By His Grace Sesa Dasa
A big part of congregational preaching is to get the people to identify with the temples and support them. In Alachua, most of the devotees are congregational members. We have a tithing program: every family or every individual gives a little bit every month to help support the temple. The tithe doesn’t always go for big projects, like building a temple or installing new deities. A small tithe can be used for the on-going maintenance of the temple and the temple programs. We take congregational preaching to another level when we get the members to do this type of tithing activity. We recently had a campaign in Alachua and our goal was 100 percent participation. Even if someone gave $5 or even $1, everyone participated in the tithing program. I feel that this is something that should be done in every temple. Of course, Srila Prabhupada said that 50% should be given. That may not be possible; maybe only some people can do that.
We started a program last year called “Love Thy Neighbor.” We took the Christian saying because we live in a strong Christian area. Everyone invited their next door neighbor to the program: “Please come to the temple and see our program.” We had a very successful turnout. People came from all around the area in Alachua County and also some from Gainesville. We explained different things about the cow program, the deities, the philosophy, and we had a wonderful feast. A few politicians attended. One of the managers from the local bank came. She was happy to come and see the whole temple arrangement and find out a little about Krsna consciousness. Our plan is to do this as an annual event.
Programs like “Love Thy Neighbor” help people understand what the Hare Krsnas are doing. There are a lot of misconceptions now. People can drive by the temple every day without really knowing what goes on inside. It’s our responsibility to invite them and make them feel welcome. Devotees can help people understand that we are not some kind of cult, separate from the community, but that we want to interact with the community.
(Excerpt from the book ‘The Nectar of Congregational Preaching’ by ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry)
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