Monday, February 20, 2012

Rector’s Presentation to the Annual Meeting – at the Eucharist

February 19, 2012

Dear Friends…

I know that many of you have forgotten that the Annual Meeting follows immediately after this worship service. I ask you to please remain, as long as you can.  We will try and complete the canonically imposed need for a general meeting (every year, of every member of the parish) by 12:30 p.m. today. By “canonically imposed,” I simply mean to suggest that, by Church law we must have this meeting. And fire safety regulations prevent me from locking the doors before you’ve had a chance to sneak out.

So, I am taking this opportunity to address the “bottom line” as it were.

Taking a close look at the revenue side of what took place for us in 2011 we have, for the first time in a long time, ended the year with an actual surplus.  That is fantastic, and I extend a tremendous vote of thanks to the Parish Wardens (Anne and Gordie), to the parish treasurer (Jennifer) and to all the members of the Parish Council for accomplishing what some people thought we couldn’t do.

This achievement didn’t come without a cost. None of the decisions we faced during the year were made without anguish and a great deal of prayer. In 2010, the members of Parish Council were committed to the task of “stopping the bleeding,” a graphic metaphor about living within our means. The feasibility study that was done in the summer of 2010 said quite clearly, that the members of St. Paul’s Church, were not interested in any new capital ventures unless we, as a parish, begin living within our means. This is the first principle of good stewardship and we are expected to use our resources wisely.

The result of this commitment of Parish Council – to live within our means – was that our parish administrative assistant’s position was cut to part-time. Most parishes in our diocese, of a similar size, either have a part-time administrative assistant or the work is done by volunteers (few, if any, have a full-time administrative assistant). Nora Gregory, who held the position in our parish for 21 years, felt as though she couldn’t continue in the role as a part-time person. She resigned and we hired Laura Bird.

There are some who would look at the report regarding our revenues in 2011 and say that we managed to achieve a surplus by cutting a position to part-time and by a bequest of $40,000. Well, the savings regarding the position were meagre for 2011; they’ll be greater for this year. The saving will be felt over the whole year and not just the last three months as they were in 2011. For every parish across our diocese bequests are like wind-fall, you can’t count on them, or plan for them, but they happen. In 2011, Parish Council chose to use the bequest as income for the year.

I noticed, in the revenue side of the report, that if you remove those figures that have to do with trust funds, which don’t actually impact our operational concerns, and if you crunch the numbers, you will see that 90% of our income can be directly attributed to you, the people of St. Paul’s Church. You have made offering for the work and ministry of St. Paul’s Church with the hard earned moneys you have at your disposal. I know that people are motivated in all sorts of ways to give money to the church: my parents taught me to; I like the people there; it’s my community; perhaps it’s to get a tax receipt… but the underlying reason, the fundamental motivation you have for giving to the church is a deep sense of gratitude to God, our creator, the one who loves us and calls us into relationship with God and to care for one another and for all of God’s creation.

So, it is true that we can give a huge sigh of relieve that the 10% of the revenue, that didn’t come out of our pockets, did come to the Church… But we didn’t end the year with a surplus because of the 10%: we ended the year with a surplus because of the 90% that came out of your generosity, your pockets, your love and your gratitude to God for God’s love.

We made budget in 2011 and we will continue to do so because of a renewed sense of commitment to Jesus Christ, the ministry that we are called to as a part of the Body of Christ known as St. Paul’s Church, Charlottetown.

For your commitment, I thank you and I thank God for you.

In 2011 we entered into a covenant with the diocese – that if we pay all our financial obligations, including allotment and payroll, the diocese will forgive our accumulated arrears. We paid all of our bills, including allotment, last year. This means that by January 1, 2014 we will be debt free.

That will be a big day for us at St. Paul’s Church.

Our obligations, however, are not only financial.

We are obliged to meet together in worship;

-     to deepen our faith by study, prayer and meditation;

-     to encourage one another on our journeys of faith;

-     to be welcoming of visitors, strangers and seekers;

-     to guide the young and help the lost to find a sense of belonging in our community;

-     to care for those who are ill;

-     to be present with those who grieve;

-     to fight for justice wherever injustice lives;

-     to proclaim peace, love and forgiveness in the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

Can you join me in a loud, Amen?

-     Amen!

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