On Sunday, January 15, 2006 members of the parish gathered together in the auditorium for the annual parish meeting. At that time, six members of the parish were elected to serve on the Vestry (see “Vestry Notes” for further details), our Treasurer presented her annual report, and Fr. Clarke gave his annual report as well. For those of you who were unable to attend that day, we have reprinted Fr. Clarke’s Annual Meeting speech.
The year 2005 has been a time of momentous change in the life of this parish.
I want to begin this report with a word of thanks to the whole congregation. The spirit of welcome and kindness that you have shown to Sally and me this past year is something that neither of us will soon forget. Coming from a different country and a branch of the Anglican Communion (with its ever so slightly different ways of doing things) could have been far more difficult for the both of us, but you all have made our transition to life in the United States a joyous one indeed. I know that as your interim pastor we are all supposed to keep the temporary nature of our relationships out front and center, but we have time and time again been treated as one of your very own—and for that Sally and I thank you.
The staffing situation at Christ Church over the last ten months has seen an almost complete turn over during my tenure. With a minimum number of “bumps” along the road, the team that is now in place is one that I would feel proud to bequeath to the next Rector of Christ Church. Always pleasant, always helpful, Vito deRenzis not only works hard, he works “smart” too. A special note of thanks needs to be given to Susan Fowler who kept the office running during key transition times this year.
Tom Sarff our organist and choirmaster is a fantastic professional, and it is such a relief to be able to rely on his good sense week after week. And Cathy Romano will soon win all of your hearts with her cheerfulness and efficiency. I have invited Cathy, her husband Joe and their son Andrew to attend the 10:30 service on February 5th in order that all of you may get the chance to place a face to a name. Please make it a point to welcome her on that day with typical Christ Church hospitality. A major problem that has consistently dragged down office efficiency this year has been the amount of time and frustration spent on our photocopier. Perhaps 2006 is the year we make the commitment to supplying the office with a reliable machine.
The three key members of the Parish’s lay ministry team—a/k/a the people who keep things running in the office—are our able Churchwardens, Nancy Reiersen-Scromo and Beth McLean and our treasurer Dorothy Thompson. They’re kind of like our “Dream Team.” Nancy’s term as Senior Warden expires today and I cannot let that happen without telling you all just how wonderful it has been to have Nancy to rely on. Without a lot of fanfare, sometimes completely under the radar, Nancy just gets things done, and she does them well. As a parish we owe her a deep debt of gratitude for assuming this position in such a great time of transition.
Retiring from the Vestry this year are Lesley Shannon, Bill Sherman, Johanna Gilbert, Dorothy Thompson and Trevor Mills, who has served as Clerk of the Vestry for the past year. Each of these people has served the parish well with their counsel, energy, time and talent. We thank you for your service. Let’s connect these folks with new projects that will enrich our common life long into the future!
This past year I attempted to provide a number of different kinds of Christian education initiatives. Attendance was a disappointment, that’s for sure. But for the loyal band of folks who regularly turned out, this past year we spent some time with the Miracles of Jesus, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, several interesting book discussions as well as a look at chapters one and two of Matthew’s gospel. A new slate of courses, including a Lenten program, is being worked on even now.
Production and filming of The Book of Daniel took up an enormous amount of energy and time this fall. The project was successful in most ways, not in the least by reminding us that we really do have a church pretty enough for the whole world to see. While the show is not the kind of quality product we would have hoped for, it was nevertheless an “interesting” way to raise tens of thousands of dollars for stained glass window repair.
2005 also had its share of sadness. Around the middle of the year Christ Church lost three long-time members. André Black, Eleanor DeMuth and Richard Sigman—each a force in their own way at Christ Church—claimed their heavenly reward this year and have left a noticeable gap in our common life.
Also, Rick Boody, our Warden Emeritus and most trusted financial advisor, has had to extricate himself further from parish responsibilities because of health concerns. All of Christ Church joins together in great thanks for Rick’s wonderfully faithful management of our parish endowment. We can’t wait till he’s back on his feet again and occupying his customary pew. At its last meeting, the Vestry reconstituted the Investments Committee in order that they may present to the next Vestry a plan for the further management of parish monies.
The parish suffered a catastrophic year in the stock market. We’re posting a loss this year—a first in the history of the parish—but the real number is actually much higher. The only reason this number isn’t higher is because of the considerable reserve that Rick’s shrewd investments had brought us over the years. Nevertheless, it is my hope each parishioner understands that we do, in fact, live considerably beyond our means. The expenses the parish budgets for each year are more or less fixed i.e. heating oil costs what it costs, health insurance is (and always will be) expensive.
The number that is the problem remains the income bottom line. The membership of Christ Church funds only 37% of our expenses. When investment and other incomes aren’t enough to cover expenses, the endowment must be “invaded.” The budget approved by the Vestry for 2006 is bad news on every front. While expenses have risen dramatically, pledge income has remained about the same while investment income will likely continue to be sparse in the coming year. The bottom line is this: when capital funds are used to cover regular operating expenses, the money we use to make more money is diminished. Deficit budgeting is a slippery slope, and one with no future whatsoever.
There are a number of different ways to ameliorate this situation. New ways can always be found to enhance our standing fundraising ventures, and new ideas for fundraising abound. A properly run capital campaign is a superior idea once your new Rector is in place (the shortness of an interim situation prevents this). However, the key to all of this is teamwork.
It is my hope and prayer that 2006 will be a time of health, growth and peace here at Christ Church. Some of the lessons of 2005 have, I think, reinforced the importance of being intentional in our efforts. To borrow a phrase I used earlier in this report, let’s not only work hard, let’s “work smart” in 2006.