VESTRY VIEW OF 4-29-2020
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7
This may be a period of unprecedented change and instability to our economy and our community, but SsAM has rallied, not just to keep the institution financially afloat, but to strengthen the ties that bind us to each other and to God. The wake-up call has been heard by the Membership Development, Personnel, and Finance Committees. Clergy and staff have adjusted to a new abnormal. And the Vestry? Well, you should see the flurry of emails and the numbers of video-conferences!
Paycheck Protection Program Loan Approved
On Wednesday, April 29, we learned that our application was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan from the Small Business Administration. That is nearly enough to cover the 13% reduction in income we are anticipating! At the moment, however, that money is a loan, not a grant. We hope it will turn into a grant. The signs are good that it will become a grant. If it does, our budget will be in much better shape. A special shout-out to Bill Kauffman, D-L Casson, and others for their successful loan application!
Seeking Sustainable Finances
The vestry often goes back to guiding principles, especially the “Four Pillars” set out in 2014:
(1) Strengthen and grow Youth and Young Families;
(2) Create a sustainable financial picture;
(3) Provide engaging worship that is rich and meaningful; and,
(4) Continue the tradition of being an intentionally inclusive and diverse faith community that celebrates its relationship with each other and the larger community.
One focus of the vestry’s recent discussions, even before the governor’s emergency declaration, was SsAM’s endowment and the goal of sustainable finances. In general, people donate money to endowments so organizations will get long-term benefits. This year, for example, SsAM will receive about $175,000 from its investments, over a quarter of its 2020 budget of $628,013.
This vestry’s policy is to make our finances more sustainable by resisting the desire to withdraw principle from our endowment to pay for operating expenses, things like salaries and office supplies. We are tentatively willing to dip into our savings to pay for capital expenses — things like roofs and HVAC systems — but only when there is no other alternative.
There are good arguments that, in this emergency, it makes sense to dip into our savings to cover operational expenses as well as capital expenses. But that is what we have done in recent years and, because of that, even in the recent good times, our endowments never regained the losses they suffered in the 2008 economic downturn. This vestry does not want to repeat that experience. So, we want to cover operational expenses with our income, not our savings.
Looking Forward in Faith
Certainly we are facing an emergency and it is not clear what lies ahead. It is easy to imagine the worst, but we do not believe truly drastic measures are needed yet. Tentatively, we estimate our income will drop 13% compared to last year and so have cut operating expenses by that amount. We believe that, even with those cuts, SsAM will continue its mission to be a dynamic spiritual center that is active in the pursuit of peace and justice in the community and a place where all of God’s people are honored. If your ministry’s budget has been cut, please tell us what those cuts mean in practical terms and suggest what you might be able to do if your ministry’s budget is partially or fully restored.
Because of this emergency, the Vestry is meeting twice a month so that we can make changes as the situation changes. Our COVID-19 Action Team is meeting frequently. The Finance and Personnel Committees are meeting more often than ever. New expense-tracking protocols are being put in place so we can see our income and expenses from week to week.
Again, it is not clear what lies ahead. Our hope is to be like Jesus’s disciples who stopped huddling in fear once they saw the risen Lord. We want to be bold but not foolish. Our faith is not in our dollars but in the love we share for one another.
Now more than ever, we need your help. If you have questions, come join the vestry and become part of the process.
Danny Schweers, with contributions from a host of others!
NOTE: This Vestry View is our way of sharing with you the issues facing SsAM. We are sending it out by email and posting it on the SsAM website, where you can find an archive of our communications. ACTION ITEM: Send us your comments!
ABOUT THE PHOTO: This is a composite image of three recent video-conference calls by the Vestry, Finance, and Membership Development. This is what community looks like during these times of social distancing. This is also what diversity has always looked like at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. From left to right, top to bottom, we see D-L Casson (Church Administrator), Danny Schweers, Fr. David Andrews (Rector), Norwood Coleman, Peggy Shane (Junior Warden), Anita Young, Sharon Leyhow, Bill Kauffman, Jenna Christy, Gary Jolly, Tom Angell, Adele Meredith, Mary Morgan (Clerk of the Vestry), Rachel Gaskell (Senior Warden), Bernard Fisher (Treasurer), Steven Jones, Patty Greene, Linda Whitehead, Tom Noyes, Dan Young, Janice Teemer, and Pat Hampton.