Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guiding Principles

The brochure for the new capital campaign includes a section called “Guiding Principles.” There are three:
  • Pay for projects as contributions are received - no bridge loan
  • Keep all costs as low as possible
  • Keep Annual Stewardship as first priority - give to capital campaign only if you can increase or maintain your annual giving pledge
One can hardly quibble with the third principle—running a capital campaign does not make routine expenses disappear. The church still needs to pay utilities, meet the payroll, buy office supplies, and so forth. Moreover, much of the capital campaign is really not targeted at funding capital expenses, but at deferred maintenance, which should be funded from annual pledges. Perhaps people should increase their pledges before considering contributing to the capital campaign.

Keeping costs as low as possible sounds like a good idea at first. On reflection, however, it is worrisome. Not everyone will agree with me on this point, but I believe that, over the years, St. Paul’s has given parishioners no reason to worry that the church is a lavish spender. Some may see the Schantz organ as an extravagance, but, in reality, we bought a very fine instrument at a very attractive price. On the other hand, the recent repair of the Mayfair Drive entrance to the narthex would have benefited from spending more on limestone steps, rather than on concrete ones that are a poor match for the building exterior. In fact, the project was delayed for months because it was entrusted to the lowest bidder. The bid apparently was too low. If St. Paul’s is here for the long haul, I would be more comfortable with a commitment to durable materials and high-quality workmanship than one to low cost.

Finally, the pay-as-you-go pledge may seem prudent in these tough economic times, but there are two drawbacks to the idea. First, it suggests a lack of confidence in the church’s future. This is particularly ironic in our 175th anniversary year. The other problem, however, is that it means that necessary repairs will be spread out over a long period. The effect could be that (1) the building is seen to be in a constant state of renovation or that (2) the effect of the capital campaign is difficult to perceive, a situation that could make fulfilling one’s pledge seem less compelling. The church has very little debt, and, what it has, has been lent at a very attractive rate. We should be less timid about making commitments to maintaining our physical plant. If we need short-term loans to get work done in a timely manner—particularly in the case of urgent repairs—we should negotiate them. Tying our hands with a pay-as-you-go pledge is foolish window-dressing.

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