Annual Fund

October 25, 2015

Good morning! My name is Jack Maynard, and with my wife, Marty, I have been a member of St. John’s for nearly nine years.  Together with seven other parishioners, I am currently serving on the Stewardship Ministry.  As a ministry, it is our charge to lead an effort to encourage an everyday consciousness of stewardship in all that we do here at St. John’s.  While fundraising is certainly a part of that—we view fostering a mindset of gratitude in all our endeavors to be paramount.  We are a new ministry, and so more will be brought to you on this as the new year begins.

This morning, however, my purpose is to do the best I can to sum up for each and all of you just why it is that the Vestry and Stewardship Ministry, working together, are proposing for your consideration and your support a budget for 2016 that anticipates a 15% increase in spending.

And by the way, it is my genuine hope that HOW we are doing this makes as much sense to all of you as it does to me. In all the years I have been involved in parishes, I have never seen it done this way.  My experience has always been that the rector and the vestry ask the parish to pledge support, period.  When the pledges are in, a budget is composed to meet the pledges.  Period.  But as we discussed it in our Stewardship Ministry gatherings, it dawned on us, collectively, that we, and the Vestry, and the clergy, and the various ministries needed to look at where St. John’s is—and to determine where we want St. John’s to go.  We did that--and then we designed a budget to get us there.  Hence, the Narrative Budget.  If you have not read it yet, I beg you to do so.  It is our way to let you know what we are asking you to give FOR.  And all of us on the Stewardship Ministry and all members of the Vestry are available at any time to answer any questions you may have about the process or the numbers.  If we can’t answer off the top of our heads, we will certainly get the answers for you.  So please, if there is something you need to know, ASK.

Now, there are three items addressed by this budget that deserve our focus. One is making permanent the position currently filled by Laura Murray as our second priest.  One is enhancing our worship by growing our Music program, and one is growing our efforts to reach out to our neighbors.

A second priest—a permanent position.  Wait a minute—doesn’t Laura work full-time now? Well, yes she does--just ask her husband!  More importantly, ask the parishioners who have benefitted from her counsel, the youth who have benefited from her leadership, and all who have received her love.  But this is not yet a permanent position here at St. John’s.  In fact, we have been the beneficiaries of the bishop’s generosity—the Diocese has funded half of the expense of having Laura here, part of a program to help parishes that are growing. That funding runs out in 2016.  We believe that we really must make this position permanent, for with it comes not only a second pastoral presence and a second voice from the pulpit, but a depth of oversight and leadership for both the Youth team and the Outreach team—and, for that matter, ALL of our ministries.

Now, whether or not it is filled by Laura, it is the POSITION that this budget addresses. But you should also know that the intent of the Bishop is that Laura should fill that position.  Furthermore, if we can afford to make the position permanent, Laura is who the Rector would like to call.  And I can tell you further that, if we call her she will answer in the affirmative.  She is our choice, and we are hers.

The two other areas that deserve our focus are, I believe, inextricably linked through Scripture:

“Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the First and Great Commandment, and the Second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy Neighbor as thyself. On these two Commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 

Enhancing our worship by growing the Music Program. As is so ably expressed in the Narrative Budget, “The heartbeat of our parish is worship. Applying sufficient resources to our worship is critically important to our spiritual health as a community and to our efforts to serve the community around us in meaningful ways.”  One of the real gifts that we have received in the past several years is the arrival and ministry of Joe Petitt.  Joe is not just talented—he is committed.  The results can be heard not only at our services each week but on the Feast days as well, when the joy of excellent music adds to and deepens the worship experience for us all.  All of this was begun on a shoestring—and while we added some funds to this effort during 2015, we really need to take responsibility for funding this correctly now, in order to ensure that a program so well established is allowed to grow and progress.

And it is important as well to remember that our traditional liturgy and music make us unique in Gig Harbor. That is attractive to many potential parishioners.  After all, what do people do first, when they are looking for a church, for a place to worship?  Well, they go to services on Sunday, of course!  While they look to be welcomed, first they look for a meaningful worship experience.  An excellent music program will, for many and perhaps all, enhance that experience, and help to bring them back for a second or third look--so moving ahead with our music program is a critical part of our efforts to grow St. John’s.

Increasing our Outreach efforts.

“and the Second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

What is more important to us as Christians than this? Granted, we have and continue to hear and respond to this call by supporting Pfunanane School in South Africa, our Women’s Prison Ministry, Fish Food Bank, and the Episcopal Relief Foundation.  But during this year we have formed a task force to find other realistic ways to love our local neighbors in a meaningful fashion.  We are, after all, a relatively small parish with limited resources—and so the task force has found and focused on three places where our time and talent as well as our financial resources can have a genuine impact for good:

  • One program, in partnership with the local schools and Fox Island Alliance Church, involves providing instruction for immigrant families in ESL—English as a Second Language
  • Another involves partnering with the United Methodist Church in their program to feed the homeless and the needy.
  • A third involves partnering with Agnus Dei Lutheran Church in forming a new ministry dedicated to serving the elderly in our community in order to allow them to stay in their homes as long as possible—to age in place.

In Scripture that was recently part of our Sunday lessons, James tells us,

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

It is then, that by growing this portion of our ministries, by doing this work, we can assure that the faith we profess here at St. John’s will live, and even thrive.

Finally, while I grew up in an Episcopal parish, there was a time in my life when I, like so many found myself among the “unchurched.” And then there was a time when I found my way back. I have served on vestries, and in the capacity of both junior warden—where I learned about flat roofs on old and ill-maintained buildings—and senior warden—when the interim rector drafted me into that position. I served in that position for three years, together with eleven other very committed vestry members, as we picked up the pieces that were left when the deposed former rector departed and took over half of the congregation with him.  While that might not have been so bad, the parish had just recently built a new church that cost $2 million, based on the commitments of all the parish members in a capital campaign—and the members who left determined that as they were no longer members then there was no reason to fulfill their pledges.  It was, at once a very sad and very challenging time in that parish—and it was a time, as well, when I truly learned of God’s grace, and that He will provide.

And you’re wondering at this point, “Why is he telling us this? What does this have to do with St. John’s?” Well it is simply because I want you to know that I speak from experience, and my heart. And my experience and my heart tell me that I am utterly grateful to be here at St. John’s.  This is a good place, a good parish.  It is moving in the right direction.  And we need to keep it moving in the right direction—which is ever so much easier than stopping a parish that is moving in the wrong direction and turning it about.  Trust me. I have the scars.

In that vein, it is important for all of us to know that for the past four years, clearly a time of transition for St. John’s, the budget has been running a deficit. Nevertheless, we have not gone into debt, or deferred maintenance on our facilities, or diminished our programs. Quite the contrary. How is that possible? Well, first of all, four years ago an anonymous donor provided us a substantial gift to help us through this time.  It was a gift, given in faith.  And we have kept that faith and been good stewards of that gift, as well as of the gifts each year of all of our individual parish members—pledged and un-pledged.  As a result, while it was initially estimated that the large gift would be exhausted by the end of 2015, that is far from the case.  Instead, we have experienced growth in members and in revenues, and in fact our projected revenues for 2015 will exceed the entire budget for 2012.   We have come a long way.  We are on the cusp of doing some really good things.  We are at a point of opportunity. And I am pleased to report to you that the Vestry and the Stewardship Ministry are completely committed to supporting these efforts, and seizing the opportunity.

But let me be clear about this—the budget we have proposed for 2016 also anticipates a deficit. However, if we—all of us--can commit to support this budget—if we can each commit to give of our time and talents to the programs that will allow us to achieve our mission, and if we can each commit to dig deep and give of our financial resources—as we can--then together we can grow St. John’s out of this deficit routine, and that will, indeed, be a mark of our gratitude to God for all his blessings, and thus, good stewardship.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said to the twelve. We ask you now, when you receive your pledge letter in the next couple of days, to pray on all of this, and to consider your circumstances.  We are all affected by economics—and some can give more, while others cannot.  As a parish, we will be grateful for whatever you can do to follow Him with us as St. John’s moves forward, trusting God in love and service.

Amen!

 

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