns about $45 a month.
I think I see a potential trend here. Given the growing use of video venues in American churches, combined with the financial benefits of outsourcing, I can see elder boards across the nation signing up for outsourced sermons, preached with great rhetorical flourish by Indian pastors (such as “Pastor Danny”). Why use video sermons from those fancy suburban churches in Atlanta, Chicago or Dallas when you can save with sermons from Delhi or Bangalore?
And why stop there? There’s no reason Indian musicians can’t deliver the best in praise and worship music to American congregations, at a far lower cost. As a bonus, your congregation could be singing to the sound of a sitar instead of a plain old guitar, at no additional cost.
The savings just keep going. For example, wouldn’t Bible study curriculum from India be cheaper than something from Nashville or Colorado Springs? And what about those long meetings that drive you crazy? Just outsource them to an Indian pastor who can sit in for you via teleconference while you make pastoral calls at the 18th hole.
Anybody know what an outsourced deacon goes for these days?