A little over a week ago, our Vestry voted to formally establish an endowment for Christ Church. This, in my view, is one of the most important decisions that the Vestry has been called to make in recent memory, and I cannot thank them enough for taking such a step to secure the future of Christ Episcopal Church.
I had the unique blessing of serving at a Cathedral - Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, SC - and two parishes - All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta, GA and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, PA. All of these churches have substantial endowments to fund their common life in perpetuity, and in times of deep crisis - like the pandemic - the endowment proved to be a lifeline for them.
I am thankful to all the faithful people who started this congregation nearly three hundred years ago, and to all of you who have sustained it to this day. I am very sure that, should any one of those who planted the seed for this parish come back and see the work you have done to keep this place alive for these many years, they would be as elated as we would be if we were to visit 300 years in the future to see a flourishing community still drawing on the support of the legacy we gave them. For me, this is the beauty of an endowment.
Over the past six or seven months, the Stewardship Committee of Christ Church - chaired by Hugh Fatodu, and assisted by Drew Eaton, Elizabeth Everett, Mai Kweekeh, Andrea Leeman, Anne Moore, Jim Schempp, Nancy Schempp, Kelly Tokasz, and Erin Whong - have worked very hard, meeting on a monthly basis to work on a new endowment for Christ Church. The committee met with consultants to guide us through this difficult but important work. After all the work, the Stewardship Committee produced a document and shared it with the Vestry, which later voted to establish an Endowment for Christ Church.
In two or so months, I will be celebrating my first four years with you as your pastor. This time has been both humbling and gratifying, and there’s no other parish I’d want to be at than here at Christ Church. I thank God for the blessing of serving you all, and I cannot thank you enough for your prayers, support, and guidance. One of the things that I tend to obsess over is thinking about the future, and what that future may hold for Christ Church. As I do, I have seen several things that highlight the need for an endowment, and I’d like to share three of those with you now.
First - a parishioner once reached out to me some time ago about donating stocks to Christ Church. At that time, I was a little lost on the topic, and so I told this parishioner that I'd get back to them. As I researched, it became obvious to me that we did not currently have a vehicle or an instrument through which we can accept and even hold gifts of such a nature. I was sure that if we had an endowment at the time, we could have easily accepted the gift. Our goal, then, is to soon provide you, and many others who are desirous of supporting the ministry of Christ Church in perpetuity, with the ability to donate stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, life insurance policies, real estate, individual or qualified retirement plans, tangible personal property, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, or charitable lead trusts.
Second - a few years ago, the Vestry took a line of credit to replace our HVAC. As a result, the air conditioning in New Brick is now fantastic. In real terms, that loan could have paid for a Youth Minister or Children's Minister to help organize and build our common life. Servicing the loan means our inability to hire the personnel that could help organize and give life to the many ministries of our church. Thankfully, we should be able to pay the remaining balance of the loan by June of next year. We should keep in mind that our buildings are aging, and as many of you know, older buildings generally need a lot more work and are expensive to maintain. Currently, Old Brick has a leak in the roof that must be fixed, and it will cost even more money to maintain this historic, beautiful, and important part of Christ Church in the future.
The goal is not to run to the bank whenever we have issues that require a substantial amount of money to fix. Rather, by the creation of an endowment, we will be passing on a legacy to our children and grandchildren and will be securing the future of our common life and the future of the buildings in which we meet to pray, break bread, and fellowship. We will be providing the resources with which our children and grandchildren can take care of these properties that we have left in their care.
Third - the past year has been rough on every single one of us. Families had to deal with losing loved ones, unemployment, and reduced income. I once called to check on a parishioner during the height of the COVID pandemic. The parishioner told me that although she’s been asked to do more, her salary was unfortunately reduced. Many of us have suffered losses. In our case, just like many other churches, the PPP loans helped us in dealing with some of the shortfalls in income. But that was not enough to help us through 2021, and so in order to help fund our budget for 2021, we had to eliminate positions and make some deep cuts to the salaries of all who are on our payroll. As an organization, we want to attract very skilled, high-level staff to lead our ministries. But we can only do so if we can offer job security, even in times of crisis. If there’s one important lesson from this pandemic, it is that we may not necessarily be in the position to keep our common life together should anything of such magnitude happens in the future. An endowment will offer us the opportunity to make our parish an attractive place to work.
I am so very excited about the future of Christ Church. If you had been here this week, you would have heard the cacophony of voices in our sanctuary. We had over forty (40) children participate in Vacation Bible School. During this time, one parent shared with me that Christ Church is the only church within Columbia and surrounding cities offering Vacation Bible School to children. I see these children, and I see a bright future for Christ Church. The question is, how do we want to prepare that future for them?
Over the coming weeks and months, we will share more information about the endowment and offer parishioners the opportunity to donate. I hope you will consider doing so.
I am incredibly thankful to the Stewardship Committee for all the work. I am thankful to the Vestry for endorsing the work of the Stewardship Committee.
And I am thankful to you, our parishioners, for supporting us through the ages. It is my prayer that you will faithfully reflect on the part you can play to help give life to this legacy.