March 1, 2019

Re: Congregational Meeting, March 17, 2019

Dear Family and Friends of Highland,

As Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Unfortunately Highland Presbyterian Church’s season of financial abundance has been dwindling. Going into the summer months of 2018 it became obvious that Highland was looking at some serious budgetary concerns. Our budget is what is called a “zero budget,” meaning we start off the year with $0 and add income from pledges, offerings, and rental. Our expenses are paid out of this pool of money. How then can we have a “negative” budget – one in which we know in advance our expenses will be more than our income? Highland does have a reserve of monies from both the sale of the adjoining property in 2005 and previous years in which income exceeded expenses. We have relied on this pool of money to provide for the needs of the church when income doesn’t meet expenses. However 2015 was the last year our budget ended with a surplus. In 2016 there was a deficit of $5,801, in 2017 a deficit of $17,541, and in 2018 a deficit of $41,088. There came a realization that our savings would not be able to sustain this drain on these resources.

Highland has done its best to increase income. The final option is to decrease expenses. Unfortunately this brought a hard look particularly at personnel expenses. It became obvious that Highland was no longer in a position to be able to afford a full-time Pastor. Rev. Janie McElwee-Smith was brought into these discussions and agreed the best option for her was to look for another call for the coming year, 2019. She has been offered and accepted a call at First Presbyterian Church of Hollidaysburg, PA. and will be leaving Highland in May. 

While this is a major change in the operations of Highland, it does not mean that we will cease to exist. What it does is challenge us to look toward the season to come and how we can continue to do God’s work here on Earth and continue to Connect our Community with Christ.  On March 17, 2019  we will have a Congregational Meeting during our Third Sunday Lunch (11:00 a.m.) to open the floor to discussion as to where we, as a congregation, would like to see Highland go.  We will also vote to concur with Rev. Janie’s request to dissolve her pastoral relationship with Highland. Her letter of resignation is included. Please make plans to attend this important meeting.
                                                        Yours in Christ,
                                                         The Session of Highland Presbyterian Church

February 20, 2019

To: Clerk of Session
Highland Presbyterian Church 10024 Highland Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70810

Dear Session and our family at Highland,

It is with bittersweet emotions that I write this letter, formally tendering my resignation as pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church (USA), effective May 31, 2019.

When we arrived in Baton Rouge just over three years ago, we could not see the overwhelming life changes that were looming around the bend. We needed a family as we dealt with illness, loss, and new life in our midst. And Highland was the community we needed. From the very first day, you have surrounded us with love, compassion, prayer, support, and every other good thing that any person could need. You did this for the person meant to minister to you, which is even more remarkable. Brad and I will never be able to fully express our gratitude for all you have done for and been for us.

It feels as though we are leaving home this time – because it is true. My time of ministering among you has been one of my greatest blessings. We love you all immensely and will hold every one of you in prayer and in our hearts wherever we go. We will tell the Little Giants about the place of their birth, of Mardi Gras and Jambalaya, of their baptism and the family of faith that supported all of us through those difficult first few years. We will tell them with joy and quite often so that they will remember, as we do, this southern river city from which they have come.

In preparation for our departure, my last Sunday in the pulpit will be Sunday, May 5, and my final day in the office will be Wednesday, May 8. We will use the remainder of my vacation, continuing education, and sick days to take the last few weeks of May to prepare for our move to Pennsylvania. There I will become the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Hollidaysburg on June 1, 2019.

Highland does have a time of transition ahead. However, please know that you are an incredible congregation of which anyone would count themselves lucky to call family. God will go before you and behind you, above you and below you, with you and within your hearts as you walk the path ahead. Just remember that love is the point and the rest will fall into place.

Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts! Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Janie McElwee-Smith, Pastor
Thank you for being part of our family!