Small church receives $60 million donation

Posted: Friday, November 03, 2000

ST. MARYS, Ga. (AP) -- Parishioners fell silent at St. Marys United Methodist Church when the Rev. Derek McAleer told them the news: the church will get $60 million by next July from a businessman's estate.

The church, whose annual budget is about $285,000, was the primary beneficiary in the will of Warren Bailey, who owned 49 percent of the stock of Camden Telephone Co.

''It's all unreal to me,'' McAleer said. ''This is a number that doesn't have any reality.''

Bailey, a quiet man who founded the local phone company with his father and two brothers, briefly married and divorced in his youth and had no children.

When he died July 14 at age 88, he had not attended the church in more than 20 years, although he had made regular donations of about $100,000 per year for programs and building projects.

Congregation members surveyed by the board said the church should give some of the money away and invest the rest. Parishioners also tentatively agreed that the money should not go into the operating budget, meaning the congregation will continue to pay for the pastor's salary and other regular expenses.

McAleer said he's already been besieged with calls asking for money and he worries that greed may consume his congregation.

''How do we remain a Christian church?'' he asked.

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