For many years (I’m not exactly sure how long), St. Paul’s has had an annual budget deficit. We’ve survived because saints of old provided a bequest that enabled us to pull from our “savings” and replenish our “checking.”. We withdraw funds from the Diocesan Investment Trust (DIT) each year to pay our general expenses. In addition, we have been receiving $20 – 30 K annually from the Diocese to supplement my salary.
When I began at St. Paul’s in 2018, we had a deficit of $66k that year. That was $66K withdrawn from the principal of our DIT. In the four years I have been Rector, we have managed to reduce the deficit year over year. For 2022, we hope to have reduced the deficit to c $50K. We’ve done this through increased pledge income and decreased spending. For 2023, our pledge income went down just a tad, and we’ve about hit the bottom of our capacity to reduce costs. We can’t cut more from our programming and facilities costs, and inflation is increasing.
Here is the bottom line: the parish cannot be sustained if we continue to live with deficit spending. At the current rate of deficit spending (c $50K yr), we will be forced to close our doors in about five years. That’s hard news. Hopefully, it’s not new information. But we’ve only really talked about our culture of deficit spending at the Annual Meeting. That's needs to change.
I see it like this: The ship of St. Paul’s is in iceberg water. We’ve got an iceberg straight ahead. If we don’t address it, we’ll hit it. If we hit it, we will have to abandon the ship. So, what do we do now to prevent that future?
As an immediate step, I have volunteered to reduce my hours. Beginning in 2023, I will be working three-quarters time. This reduction in hours will save us $22K. In a future essay, I’ll let you know more about what that will mean. Be assured it will not affect our community life.
Removing 6522 Michigan/Heigham House would eliminate $7K in annual fees for repairs, and utilities. It may also generate income from increased parish hall rentals.
These steps will not eliminate our deficit, but they will help.
However, we need all hands on deck. This is not a fearful situation. It’s an opportunity! We can pull together and watch what God will do! We have an on-time God who will provide for our needs according to God’s riches in glory (Phil. 4:19). We’re not abandoned, and we’re not alone.
We have tons of resources as a community and in the Diocese. And the Holy Spirit guides us. Becoming financially stable is part of our growth process.
In the coming weeks, you will receive another survey. It will ask you for ideas, thoughts, and solutions you may have about our situation. In the meantime, talk to your vestry or clergy about your feelings, views, and opinions. Please complete the survey about discerning the plans for Heigham House. And keep giving to St. Paul’s.
Jesus calls us to share this voyage and do all we can to ensure that our ship makes it across the sea on the last day. I pray we will be like those who have gone before us, invested and committed to keeping St. Paul’s as an inheritance for future generations. That’s part of the adventure!
Recently, I, and many of your vestry leaders had a realization. The nine-space parking lot behind Heigham House is insufficient. We need more parking spaces. Enlarging our parking may be a key to sustained congregational growth and rental income. This realization was followed by a second: Heigham House will cost a lot to renovate. And we can’t help offset those costs with volunteer labor. We don’t have the people capable of doing it.
Since beginning as your Rector, I’ve been committed to Heigham House as a necessary part of our campus. We housed someone there for three years. Before that, the house was used by the previous Rector and other staff. There is still tremendous potential for repurposing Heigham House, but only after these expensive renovations (Costing between $100,000 and $125,000). That’s a massive investment for a building we don’t have a vision for.
A parking lot will meet the needs of our whole community:
In addition, a parking lot will reduce our costs, show the neighborhood how many people are attending here, and be hospitable to our visitors.
Thinking about demolishing Heigham House makes me sad. People need housing, and here is a grand old house. And it has a new roof and fresh exterior tuckpointing! I feel sick about the money we spent. At the time, we didn’t see a significant need for parking.
Now, we are faced with a decision. If we remove the building, we can provide around a dozen more parking spots - at least doubling our current capacity. We would also save at least $7000 annually in building repairs and utility costs. That savings will help us decrease our deficit spending.
Your Vestry is gathering information to make informed comparisons. But before we get into the nitty gritty of that decision, we want to hear from you. How do you feel about this decision? What reasons do you see to keep the house or remove it?
Please take a moment to complete this short survey and give us your opinion. Your input matters! SURVEY LINK
-- Pastor Rebecca
I knew of a lady back in 2016. She was born in Chicago and moved to St. Louis when she was a young adult. Even a move here, among the greatest baseball fans in the country, did not dampen her loyalty to the Chicago Cubs. Every year, she like many long-suffering Cub fans kept their faith, “This is going to be the year!” many would say. Then comes 2016. Early in the year she is diagnosed with a somewhat rare form of cancer. As the weeks and months progressed her condition deteriorated with each passing week.
Her family told me that long about September when it looked like the Cubs might actually at least make the playoffs. She was well aware of her fate, but she still told her doctors, “You have to keep me alive until the Cubs are in the playoffs.” The doctors did their best to do that, but it was going to be a long shot.
Miraculously this long-suffering Cub fan lived to see not only the Cubs in th4 playoffs, but she got to see them on TV win the series over the Cleveland Indians. Forty-eight hours later, she died peacefully in her sleep. Her daughters tearfully told me this story when we sat down to make her funeral arrangements.
Simeon can be thought of as the Cubs fan of the Bible. He is described as a pious and righteous man of great faith. The Holy Spirit promised Simeon he would not see death until he laid eyes on the Messiah. We, too, are promised everlasting life if we lay our eyes on the Messiah and have faith in his goodness. Every time we come to worship, the Holy Spirit is present with us, just as it was with Simeon.
As was required by the law that required that all first-born sons were presented for consecration at the temple, and a burnt offering was to be offered. Mary and Joseph took Baby Jesus to the Temple; Simeon was there, as he was there most days for the previous years. Nobody had to tell Simeon or point out Mary and Joseph and the Baby to him. He knew he was in the presence of the Messiah and the Holy Spirit guided Simeon through the crowd to the Jesus family.
Simeon took the baby in his arms with great joy, and The Lord had kept his promise. Simeon sang the song we know as the Nunc Dimittis: Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled. My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people; a light to reveal you in the nations and the glory of your people Israel.
Simeon’s promise was fulfilled in a Temple. May we continue to see, love, and serve the Lord in our Temple.
Most of the blog articles are written by our Rector, The Rev. Rebecca Ragland