Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fulfilling the Vision, Part 1

My second post on Fulfilling the Vision is here.
Along with a fairly big crowd of parishioners, I attended the presentation at church today of the proposed capital campaign. The project is being called “Fulfilling the Vision.” Our last two capital campaigns were called “Building the Vision” and “Continuing the Vision.” “Fulfilling the Vision” sounds like the last of a trilogy of projFulfilling the Vision title slideects that will take our parish to some imagined end-point of church development. As such, it seems rather too optimistic in tone. Perhaps the next campaign will be “Revising the Vision” or “Fixing the Vision.”

I don’t mean to be petty, however. The presentation was well designed and interesting. I was impressed with some proposals and skeptical of others. What I want to do here is to give a quick overview for parishioners who did not attend and to offer a few first impressions.

About the presentation itself: Lisa Brown put together a PowerPoint presentation that set forth the basics of the project, along with feel-good pictures and music illustrating parish activities. Michelle Baum introduced the presentation. Junior Warden Carl Kylander, Ell Vines, and Senior Warden John Adams then discussed details of the proposal. A 14-page handout of the essential slides was offered to those present, with the promise that additional copies would be made available to anyone who wants one. Lisa Brown, who did a fine job on what turned out to be her first PowerPoint show, promises to have the presentation on the Web sometime this week. It is worth checking out.

The proposed project seeks to raise $1,826,000, broken down as follows:

Retire Current Debt
Physical Plant Maintenance & Improvement (“Bricks & Mortar Projects”)
Facilities Maintenance Fund
Jump Start the Endowment$150,000
Ministry Enhancements for Vision 15 $425,000
Capital Campaign Expenses

Episcopal Church Foundation is providing consulting services to St. Paul’s. It is to conduct a feasibility study between the middle of July and the middle of August. During that time, parishioners will be consulted in some way that was not completely clear. This is supposed to generate a report in late August. A kickoff is planned for September, and the campaign itself is supposed to be conducted in parallel with the annual stewardship campaign. All this sounds like a fait accompli, but we were assured that the scope of the project would be influenced by parishioner input. In any case, the $75,000 figure includes direct fund-raising costs and fees to Episcopal Church Foundation. This figure would be less if the campaign were scaled back.


I have neither the time nor perspective to offer a definitive opinion on Fulfilling the Vision, but I would like to make a few random observations. I will write more later.

Let me begin with a few positive reactions. The plan calls for us to invest in a number of improvements that are long overdue—air conditioning and a new sound system for the church; air conditioning and improved lighting for the choir room; new exterior doors, including electrically opened doors for handicapped access; restoring our stained glass; and power washing the building exterior.

A surprising item is a plan to rework the plaza in front of the church, sloping the paving from the street at an angle so as to reach the level of the church floor and eliminate the need for steps. Proposed rework of front plazeThis would allow handicapped access through the front door. The steps from the Mayfair drive side of the narthex to the street would be reconstructed more or less as they have been. (This is perhaps an even better plan than the one I suggested in an earlier post.)

It has also been proposed that we reconfigure the undercroft with additional movable dividers. This plan looks much like the one originally proposed in the Building the Vision project, a scheme that was scaled back due to lack of funds. I had always though that was a blessing in disguise, but the latest plan does deserve consideration. It has both plusses and minuses.

Fulfilling the Vision should not be described as a capital campaign or project. My understanding of a capital expenditure is consistent with this explanation from Wikipedia: “A capital expenditure is incurred when a business spends money either to buy fixed assets or to add to the value of an existing fixed asset with a useful life that extends beyond the taxable year.” By my (generous) reckoning, exclusive of fund-raising expenses, capital expenditures represent approximately 57% of the money being sought. Outreach, endowment, and “ministry enhancements” are not capital expenditures. “Ministry enhancements” seems to be a euphemism for new personnel, i.e., adding to our operating expenses, a continuing liability after the three-year Fulfilling the Vision project is over.

No doubt, the argument will be made that adding a musician and personnel for pastoral care and ministry to families will bring in additional members (i.e., money). Perhaps, but that case was not made at today’s presentation.

This is not to say that it is inappropriate to raise money in a special campaign for ministry and outreach, but let’s be honest and say we are asking for additional funds for current, albeit expanded, operating expenses. No one has to convince me that we need to air condition the church. I will need a lot of convincing that we need to increase our personnel costs by something like $140,000/year.

I will offer additional thoughts in future posts. For now, consider me a concerned but interested parishioner. I worry that by putting too many bells and whistles into Fulfilling the Vision, we may endanger our ability to address our most urgent needs.

If you attended today’s presentation, what was your reaction? This is as good a place as any to discussion how you feel about this proposed project that will affect our lives together for many years to come.

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