Over the next few weeks I am calling attention to renewal, renewal that is needed in our parish. Renewal will be a main focus for us over the next few years. Over the course of the next few weeks the Vestry and I will decide on the direction this renewal plan will take. And your involvement is crucial. Communication with the whole parish is, of course, indispensable. I am organizing a special parish meeting on this. Please save the date: Special Parish Meeting, Sunday December 7, 10AM, parish hall / undercroft.
Renewal is needed. Why is the first question, especially when our church community is thriving and blessed in many ways?
Here is why: our budget needs help and we need internal renew.
* Budgetary concerns are not new to us but our deficit in the budget has become structural. The reasons for our unbalanced budget are increase of expenses: higher cost of living in general, increased costs of benefits, increase of program costs (partly because we accomplish the same ministries with less volunteers, and therefore with more paid staff time). But we also face decrease of income. The average pledge is very high, for which we are extremely grateful, but pledging as habit is waning. Churches somehow connote permanency and may create to impression to exist like the divine, forever and without support. As a result, church programs do not generate sufficient awareness that contributions are really needed. To give a small example: did you know that an evening at “Perichoresis”, a popular, successful weekday service, would each time need $850 to cover its basic costs?
But doesn’t Trinity have an endowment, many people wonder? Our church is indeed blessed with an endowment, established by the generosity of mostly members of the past. The church endowment, however, mainly serves to alleviate the burden of building maintenance. But today, the endowment income is increasingly applied to cover our operating costs and this at a rate that is endangering the future of our endowment. Having an endowment is not simply a blessing; it also is masking our structural deficit. Having an endowment should help us to be financially responsible.
* Yet, addressing a structural deficit and striving for a balanced budget never happens without internal renewal. Reaching a balanced budget is not simply a matter of adjustments in spending and finding new ways of revenue. We also need a plan for more members, which is a challenge to say the least in a secularized culture. Also a new approach to giving is needed, with the ‘popularity’ loss of the pledging habit. Programs need to be evaluated and realigned to make them less costly.
Most importantly, our internal renewal is about reconnecting with our mission – why we are church – and see how we can best live our connection with Christ in our world of 2015. Because whatever we decide, however we make changes, we will only be successful through our bound with God. We are not a church because of certain traditions and programs. We are a community because we are grounded in God and service to others. And only by firmly positioning ourselves on this common ground, shoulder to shoulder, will we be able to transition and implement the needed changes successfully.
Realigning our programs maybe a daunting task. Renewal is indeed only possible through our common grounding, our connection with God and each other, as primary reason of our belonging and ministry at Trinity. To learn more in detail about this renewal plan, please join the conversation at our Special Parish Meeting on Sunday December 7, 10AM, parish hall / undercroft.