It's Our Church
When you come to church on a Sunday for worship, perhaps the last think you about is property ownership. I remember some research from the Alban Institute that found that there is a kind of wall that separates members' experience of church and the condition of the church facilities. Years ago my family visited Resurrection Lutheran Church in Roxbury on a Sunday. The congregation was full, with lively worship, a great sermon and buoyant, loving fellowship. The passing of peace is by hugs and lasts ten minutes. The building was leaking and falling down around them. Plaster from the ceiling would sometimes drop in to the communion chalice. One does not contaminate the other. Or, necessarily enhance the other. Another church might have a new multi-million dollar sanctuary but be full of conflict and anger over some controversy.
We are blessed with a congregation and a building on the same page. We have sound, well-maintained buildings that get an extraordinary amount of use. For all the blessings of life together here, it certainly helps to maintain our property and finances--to be good managers or stewards of what God has given us to use.
Church staff and leaders spend a fair amount of time exercising this good stewardship on our behalf so that we can park and pray, meet and worship, eat and sing.
At our last annual meeting on January 25 the congregation passed a balanced budget which included plans for refinancing our mortgage. The basic idea was that this would lower our monthly payments enough to cover the loss of a cell phone contract that suddenly terminated at the end of 2014. The congregation endorsed this plan which now must be executed. The church council has called a congregational meeting for this Sunday to vote on refinancing our mortgage. For the sake of good order our bylaws require this meeting because we own the building (not the synod or other entity), and we must collectively decide about any encumbrances on the property.
Our two greatest expenses are staff and mortgage. Voting on a longer term and lower rate will certainly help with our financial and program stability in the short term. It's important to know, however, that this decision is linked to one of the goals from our 2013 strategic plan which directed us to explore a debt-reduction campaign within three years in order to provide us with greater freedom to do our mission and ministry. This exploration, including the feasibility of such a campaign, is part of the church council's agenda this spring. While a campaign is part of the thinking behind the refinance, it's not anything we are voting on at this meeting.
I hope and trust it will be a short meeting, but we will take all the time we need to complete the plans announced at the annual meeting.
In other news: the church house is finally ready for inspections after a difficult winter of outside lead abatement, and a family has patiently waited to move into what will officially be "affordable housing." Look for news of an house tour soon. AT&T wireless is sending us a new 30 year lease with higher monthly payments and we continue to hear that Verizon wireless still has us on their list as a future site. Will our devices still use cell sites in 30 years? You never know what can happen with some of these outside income stream we enjoy. Another reason to pay down our debt! Does anyone know anything about church satellites?