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.
Everyone reacts differently during stressful times. I’ll always remember Canon Pam Mott’s sermon to the small, anxious congregation of the former St Andrews. We had just begun contemplating a huge change and challenge in our lives; one that ultimately led to the joyous union we call James and Andrew. When Pam visited, however, we were feeling stressed. She told us the story of her cats; they travelled with her to her vacation home, and upon arrival each reacted in their own way. One crawled under the bed and pretty much stayed there for the duration. One sniffed and explored carefully and curiously and finally found a comfy spot. I suppose another might have misbehaved in ways only a cat-lover can imagine!
Social distancing, quarantine and isolation can be overwhelming and can cause strong emotions in adults and children. This can manifest itself in emotional and physical ways: fear, worry and anxiety, changes in sleep and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, worsening of chronic health conditions including mental health, and increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances.
Here are some thoughts on how to cope with stress:
There’s the simple “Breath Prayer”; a phrase on the inhale, a phrase on the exhale. When anxiety builds, a few minutes of this can diffuse that anxiety, slow your heart rate and restore some of those helpful, relaxing endorphins.
There’s a beautiful practice called “Viseo Divina” . We invite God to speak to our hearts as we gaze at an image. For me it often is the antics of our favorite hen (her name is Lovey!), or the blossoms on the purple foxglove in our garden. Simply pray, “God speak to me”.
Any activity can be transformed into a spiritual practice; how about all that hand washing we are doing these days. A tiny litany for washing: “May I be centered in God’s presence, may my family be centered in God’s presence, may my community be centered in God’s presence”, etc.
Your reactions to these unusual times are your own and they matter. Take time to talk them over with someone you trust. I keep hearing God reminding me that she is always here, in the backyard, at the desk top and in the grocery store.
Here is a beauty of a little poem by Terry Tempest Williams.
I pray to the birds.
I pray to the birds because
I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward.
I pray to them because I believe in their existence,
the way their songs begin and end each day,
the invocations and benedictions of earth.
I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love
rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers,
they teach me how to listen.
Faith Community Nurse
SsJA Pastoral Care Team
You can contact any clergy person by reaching out to the office to reach the Pastoral Care Team. If you have a pastoral emergency, our office number is forwarded to an answering service after business hours.
Email Office Call (413) 773-3925
The Department of Mental Health
The state government's Department of Mental Health website
(CSO 24-hr access number) 1-800 562-0112
First Call For Help
Providing referrals to a number of community resources and supports in the Franklin, Hampshire, North Quabbin and Hampden County areas.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Mass
Providing support and resources to individuals diagnosed with a mental illness, their families and the community in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties.
413-786-9139 or toll free 1-800 295-2121
New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT):
Serving individuals who have experience domestic or sexual violence in the Franklin County/North Quabbin area.
413-772-0806 or toll free 1-888-249-0806.
Clinical & Support Options:
Mental health and crisis services in Hampshire and Franklin County.
Mental health services primarily in Franklin and Hampshire counties.
Western Mass Recovery Learning Community
Healing and recovery through peer support.
CHD (Center for Human Development)
Community-oriented human services.
A letter from Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly on behalf of the Clergy & Vestry
Many of us have hoped that we might be able to reopen for some level of in-person worship soon, while also recognizing some of us will not be comfortable returning until restrictions have eased and a vaccine is widely available. We want to provide you with a comprehensive update on the status of reopening and our plans for moving forward. Please note that our diocese is using the language of ‘stage’, whereas the Commonwealth is using the language of ‘phase’. Diocesan stages are generally more conservative than the Commonwealth’s phases. Please see the chart below outlining some of the public health indicators of the diocesan stages.
In May, we outlined a Process for Moving Forward (view here). We have made great strides in nearing the completion of this process. SsJA leaders have worked tirelessly to give serious consideration to each aspect of the diocesan guidelines for reopening, keeping in mind the unique aspects of our buildings, demographics, and ministries.
The working groups have established a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which we hope will answer the most important questions of what reopening will look like in Diocesan Stage 3. View them below.
The Church Chat Working Group has scheduled a Zoom Church Chat Listening Session on Sunday, August 30 at 12 p.m. The purpose of this informal virtual gathering is to give the Vestry an opportunity to check in with church members about the ongoing pandemic and how it has impacted our church community. Specific topics will include the continued suspension of in person worship, growing our faith during a pandemic, and holding onto hope in uncertain times. It will be an opportunity for questions and answers, and if you are unable to attend, we invite you to call or email the office with your questions. A recording of the meeting will be sent out to the congregation in a newsletter following the church chat. Information on how to join the meeting by phone or video may be found in the announcement further down in the newsletter.
We also plan to provide an update of the Reopening Status, using this image in each newsletter, in order that everyone may know what steps remain before we can safely resume some kind of in-person worship. Please note, we are quite close to being able to submit our application. At the same time, our building will remain closed until all four conditions outlined in the image below are met.
Finally, when we are near being able to reopen we will send out a survey to worship leaders and the entire parish, soliciting volunteers for the many responsibilities that support our shared worship. Some jobs will be similar, while others, such as ushering, will look drastically different and will require a good many more volunteers each week to safely carry out our reopening plan. In the survey, we will ask that anyone who is already a worship leader will let us know whether they feel comfortable returning in Diocesan Stage 3, while also welcoming new participants into these roles.
Most importantly, we want to thank each of you for ensuring SsJA continues to live into our mission of cultivating a community of love, joy, hope, and healing--even during these strange times. While our buildings remain closed, our hearts and hands for serving our neighbors remain open and as loving as ever.
Here are some other important links you may find helpful:
Frequently Asked Questions
View our entire Application to the Diocese and Additional Notes from the Working Group.
1. When are we reopening the buildings?
The SsJA Vestry is committed to reopening our church for in-person worship for
those who would like to attend in Diocesan Stage 3 on the following conditions:
2. Could we worship together outside?
We considered this at length and developed a model for how we could safely worship outdoors, but the Vestry concluded that the number of volunteers and effort required would not be justified by the number of people who, according to our survey, would be interested in attending.
3. Will there be limits in the number of people that can attend worship?
Yes, required spacing for safety and limits on gathering size, required by both the Commonwealth and Diocese, necessarily limit how many will be able to gather for worship, at least until health statistics are much improved.
4. How do you determine who can attend worship?
We’ll have signups for worship each week, either online or by calling the office. If there are requests beyond the number who can be accommodated in a given week, those people will be given priority in subsequent weeks.
5. Will I be safe if I choose to come to worship?
Nothing we can do can guarantee perfect safety, but we are doing as much as we can to make it as safe as possible. We’ll require wearing masks and provide hand sanitizer, designate seating to ensure physical distancing, and depend heavily on an expanded group of ushers to manage and assist with traffic flow.
What is going to happen if we discover someone is sick?
Lists generated by worship signups will serve to allow contact tracing, and the CDC provides detailed protocols for deep cleaning and disinfecting that we would follow.
6.What will we have for music in the service?
Diocesen guidelines don’t allow singing at this time, but we will have instrumental music provided both by our Parish Musician and by other talented musicians from the congregation.
7. Will we have eucharist?
The Diocese has provided us with guidelines for safe administration of the eucharist. When we’re ready to begin in-person worship we will initially continue with Morning Prayer and Spiritual Communion for a few weeks while we get used to new routines for worship before we add in physical administration of communion.
8. If I plan to come, how can I help?
It’s going to take a village! Shortly before we return to in-person worship we will send out a survey requesting volunteers for all of the jobs that will need to be done in leading and supporting our worship, and we hope that both those who have served in the past AND new volunteers will step up to help us move forward into our new ways of “being church”.
9. If I am a ministry leader and need to to complete a task in person, inside, are there safety procedures to follow?
We are asking that as we each use church spaces, we sanitize after ourselves; disinfecting wipes are provided in our bathrooms and other common spaces, and signs direct us that “If you touch it, you wipe it!”
10. What are we doing about cleaning and sanitizing?
At this point our Sexton is covering routine cleaning of common spaces with special attention to high touch surfaces, and as individuals use the space, “you touch it you wipe it.” We’ve learned that spaces only used once a week (such as the sanctuary) are safe with this routine cleaning.
11. Are small groups and gatherings allowed inside the facility?
Parish groups and gathering will continue on a virtual basis until most limits on gatherings are lifted and physical restrictions eased, per diocesan guidelines, and we will, likewise, not be providing indoor meeting space to outside groups. We have approved two outside groups to use our lawn space under specific health precautions, and may approve others in the future.
12. When will our outreach ministries (2nd Helpings, Whitney’s Pantry, etc.) be able to take place in our buildings?
Again, these outreach ministries will continue to operate on a “to go” basis until most limits on gatherings are lifted and physical restrictions eased, per diocesan guidelines.
13. How has the pandemic affected us financially?
We have been fortunate. Thanks to most members’ ability to fulfill their pledges, to additional contributions received, and to the assistance of the Payroll Protection Plan funds provided by the Diocese, we are in better shape than we might have been, given our loss of “loose plate” and property use income. We currently project ending 2020 with a deficit of about $12,618. Depending on the course of the virus with, in particular, its impact on property use income and fundraising, planning for 2021 will be critical, and challenging.