Today was the day for our annual parish meeting. The usual highlight of which is the discussion of the annual budget. For the past several years expenses have mushroomed to $621,137.77, but pledged income for 2009 came in at only $425,000.00, a drop of $62,000 in pledges. That drop and the $21,862.12 deficit from 2008 had to be addressed by the finance committee and the vestry. `
Two crucial questions come to mind when faced with financial problems.
1. Where can a church cut costs?
2. How can a church raise more money?
As far as cutting expenses goes, the Finance committee and vestry looked around and made the difficult but not unprecedented decision to cut $40,000.00 from the pledge to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and the wise decision to slow down the extra payments on the mortgage to the tune of an additional $38,500.00.
There were voices of protest from the congregants regarding reducing the pledge to the Diocese, and the accusation that these cuts are "Draconian" rang out. Another voice declared that the Diocese was doing such a good job keeping parishes together without the problems of departing parishes faced by other Episcopal dioceses. As these voices were powerless in face of such overwhelming budget numbers, they did not have to be corrected at the time, but I do have a few thoughts on both matters.
I think we are being generous to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina by pledging to send them $40,723 in the first place. A Draconian cut would have been to send them $0.00 this year. Such a move would not be unprecedented, as suggested by another voice from today's meeting. This church has found it necessary to withhold the diocesan pledge in the past.
As to the voice expounding on how well the EDUSC has held things together, I remind them that two parishes left EDUSC in 2008, St. Christopher's as noted here, and St. John's North Augusta as noted here.
A recommendation from the floor was approved by a narrow margin for the vestry to send any end of the year surplus in 2009 to the diocese to make up for the "shortfall." I am aware that one person objected because they were afraid that the next Bishop of the EDUSC might try to lead the diocese towards SSBs and a new BCP.
Not addressed at the meeting was my second question. How can a church raise more money? I would like to stake my position on this matter. If you preach the Word of God, it will come. To be perfectly honest, we have been good at preaching an alternative word and not The Word. This alternative Gospel continues to gnaw away at the faith once received from the Apostles. This may be the beginning of a difficult next few years for the Diocesan budget as well as for the budgets of many individual parishes. Hopefully folks will not place the entire blame on the economy. When they do so, they might take the time to reflect how to grow the Church. After all, what are on the true expenses of the Church? The words of Paul in today's reading (1 Corinthians 9:16-23) give a clue as to what to include in the budget as far as spreading the Gospel is concerned.
"If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel..."
"...I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. "
I thank Draco and his co-workers for the time and effort spent to present to us a balanced budget for 2009.