At a special joint meeting of the Vestry and Finance Team last night, we adopted the 2017 budget. It is a trim budget that does not waste any money unnecessarily. It is a transparent and realistic budget, as it anticipates actual costs in the coming year. For example, it gives Property an increased budget to $12,000 to make necessary capital improvements required if we are going to be good stewards of our campus, as well as, to try and increase revenues through renting our space. Most important of all, the budget honors the $5,630 request from the Mission Team that will support our many different ministries of local outreach to the community this year. I say this is most important because a church that is not striving with all their might to be the hands and feet of Christ in their community, has ceased to be a church and is simply a social club.
There are some other important things to note about this budget. First, giving is up by $16,000 and there are six new pledging households. A huge thank you on behalf of Saint James Leadership. Your generosity is what fuels our ability to offer worship, spiritual formation, and mission to the local community, as well as, maintain our campus. Second, after several years of running a deficit budget that we nip and tuck throughout the year to come in balanced, we have adopted a balanced budget for 2017. The trend of adopting a growing deficit budget has only increased year after year, and in 2017 we were projecting a $16,000 deficit. We felt it would be reckless to continue this trend, as it is simply not a sustainable model. Something needed to change.
After much prayer, reflection, conversation, and research we have decided to make two changes in 2017. First, we are committed to sponsoring a series of fundraisers that will raise $5,630. You may note this is the exact same amount assigned to local outreach. We believe it will be easier to rally together and organize fundraisers when our cause is local outreach. We will count on your help with these fundraisers in 2017. Second, we have decided to close our large sanctuary for the duration of the 2017 heating season, and will hold our 10am worship service in the Parish Hall. Chapel services at 5:30pm Saturday and 8am Sunday will continue as normal. We will hold our last worship in the sanctuary on Sunday, January 1 (a combined service of Lessons & Carols) and then we will return to the sanctuary on Sunday, April 9 in our Palm Sunday procession in commemoration of Jesus' triumphant entrance to Jerusalem. This means we will spend all of Epiphany and Lent in the Parish Hall. Any other worship services, such as funerals, weddings, and baptisms will also take place in the Parish Hall during those months.
We anticipate that closing the church for the heating season will save us approximately $3,000 (give or take) depending on the weather this winter. The heat will be kept at a constant temperature of around 55-60 degrees. After consultations with Facey Plumbing and Heating, the organ builders, and the piano tuner we employ, we have learned that the cost savings is in keeping the temperature at a constant for three months. It will gradually be turned down the first week in January, and gradually be turned up the first week in April. As a point of reference, the church takes a full 24 hours to heat prior to our 10am Sunday service. We believe it will actually be beneficial for our organ and piano. We learned this week of new water damage in a few of the organ's pipes that are the result of condensation that arises when we raise and lower the heat. We believe moving worship into the Parish Hall will also help with this factor. Moving our worship into the Parish Hall may be the change we feel the most, yet that is also the point. We simply cannot afford to continue with business as usual.
The Church, in every denomination, is in a season of returning to purpose, rediscovering who we are in God, and what it means to be followers of Jesus in a post-Christian world. There is a certain grief in this, as we let go of the ideals the Church of our childhood stood upon. And yet, so many of those ideals were about our desires, not about God's desires. It is our calling to go with God, wherever he might take us and see what new thing God is doing in and amongst us. At the very end of the Holy Scriptures we are reminded of this: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” (Revelations 21:1-5)
Just like the early Church in Acts of the Apostles, we are finding our way again. I believe moving our worship into the Parish Hall this winter may actually be the best opportunity to grow that God has given us yet as the Body of Christ at Saint James. We have the chance to enter another one of our beautiful spaces and make it into a sacred space for one hour each week. A sacred space that the next day will transform into a place of mission and being Christ's hands and feet at Second Helpings. How much of our prayers and love will be infused into that space and community?
During our time in the wilderness (and remember all the amazing things God does in the wilderness!) we will get to play with our worship. Our Parish Musicians and Choir are committed to leading music, in a different way, in our new space. I am committed to using our liturgy from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer while also playing with the way our sanctuary is set up. We may sit one way for the Liturgy of the Word and then come and stand around the Table for communion. We may sit in Cathedral style facing one another, or in a circle, or in rows! What new thing will God inspire before us? If you love liturgy and would find joy in helping me plan this, or if you want to help find ways to help soften our Winter Sanctuary with decorations, I would invite you reach out to me in the coming week.
A technical need to balance our budget has given us an opportunity to grow in faithfulness, creativity, and become more united as a community of faith. Thank you for your faithfulness to God and our community of faith.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Heather, writing on behalf of Saint James Vestry and Finance Team
P.S. Please note the 2017 adopted budget will be presented to the parish at our Winter Festival Sunday & Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 22 with a combined worship at 10am in the Parish Hall.