Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Just switched the blog over, post-finance and pre-volunteer appreciation luncheon

I have had one of those mornings. Got into the office at a respectable time after a pretty late night meeting/time in the office. I lost a HUGE email I had been working on when the software carshed. I am working through the last gasps of a head cold. I was finally able to switch this blog over to its new platform. That was my morning...after a longish evening last night. Finance (last night) went for its proscribed length, but it was a bit stressful, at least for me.

Right now, Trinity is both growing and struggling to embrace that growth. That means that even as we seek to "staff up" for the new year, and a new chapter of the life of Christ in this place, we face the task of getting over the proverbial hump of stewardship in order to have the fiscal resources to be able to get the job done.

Numbers are tracking well...people are pledging and we hope to be able to fund the program year, but for the most part it is a pretty moderate increase. I, honestly, was hoping for a bit more. To be able to hire another full-time priest as an addition to the staff is a pretty expensive proposition. It runs to the tune of nearly $80,000 total, once all the bits are added in. Though the salary is not a big bite for the area, there is still pension (at a rate determined by the national church), health insurance (mandated by canon) and the expense support required to keep a clergy person healthy and productive. So, this is not a simple add-in. It is a sincere challenge. At the same time, we are also looking to double our outreach efforts in the coming year, including increasing granting aid as well as expanding our applied ministries. There is also the possibility of creating some new programs: a young adult ministry, expanding pastoral care, building new spiritual formation ministries, etc. We are also hoping to capture a bigger piece of the pie with regard to the care of the physical plant. Even though it is only six years old, this campus needs care and repair. Holes in the walls need to be repaired, floors need to be refinished. Plumbing needs to be fixed. The worries of institutional life never end!

So, my stress with regard to finance: finding the resources we need to support staff and membership in the work they are called upon to offer up to the parish without breaking the bank. How do we do that? With pledges. I know I can't lose sleep over all of this, and I know that it really does tend to work out in God's good time. Still, I can get into a knot from time to time when I ponder just how close we really are to the goals of vestry, staff and membership being realized...and just how far away it can feel.

Think about it this way: if each of the households that has not yet pledged offered up just a fraction of the average pledge right now, we would not be worried about a deficit. We would be figuring out how to allocate the surplus. So, see it in numbers: 166 pledges are outstanding (let's say 140 are intending to offer support); multiply that by $2000; that gives us a figure of $280000. Apply that to the pledge number right now--$488000. $760000 is the total and we only need $716000 to meet our vision budget.

I realize this is not anything more than trying to figure out which way the wind will blow tomorrow. Still, we hope and dream, and I am actively praying that I can set down my own anxiety. We will make a budget. The budget will be balanced. We will get there. The question, as it always is when we live lives led by God, is how long we will have to wander in the proverbial wilderness.

Now for the upside to life: Christmas is looking good this year! Even though we are in the rough moment of having Advent 4 and Christmas Eve falling on the same day, the liturgies and the services are going to be joyful, beautiful and everything I have grown to love about worshiping God "in the beauty of holiness" over the past two years. Sunday services are packed. We are welcoming new families weekly. The life and ministry of this place is vigorous and full of joy. Advent wreath making ran to the wire. Every candle and wreath was claimed. We sold all but nine boxes of cookies for cookie bake. We had one of the best years ever for Breakfast with St. Nick. The sign up for Dr. Sheay's Advent Quiet Day is posting the "most names ever." There is so much to celebrate.

We might even end the year with a balanced...or just slightly red...budget. First time in six years?

So, life is good. God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!

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