Over the last sixteen months we have learned how to be the Church in new and exciting ways that we never would have dreamed possible had the Pandemic not forced us to adapt quickly. Our parish was able to be so nimble because of the faithfulness, trust, generosity, and care shown by every parishioner. We have learned a great deal during this season, and will continue to bring these learnings into our future.
Two weeks ago Bishop Fisher lifted all Covid-19 restrictions except one (read the letter here). The one guideline we are asked to follow is to continue to offer Holy Communion with bread only. In consultation with the clergy, wardens, and vestry we have decided to lift all Covid-19 restrictions in our parish, with the exception of continuing to offer Holy Communion with bread only, for the present, and a few other caveats listed below.
For the next two Sundays we will have worship at 8 a.m. in the Church. Starting August 1 we will transition to a service at 10 a.m. that will livestream our in-person worship. At this time, we will phase out our virtual coffee hour with the hope to resume in-person coffee hour later this fall.
You may be wondering why we will only be offering one service starting August 1 at 10 a.m. in the Church. With the ability to livestream our in-person service we will be able to worship as a whole community. Attendance at in-person worship has been low (15-25 people each week). When attendance demands a second service, we will resume with two services each week.
Thank you for your patience during these many months. We know some of you may have thoughts and questions during this phase of emerging out of the pandemic. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
Dear People of Saints James and Andrew,
We are overjoyed that in this Eastertide, as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, conditions will soon allow us to resume limited in-person worship. The last year has been hard in many ways, but despite the challenges we’ve faced, we have demonstrated resilience as a faith community. We have all learned much more than we ever thought we might need to about navigating technology in order to participate in virtual worship, coffee hour, and the like.
Many of you will remember having difficulty hearing when attending worship in the main sanctuary prior to the pandemic. Others will remember what difficulty we had with sound as we began to livestream our worship from the chapel and main sanctuary during the early days of the pandemic. The clergy and vestry have spent considerable time and energy trying to resolve these issues over the last year; our investigations have brought us to the conclusion that we must look to the future and invest in an entirely new and comprehensive sound and video system.
Vestry Members Andy Levchuk and Reynolds Whalen took on leadership of the project and met with two vendors as we explored our options, and we were immediately taken by the outstanding work Small Town Sound and Photo has done with other area churches, including St. Francis Episcopal Church in Holden, Massachusetts. (If you want to get an idea of what our new livestream worship will look and sound like, we encourage you to watch a service of St. Francis’ here.) The Vestry has voted to accept Small Town Sound’s proposal to install a new system costing $15,000; it’s our hope that the installation work will begin soon.
We feel called to undertake this large scale capital improvement in order to provide a quality livestream worship experience long after the pandemic fades away. We have come to understand live streaming to be an important way that we can include those who for various reasons are not able to worship with us in person: we see it as a tool for pastoral care and for spreading the good news of God’s love well beyond Franklin County.
This project will enhance the worship experience of both those who are gathered in person and those who are watching from home. We are drawing from our savings accounts to initially cover these expenses.
We invite parishioners and friends of the parish to prayerfully consider making a special one-time gift to this project, in thanksgiving for God’s blessing as we resume in-person worship. It is our goal to raise $15,000 and replenish our savings during this year in which we are already facing a deficit budget.
If you are moved to make a contribution, we encourage you to send donations earmarked for ‘sound/video’. We also can accept donations through our website.
You will find a video from Vestry member Reynolds Whalen on Facebook, who will help lead a new team of Digital Ministers, explaining this project in a bit more detail. We encourage you to watch it to learn more.
Thank you for your faithfulness throughout this past year, and for your generosity as we seek to invest in the future ministry and worship of our faith community.
Clergy & Vestry of Saints James and Andrew
This fall the Finance Team and Vestry have been prayerfully and thoughtfully discerning how to budget for 2021. We have been greatly supported in that work by our new Stewardship Team. We want to take a moment to share the things we have been paying attention to in anticipation of our Virtual Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 24 at 11 a.m. Please note that even more details about the meeting will be forthcoming in early January.
First, know we are on sound financial footing. There are several factors which have helped keep us on such solid ground:
We also discussed our thoughts on withdrawing funds from the endowment to supplement the budget for 2021, if necessary. There was a general awareness that withdrawals from endowed funds should always be done with a great deal of caution, care, thoughtfulness, and prayer. It is preferable to leave the funds be so they can continue to grow. However, we also agreed that should the unique circumstances of the global pandemic require us to consider making a one time draw on the endowment to supplement our 2021 budget, that we were open to that possibility.
The Finance Team accepted the challenge, and over the course of several meetings (as per our usual course) built a budget as best as we were able.
Third, we adopted a deficit budget at our December Vestry meeting which will be presented at our Virtual Annual Meeting. The budget is realistic about the costs of maintaining our campus and staffing levels, and it also greatly expanded our budget for Mission. At our December Mission and Vestry meetings we also adopted Sunday Sandwiches as an ongoing ministry for the foreseeable future. Each meal costs $2.65 per person, and we anticipate it will cost us $12,500 in 2021, though it seems to grow every single week-- now serving over 100 people each Sunday.
The budget anticipates a $39,000 deficit. And yes, it is a sobering amount. In ordinary times, we simply would not have adopted a budget with that kind of deficit, and instead would have resorted to making significant budgetary cuts. However, the sense of the Finance Team and Vestry, is that this is a once-every-hundred-years-global-pandemic kind of budget. Income that we ordinarily generate from plate offerings ($11,900 in a normative year; $4,700 anticipated in 2021) and property use ($45,000 in a normative year; $27,500 anticipated in 2021), coupled with expanded efforts in mission, ongoing care of property, and maintaining staffing levels is what has created this deficit. These are all factors we anticipate starting to course correct in the second half of 2021.
Fourth, we have plans for how to address the deficit. As mentioned, the Finance Team is working double-time, and we have plans to re-assess the budget in June. The diocese is currently building a program of zero-interest loans that they will be launching in the new year, and there are two diocesan grants for mission and technology that we plan to apply for. We have high hopes that we can heavily shrink this deficit.
We also had the very real conversation about whether to supplement our operating budget with a special draw from the endowment. Our endowment is approximately $647,000. The Vestry voted that in 2021, the church can draw up to $39,000, if necessary. We would not draw the total amount approved, rather we anticipate only resorting to a draw, should cash flow become an issue down the line, and limiting the draws to what is necessary at that time. Please note, at this point that is not an issue as we are still operating with a surplus.
In a perfect world, we would not be writing to you about church finances in the days leading to Christmas. Yet this has been a strange and difficult year, and we want to be transparent with you. This is a lot of information to take in, and know there will be opportunities to discuss and that we are always happy to answer your questions and listen to your concerns.
Most importantly, thank you for your faithfulness and generosity. This parish’s capacity for change, your agility, and your overwhelming love of God and neighbor is a diamond in the rough. You amaze us every day.
Happy Advent, and very soon, Merry Christmas.
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
Do you have questions about the church’s 2021 budget? You are invited to join members of Finance for a Zoom meeting to answer any questions you may have. This meeting is part of our preparation for our annual meeting, where each year we present the budget that has been adopted by the Vestry. Join us on Thursday, January 7 at 6:30 p.m.
Join Zoom Meeting
Dial by your location +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
Meeting ID: 843 6802 1870
Virtual Annual Meeting
Save the Date! On Sunday, January 24 at 11 a.m. we have a virtual annual meeting using Zoom, which will be broadcast from 73 Federal Street, Greenfield, MA. You can use the coffee hour link on our website to access the meeting. Stay tuned for more details in early January.