Annual Meeting, and the run up to it, have been taking up most of my time these past two weeks. Quite an odyssey. There was the inevitable push to get all the bits and pieces of the annual report together. We always tell ourselves, it seems, that we are going to "get it all in/together" in good time before the meeting--and still there is always that last report, those last few numbers, that come in at the eleventh hour. I was crunching numbers and Debbie and I were folding reports into the main body of the Annual Report on Thursday night. Thank God that Cindy was able to pull the service booklet and report together inside of an hour on Friday. I only lost half of my day off going into the office to polish and print the report.
Roger and Audria, with help from Allanna, pulled off a beautiful piece of design work in presenting a slide show of the life of the parish-photos of ministries and events of 2006-to show during the meeting. Staff and Parish Life did a great job of making people comfortable with refreshments and snacks. I even threw in a bit of fun with some custom-printed M&Ms (my treat to the parish) that read "Trinity Cares" and "God Bless."
The meeting started well, with the honoring of retiring vestry, including celebrating the retirement of one of the best wardens I have worked with, Nancy. She then took us through the next portion of the meeting, the tough part, report of the proposed budget. We presented a proposed "balanced" budget to the parish which had a projected revenue line of 603K in pledges and some severe cuts in the budget to absorb that lower rate of response from the parish. Not easy at all. The mission budget proposed by Finance after they met with or received requests from Trinity's various ministries wound up with us seeking support to the tune of 715K...and to date the response is hovering around 565K. We have a distance to make up.
Discussion was impassioned, with people expressing deep concern that there was a sense of a lack of communication from leadership about just what was needed. Michael and Julie-two youth from our parish that also serve as elected Diocesan Convention Delegates-stood up and spoke to the fact that we are failing as a parish when we choose to gut programs and ministries when we come up short. The biggest hits were to Outreach, affecting both youth and adult initiatives, and the life of the parish-worship, fellowship and property/maintenance and repairs. There was shock when Nancy told people that the only other way to trim budget was to reduce staff. So, the bigger question was on the table. I was so proud of the youth, particularly, in calling us away from the numbers and their communication to a focus on just what this church is called upon to be...the ministries of this Church matter beyond sentiment. Tough as it is, the work of Christ is being done here-and it is expensive. With all on my plate, I have not been able to get that across clearly enough. Thank God for them! It seems like the Body, as a whole, are beginning to see, act and do for the greater work we share...that it is not something that only a few are shouldered with in the end.
Those were the hard knocks, and they were hard indeed. What was also tough was the sense of worry and concern that led people into challenging process...finally, though, the new finance chair stood up and on behalf of his committee and speaking plainly and simple for stewardship told the floor that the intent of the new vestry coming in was to bite deep into these issues and find ways forward for the parish through this challenging time.
We'll have to see how it goes; but I have to say that the sense of the Holy was stronger during and after this annual meeting, for me, than it has been in the previous two that I have presided over as rector. I wouldn't choose the circumstances again...but I give thanks for the result. Sometimes you get more than you bargained on when the proverbial nets are drawn up into the boat. Sometimes, you need a bigger boat.
On the search for a clergy associate front, I have been to GTS to have some preliminary interviews-and was impressed by the folks I have been able to speak to. I told the dean of GTS, Ward Ewing+, that the class seems like a strong one. There is a diversity of ages represented, of ordination status, of experience in ministry and in personal and professional talents. We will see what VTS, Berkeley Divinity and EDS have to offer. Onward.
Tomorrow, I am taking a comp day off. Then, I head off to a continuing education meeting on Tuesday and hopefully will have time in the office to do a post-mortem on the Annual Meeting process before the next Sunday experience looms large for us. Onward.
Peace, brothers and sisters. May God continue to inspire us with mindful awareness that we can't know and do it all...but that we can, the Divine One willing, discern enough to do enough in our time.