November 13, 2017
Dear FT congregation –
I’d like to thank you for your continued support and care for the ministry here at First Trinity! I write to you with an issue both urgent and important.
As Rene reconciled our books at the end of October, we discovered that our financial picture is far more serious than we anticipated. The gap was significant enough that the we nearly did not pay Pastor Tom last month.
How did we get here? There are a couple of main reasons for our deficit. First, we have received a lot less in expected income from individual rents in the house ($18,000); and second, though we raised significant funds for the building fund, we had extra costs than anticipated in maintenance this year, including plumbing work, boiler emergency repairs, and other small maintenance costs that added up ($5,000 more than budgeted).
At the end of the day, we have been looking at about a $30,000 gap to make up. Realizing this, the executive committee of the congregation met immediately with the Pastor, Rene, and the Vicar. We also consulted with the Bishop’s office. We asked questions such as, “Why didn’t we catch this sooner?” “What do we need to change?” and “How can we fix this?” We hope both the council and the whole congregation can help us answer these, but we have worked on a plan and have immediate steps to take.
Though these numbers did catch us by surprise, our gap, as many of you know, is also the result of a decades-long problem with housing tenants that has lead to unpredictable income, deferred maintenance, unhappy neighbors, and increased liability, including an ongoing lawsuit from a former injured tenant.
The good news here is that as an act of good faith, the synod has given us $10,000, which gets us one- third of the way to where we need to be. Another church, Good Shepherd, has gifted us with another $5,000.
The synod has recognized all that we have accomplished this year: building a sustainable youth ministry, developing flourishing small groups, nurturing story sharing with the congregation and creating a wonderful storytelling event we can bring to the community. Synod leaders have faith in us. We are doing great things!
There’s more good news, too. The property committee, along with the council, has been in the process of building our way out of this burden. We believe we have found a creative, viable solution — and that we are almost ready to enact it! Our plan, which we will be running by all of you for approval, includes transitioning Trinity House into a Mission Retreat Center and Airbnb-like rental space.
Thanks to new and renewed relationships we have built with each other, with the synod, with the ELCA Churchwide Organization, and with other congregations, though we face a crisis, it also clear that it is in no way insurmountable. This crisis is an opportunity to activate ourselves to support and fund the ministry and mission that we hold in our hearts, and the community that we love.
Andrew, Rene, Will, Vicar Samantha, Pastor Tom and I have begun to put a plan into action to pull us out of this situation this year, and to build a foundation for coming years so that this doesn’t happen again.
We will being a fundraising plan that includes peer-to-peer phone banking, as well as potential paths for online and cash giving. If you’d like to help, or give a gift, please message me, or talk with Pastor Tom or Vicar Sam. If you have any questions, concerns or idea, please feel free to contact me any time.
We’ll need your input and your help to move us forward. We’ll continue meeting, and keeping you informed of all plans along the way.
Of course, I am confident that we will succeed, and there is no other group of people I’d rather be working on this with!
May grace and blessings be in your path,