Saturday, June 28, 2014

Five Reasons Your Church Buildings Deserve Better

This article was published in the Episcopal Cafe, but our American brothers touch on some issues that are very prescient for us not only in the wider the Anglican Church of Canada or the Diocese of Montreal, but right here in our little parish.

If you're like most Episcopalians, you value your church building as a place of comfort, warmth and respite--a place of welcome and peace, remote from the stresses of daily life.

Or you think you do.

In fact, it may be that your church building -- whether a splendid reminder of the glories of Anglo-Catholicism, or a modest, modern masonry and glass structure -- deserves better.

I know what you're saying right about now: "Hey, wait a minute....I pledge generously. I cut the grass every weekend (insert grouchy noises of choice)."

But the reality is that there is more to it than money and mowing.

1. You don't provide enough money

Speaking of money, do you think you give generously to your church? Maybe you do, but maybe not.

Consider the Latter-day Saints (LDS) and other faiths/denominations that routinely give a true tithe to their church. While we may have discomfort with the theological underpinnings of a near-mandatory tithe, the outcome is visible, indeed. Just look at the well-kept grounds of any LDS temple to see the results of tithing. Or check out estimates of the corporate wealth of the LDS church and you'll quickly see no one's squabbling about where to find money to patch the roof.

"But I give in other ways," you say.

To that, I point to a small parish in Northern Virginia, one that pre-dates the civil war. Just shy of 70 years ago, that parish realized it had outgrown its current building, so it began plans for a majestic English country gothic church -- a solidly built edifice, designed to stand for the ages. A small group of parishioners mortgaged their homes and businesses -- everything they had -- to finance construction, putting everything they owned on the line.

Risky for my tastes, and probably for yours too, but the parish paid the debt off in just seven years.

Just how financially committed did you say you were?

2. Your financial priorities are wrong

Hand-in-hand with money goes priorities. Many a church has gone pews-up despite having very solid revenue. Why? Because money wasn't being spent in the right places.

The warning light here is if you're seeing too much money being spent internally, and not enough on the building and the community. To be sure, in-reach is vital for any church. But if you're finding that hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars are being spent on special events, but your roof has a persistent leak due to lack of money, or your furnace is about to fail but you can't really afford to replace it, you should be hearing the warning sirens, loud and clear. Same for your reserve funds.

If you're not saving for the future, you're borrowing against it. And while you're at it, you're betting. You're betting that your parish will have the resources to make needed future capital investments, despite flat attendance at almost all mainline churches. In essence, you've set yourself up as your own banker, and you've structured a transaction with a large balloon payment at the end. And you've done this despite clear signs that you may not have the money when the time comes to pay off the debt. If this sounds familiar, consider that it's probably not just your church building on the line--your entire parish is at risk.

Don't gamble with your future.

3. You don't understand your budget

Another issue is awareness of the actual costs to run your parish and its physical plant.

How often do we run into people who say, "I pledge!" but pay only a few hundred dollars a year?

Of course, there are many of limited means for whom that is all that is possible, and any healthy parish must demonstrate flexibility in its pledging process.

But do you really stop to think about the costs to operate your church? For instance, a church with a $1 million annual budget must bring in almost $2,740 a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, no exceptions for days with Super Bowl games or your summer vacation. That's a lot of money, and if you're giving just $25 a week, your parish no doubt is grateful for the support, but you probably are not paying your full share. And keep in mind that we're presumably talking operating expenses here--your parish also needs to be saving for the future.

If you're on your stewardship committee, consider too whether you provide enough information for others to understand your budget and the importance of pledging. Do you provide clear textual information and easy visual charts? Do you invite your parish to think about a "dream budget" that reflects hopes and dreams and potential growth? Or do you prepare an annual budget that looks like a government production--large, detailed, and crushingly dull?

Have a meaningful budget that helps people understand the realities and priorities of your parish.

4. You're worried about the power

No, not the electric bill.

Years ago, I attended a parish that almost imploded. The issue wasn't the ordination of women (we already had a female rector, thank you). It wasn't about marriage equality, the role of the bishop, vestry elections, revisions to the Book of Common Prayer or any of the usual suspects.

The sickening, shuddering sound of the iceberg scraping the hull came when two elderly parishioners, both well-meaning and generous, decided to prune a row of wildly overgrown plants behind the church.

That's right, prune. Not remove, not tear out, not destroy.

What's wrong with that? I don't know, since the plants had become almost comically large, and were occasionally known to snag and remove sections of shingles from the roof during summer storms. But others felt differently, and soon the parish was in a knock-down, drag-out, who-did-what-to-whom uproar, with calls to the senior warden, angry letters to the bishop, and more. (Triangulation, anyone?)

Apparently, the issue was that the plants had been placed behind the church years earlier in memory of a deceased parishioner. And while the decedent's children had long since disclaimed any responsibility for the care and nurture of these plants, they reserved the right to lurk, like alligators in a golf pond, right under the surface, ready to come roaring out, jaws snapping, at the first sign of an interloper.

While the uproar eventually died down, needless to say, the episode was a powerful disincentive for future maintenance, and giving dropped precipitously in the wake of this debacle. Today, that particular parish has peeling paint, lots of deferred maintenance, lackluster attendance, and a very thin budget. Big surprise, there.

In short, if your priority is protecting prerogatives versus property, the day will come when all you have is your prerogatives, perfectly preserved and meaning nothing.

Set aside differences to make caring for your building a priority.

5. You don't have professional advice and data

This is closely intertwined with giving and priorities. To effectively care for your physical plant, you have to understand its needs and how to corollate your resources with those needs.

Knowing the needs of your physical plant requires more than just spending time at your parish. Instead, it requires a replacement reserve study, done by a professional, typically at a cost of a few thousand dollars every few years.

Correlating the remaining lifespan of your physical assets with their value and projected replacement costs, a replacement reserve study is both a highly reliable barometer of the health of your investment in your physical plant and the overall financial health of the parish. Indeed, many states require condo associations to conduct one and publish it every several years, since the study is a surefire indicator of looming financial and, often, operational issues.

Yet if you are like most parishes, you haven't done a replacement reserve study recently, if ever, or it's a back-of-the-envelope guesstimate you've done internally. If that's the case, you're on thin ice, since 6-10 percent of revenue typically is considered a healthy annual contribution to replacement reserves.

If you really do care about your church building, get the numbers. Get a professional.

Looking ahead

Whether you've largely been indifferent to caring for your church building, you've been supportive but long viewed it as the role of your parish administrator, or you've just never thought about it much at all, the recent changes and discussion about the future of The Episcopal Church offer an opportunity to revisit old issues and identify new opportunities. And if renewal and rebirth are to be effective, what better place to start than close to home, with the care and maintenance of our parish churches?

Think about it: Does your parish deserve better?

Eric Bonetti is a former nonprofit professional with extensive change management experience. He now works as a realtor.

Source: Episcopal Cafe

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Building a Sustainable Youth Ministry

Stronger Together returns in 2014 for a fourth national event supporting youth ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. On September 30th and October 1st, youth ministry practitioners from across the country will gather at St. Benedict’s Retreat & Conference Centre in West St. Paul, Manitoba, just north of Winnipeg.

Participants should plan to arrive on Monday evening before the event and depart on the Thursday morning following.

Accommodation, program costs, and meals are covered.

For more information, please contact Laura Walton of the Youth Initiatives Team at

Registration is $75

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21 is National Aboriginal Day of Prayer

The Anglican Church of Canada invites its members and parishes to join in celebrating Indigenous culture and continue the journey toward right relationship on this day. Churches may also wish to acknowledge the day during Sunday liturgies on June 22.

Here are a number of excellent resources to enliven your celebration of this important day:
Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Friday, June 20, 2014

St. Philip's Recognized by the NDG Food Depot

On the evening of June 19th, 2014, Saint Philip's Church was recognized by the NDG Food Depot for all of the work we do in support of their efforts. The Depot is one of St. Philip's primary outreach partners. In addition to the Depot's annual food drive, St. Philip's offers storage space and fundraising support. Mark R. accepted the award as one of the key individuals organizing St. Philip's annual food drive for the Depot (see picture on the left).

St. Philip's was one of ten different organizations and individuals recognized by the Depot at their annual general meeting. The Depot took the opportunity to present an award to St. Philip's by way of thanking us for the support we have offered the Depot and its programming over the years.

It is an honour to support the Depot's community work which extends well beyond providing food aid to those in need. They offer a wide range of services and informational workshops aimed at improving the quality of life for those in the community.

Click here for more information about the Depot or to offer your assistance.

Related Posts
St Philip's NDG Food Depot Outreach
NDG Food Depot's Annual Food Drive (2013)
The NDG Food Depot Needs a New Building
Help Us Support the NDG Food Depot
NDG Food Depot's Campaign Video
St. Philip's Church is Coming to the Aid of the NDG Food Depot
Be a Part of the NDG Food Drive
Outreach at St. Philip's Church
A Christmas Letter from Father Jim (2012)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Young Anglican Clergy Gather in Montreal

From June 17 to 19 the Diocese of Montreal will host a gathering of Anglican Church of Canada clergy under the age of 40. This time of professional development, discernment, and relationship building will bring together thirty-five participants from all across the country.

The gathering will follow an ‘unconferencing’ approach, which leaves rooms for more peer-to-peer learning and collaborative activities than traditional conferences. The group has also set aside time for open conversations flowing directly from concerns and experiences arising from their respective ministries.

The Rev. Jen Bourque, a hospital chaplain in the Diocese of Montreal and a member of the planning team, is enthusiastic about this first-of-its-kind event. “I’m looking forward to connecting with my colleagues and peers from across the country,” she says, “and learning from their experiences of ministry in a wide variety of contexts.”

Janet Marshall, Director of Congregational Development for the Diocese of Montreal, will facilitate open conversations. She brings a wealth of experience in cultivating and supporting healthy, lively, and missional communities of faith.

Updates from Conversations 2014 will be posted to the Anglican Church of Canada Facebook page and participants will be using the #acconvo14 hashtag on their social media accounts.

Conversations 2014 is made possible in part by a Ministry Investment Fund grant.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Social Injustice and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

This article addresses some of the social justice issues in Brazil juxtaposed against the backdrop of the FIFA World Cup, the largest sporting event in the world. The mural featured on the left was painted on May 10, by Brazilian artist Paulo Ito on the doors of a schoolhouse in São Paulo’s Pompeia district.

Soccer, or football, as the rest of the world calls it, is the most popular sport in the world--best attended games, most fervently followed, most widespread. And its worldwide Super Bowl kicks off this week.

But if you've been following this in the news, then you've heard about the protests. For the past year, Brazil has seen protest after protest, in never-ending waves, against the government , FIFA (the organization that organizes the World Cup), and against the tournament itself.

The protests stem from a generalized sense that the social contract has been broken; that the people of Brazil are not going to benefit from the World Cup at all, as the government had initially promised. Rather the corporate sponsors and the corporations of FIFA are gathering up all the benefits and all the profits.

Looking at the numbers, this conclusion doesn't seem far off. Conservatively, the Brazilian government has spent over $11.7 billion US on the tournament. Most of the money went to build brand new soccer stadiums. That's over 3 times more than the initial estimates, and it does not include the promised infrastructure-- like a high speed train connecting major cities--the sort of improvement that would help ordinary Brazilians after the tournament ends. This quick math does not include the tax breaks given to companies who constructed the stadiums (they paid no taxes), anyone employed by FIFA, (similarly, no taxes), etc. And all that lost tax revenue could have gone to shore up education, health care, etc.

In stark contrast, FIFA stands to pocket $5 billion from the World Cup in 2014. (That's just FIFA, who, kindly recall, is technically a non-profit organization. If you'd like more on FIFA and their corruption issues, let John Oliver walk you through it.)

I reached out to the Rt. Rev. Francesco Silva, the Presiding Bishop of Brazil, to find out where the local church was in all of this. He stressed that Brazil was thrilled to host the World Cup. Soccer is the favored national sport, and the opportunity to play host to so many people from around the world was a great opportunity and honor.

However, he pointed out that in Porto Alegre--just one city-- tax exemptions connected to World Cup construction amounted to more than $12million US. And that was not acceptable.

"As Christians, we believe that the main aim of the government is to provide well-being for its citizens, especially for the most vulnerable. It is so important to reaffirm that Brazilians are not against the event, but against the way the great companies, FIFA and the government managed it. The great companies, FIFA, great building companies...everyone is taking savings [tax exemptions]. And what about the people? What about the people that are daily in crowded trains and buses? What about children in schools with minimum structure? What about people waiting in the queue for public health services? The most important is people, not money."

So this week, as millions of people around the world turn their gaze to the soccer pitches in Brazil, hold the church and all the people of Brazil in your prayers. May we come to cherish each other's flourishing as fervently as we do our games.

Source: Episcopal Cafe

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bishops in Dialogue issue Testimony: Our Journey Toward Reconciliation

The fifth meeting of the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue took place in Coventry, England from May 22 to 25, 2014. Please click here for a full text of their joint statement, “A Testimony of Our Journey toward Reconciliation.”

The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue brings together Anglican bishops from Africa and North America toward a deeper understanding of our common life in Christ in a diverse, global Communion.

Beginning in 2010, a group of approximately two-dozen bishops from Canada, the United States, and a number of African countries, have met annually in England, Tanzania, Canada, and South Africa. Their gatherings facilitate learning about each other’s contexts and finding pathways for healing and reconciliation. Their time together in Coventry focused specifically on approaches to reconciliation and becoming a reconciling community.

This intentional dialogue was developed in response to theological controversies that strained relationships across the Anglican Communion in the early 2000s. These included issues relating to human sexuality and the blessing of same-sex marriages. In the face of pain and division arising from these controversies, Archbishop Colin Johnson of the Diocese of Toronto and the Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa, now Africa Relations Coordinator, spearheaded this important dialogue.

The bishops report their time together as a special blessing, one of powerful transformation and growing companionship. There is also deepening appreciation that all who form this unique group carry out their lives and ministries as faithfully as they can in their local contexts

At the close of this fifth Consultation, the bishops committed themselves to support the Archbishop of Canterbury’s priority of reconciliation in the Anglican Communion. In response to Archbishop Justin’s appeal, the bishops will “pray for wisdom to know what to do, and for the patience to know when to do it, and the courage to act.”

Members of the Anglican Church of Canada are asked to pray for the members of the Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, and for their ministries of reconciliation.

To learn more about the Consultation, and to read A Testimony of Our Journey Toward Reconciliation please visit the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue webpage.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Celebrating World Environment Day (Creation Matters)

This beautiful poster is available in two formats and can be customized to best highlight your parish's website. 
Creation Matters, the environmental working group of the Anglican Church of Canada, is happy to share a brand new resource to help people and parishes live out the Fifth Mark of Mission. In vibrant full-colour, the poster shows a number of everyday ways to “safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”
The poster is available in two formats and can be customized to feature parish logos and websites.

To download PDF or Word versions of the poster, please visit the Creation Matters webpage.

To customize the poster for your parish, please email Henriette Thompson, Director, Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice, with your logo and website link.

The Anglican Communion Environmental Network has also released two short resources on this World Environment Day. Please click here for photos of changing seascapes from vulnerable Pacific island states and for a theological reflection from Bishop Terry Brown, former Bishop of Malaita in the Church of Melanesia.  

The ACEN works to give more visibility to environmental issues across the Anglican Communion and coordinate work carried out for this sake. You can learn more about the ACEN by visiting their website.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

National Consultation to Revitalize Parishes

From May 14 to 16, 2014 a diverse group of seventy-four Anglicans and Lutherans gathered for a church-wide consultation in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Sharing a common passion for congregational development, this group represented twenty-four Anglican dioceses and three synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Congregational development is an eclectic ministry that looks different from context to context. It can include a range of work from helping urban parishes think through property redevelopment to launching regional ministries in sparsely populated areas. “It is basically a practice or discipline that is about resourcing, supporting, and provoking congregations to be as healthy, vital, and missional as they can be,” says planning team member Janet Marshall who works in congregational development for the Diocese of Montreal.

The three days took on a very collaborative, collegial atmosphere. The planning team was intentional in creating space where all participants could offer expertise in congregational development. Participants were encouraged to share both stories of success and lessons learned from failures. Small group time allowed for a intermingling of perspectives; rural, urban, lay, ordained, Lutheran, and Anglican voices came together in breakaway groups.

In his plenary address, the Ven. Dr. Michael Thompson affirmed the grassroots work and collaboration taking place at the consultation. “The Anglican Church of Canada isn’t the collection of staff and volunteers that gather at 80 Hayden, and it isn’t the group of people who may or may not get elected to General Synod – it is the collection of ministries from coast to coast to coast. You are part of that national church.”

In closing, participants gathered for a time of reflection and looking forward. They considered how to best carry forward the hopes and goals laid out in their time together, including possibilities for online community building and support from national office staff in establishing infrastructure for ongoing conversations. Participants also expressed support for continuing sharing of wisdom and human resources among dioceses and synods, and more broadly throughout the national church.

The spirit of the full communion relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada shone through at the consultation. Lutheran participants said they were grateful for being included and their Anglican counterparts asked for stronger ELCIC participation in planning future consultations.

Energy for this unique gathering came from annual meetings of congregational development staff from the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario. These regional meetings helped cultivate a desire for a broader, national conversation about healthy and vital parishes.

A planning team made up of Janet Marshall (Diocese of Montreal), the Rev. Dr. Jay Koyle (Diocese of Algoma), and Canon Dave Robinson (Diocese of Toronto) spearheaded this first national consultation. Though not all Anglican dioceses have staff dedicated to congregational development, all could identify people connected with diocesan life and who were working on strategy for congregational development. The consultation was made possible by a grant from the Ministry Investment Fund.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada