Mars Hill Proclaimer
St. Paul's Episcopal Church December Newsletter 2020
From The Reverend
Barbara A. T. Wilson

December 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Here’s a true story, from the year 891. Three Irish pilgrims, whose names are thought to have been Dubslane, Macbeth, and Maelinmun, made the decision to set out into the open ocean from Ireland in search of a closer relationship with God.  They prayerfully, courageously and literally threw caution to the winds and climbed into a small boat known as a coracle or a curragh with no oars.  They purposely left the oars behind as the cast themselves off into the wilds of wind and the Irish sea.1

     Their destination was in God’s hands, or, more precisely, in God’s breath. The wind, breath--the Spirit of God, which as Jesus told us, blows where it will—which was exactly what they were hoping to happen.  To go where God would have them.

     Made from wicker and from hides of two steers, they loaded their coracle with enough provisions for just seven days. On the seventh night they landed on the other side of the Irish Sea in Cornwall, in what today is the southwestern tip of England, convinced that they were precisely where they were meant to be. There’s a Latin term that captures both their purpose and experience and that of hundreds like them: “peregrinatio pro amore Dei,” or “wandering for the love of God.” Many pilgrims from Ireland had gone before, casting off without destinations, but guided by interior journeys. Trying to explain their motivation, one author says they were “seeking the place of one’s resurrection.”2

     This Advent of AD 2020 is like no other most of us have ever experienced.  It feels like we are wandering without a clear destination sometimes. The storm of pandemic rages around us along with feelings of uncertainty and for some of us, grief.  Our political situation is rife with a whole lot of not knowing where we are going to end up, and the future may seem pretty dark at times.
     Let’s take for ourselves the idea of us wandering for the love of God through this landscape--certain of one thing—the Spirit of God will bring us through this dark night of unknowing guided by the Light of the Christ Child, to the place of our resurrection and our true home.

     Wishing you all a good journey through this season of Advent.

1  Granberg-Michaelson, Wesley. Without Oars . Broadleaf Books. Kindle Edition.
2  Ibid

Lighting Up Our World and Our Community for the Holy Days!
Thank you to Rick Johns, Rhys and Jocelyn Prall,
Lynne Jacobson and Peg Newby
for lighting our front door for the season.
“For I know the plans
I have for you,”
declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you
and not to harm you,
plans to give you
hope and a future.” 
 Jeremiah 29:11

Your Vestry is especially hard at work right now to establish a budget that is responsive to our need for living within our means (pledged support) and to financial transparency in reporting to all of you (not just the vestry) in the months ahead. Please watch for the Stewardship Letter and Pledge Form that should have arrived in your email inbox and in your regular mailbox. You can respond to either.
Book Discussion, 5 PM
(Zoom Video or Audio)

Liturgy of the Word and Table
8 AM No Music
10:30 AM With Music

Both services on Zoom
Zoom Coffee Chat following each service

On Saturday, December 5th, let's gather on Zoom at 5 PM with festive libations to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas and the Christmas season with each other. Watch for your zoom invitation from Mother Barbara.

We're beginning with CS Lewis' Screwtape Letters at 5 PM next Tuesday, 12/8, and continuing. Then we'll continue with the Great Divorce, Lewis' creative take on heaven and hell and conclude with his Mere Christianity. I'm guessing this will take us well into and perhaps through Epiphany season. These books offer a great preparation for the Nativity and also a good preparation for Lent.

Jennie Cummings suggested everyone who needs a copy go to the website where Screwtape Letters is offered free as an audible book for listening, and the others may be as well. I hope to see you there!

God's Grace and Peace to all of you,
December, 2020

To My Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Your vestry is working on the budget for 2021. As you know, the 2020 budget was passed with a deficit of $47,927. The vestry has been monitoring expenditures throughout the year, looking for line items that can be reduced or eliminated to lower the deficit for 2021.

The vestry met with Tim O’Brien from the Academy of Church Leadership in October. Tim specializes in church financials. He reviewed St. Paul’s 2020 budget prior to our workshop, and pointed out to us that our budget has a structural deficit. This means that most of our expenses are fixed. For example, we cannot decide to just pay ½ of our building insurance premium. In addition, most of the line items that can be reduced would result in minimal savings. The exception is staff wages. A decrease of 20% in total wages paid would be needed to make up for the difference between our annual expenses and our pledge income plus the 5% endowment allocation.

I am not in favor of reducing our staff wages. They have worked so hard during this pandemic to keep us connected and to allow us to continue worship services. Each of them has consistently gone above and beyond in their ministries to St. Paul’s, and even more so during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Tim O’Brien reminded the vestry that there are two ways to address deficits: reduce expenses or increase income. He also suggested that our efforts to reduce the deficit should be a long range plan. Tim reported that his church starts working on its budget in the summer and they involve the whole congregation. They talk about their church life and how they are carrying out their mission.

St. Paul’s had started this conversation early in 2020. Members had a very thoughtful discussion about what brings us to St. Paul’s week after week. It was a great beginning, and then the pandemic hit! This conversation will need to be continued as we plan for the future of St. Paul’s.

I feel very strongly that our strategy to eliminate the deficit should be to increase income. How do we do that? Mother Barbara reported to the vestry a few months ago that new ministries are a critical component of church growth. I attended the Bishop’s candidates’ virtual conversation November 11. Did you know that the Diocese of Chicago has a reputation for a strong youth ministry? This was news to me! One of the most poignant discussions was about the reach of virtual ministry to individuals who fear ostracism from their own people. They cannot expose their true selves “in person” as they risk severe repercussions. In the virtual realm they can remain anonymous, so they can express themselves openly.

Another observation made about virtual ministry was the ability to literally put the church in the hands of young people (via their phones/devices). The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and its restrictions on socializing and the struggle to combat systemic racism have seriously affected our young people. Many are searching for a place to be heard. St. Paul’s can enlist the help of the Diocese in our efforts to discern new ministry opportunities. Data from the 2020 census can also inform the process, as it will provide local demographics.

St. Paul’s already has a wonderful community garden ministry. This can be expanded in a variety of ways. In last month’s Proclaimer, I shared some of Kris Borre’s report to the vestry about opportunities suggested by Lori Brown from DeKalb County Community Gardens.  There are many ways that we can put our property to use for the wider community.

Finally, a discussion about the budget and St. Paul’s future must also include the endowment fund.  So far, endowment funds have only been used to “plug” the difference between pledge income and church expenses. What if we earmarked a specified amount to be used toward new ministries? 

The endowment fund value as of the November vestry meeting was over 2 million dollars. I don’t know what the starting balance was when the fund was established, but I believe we have been good stewards over the years. If we opt to use the funds to simply plug the revenue-expense gap until St. Paul’s can no longer sustain itself, the endowment fund balance will be transferred to another congregation in the Diocese and they will decide how it should be used. Shouldn’t this be our job? This is a conversation that must include all members of St. Paul’s.

Christ, our Savior, gave up His life to establish His kingdom here on earth. Are we willing to give up a portion of our treasure to further His mission in our community? In doing so, we might even grow our congregation. But whether we increase our members or not, we will be able to say that we fought the good fight!

In Faith and Hope,

Senior Warden
December, 2020

Greetings brothers and sisters of St. Paul’s,

I hope you were able to create a wonderful Thanksgiving. I stumbled across a quote that I thought reflected Thanksgiving 2020:

I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have. 

So, for the difficult news: the 47K budget deficit will continue to follow us in 2021, if we don’t make budget cuts and/or increase income. In preparation for the new budget year, Mother Barbara and the Vestry have spent significant time reviewing financial spreadsheets.  What lies ahead are engaging and collaborative conversations with Mother Barbara, the Vestry, and the Parish. Further, what lies ahead are hard choices to finalize the 2021 budget.

There are challenging questions ahead for the church of St. Paul’s. 

To Maureen’s point, some of our expenses are fixed and some are variable. Normally it is easier to control expenses. Things to consider:
  • What is right, fair, and just?
  • Does every non-fixed line item get a 20% reduction, a 50% reduction? A 75% reduction?
  • Will budget cuts still support our mission?

While I love the idea of creative revenue streams, budget-wise they seem a bit “iffy” at this moment. Tim O’Brien told the Vestry last month that it is not good practice to use income (receipt) “plugs” without a plan. Things to consider:
  • Do we have a well-thought-out plan to include it as reliable income stream?
  • Do we have the human resource to engage in the plan? Over a period of time?

We are so very blessed to have an endowment that is used to support our annual operating costs
  • Do we draw upon the endowment to cover a portion of the deficit?
  • If yes, is this a one-time withdraw or a continual withdraw over time?


Doug Roberts shared with Mother Barbara and the Vestry last month that it is, important to live within our means. As we engage in a collaborative conversation about the 2021 budget, Doug’s comment will resonate with me. 

What are your questions?

With faith in St. Paul’s,

Junior Warden

November 14, 2020

As of November 13, our bank balance stood at $36,195.01. We spent $22,371.11 from our General Fund in October, plus an additional $1050.27 from the revolving and pass-through funds. . In total we have spent $206.227 in 2020, about 80% of our annual budget. We took in $4183 in pledges and contributions from regular attendees in October; we have collected about 91% of our expected pledge income so far. As a point of reference, the end of October is 83.3% of the way through the year. 

As of October 25, the Endowment Fund value stood at $2,147,016.57. Five percent of the 12 month average is $104,486. I moved $30,000 from the Endowment Fund to our General Fund in early October; we have now taken $100,000 from the Endowment Fund this year. The Edward Jones Building Fund has $16,435 in it. Our Apache stock holdings were valued at $96.41 on August 31.

As of the end of October, the Music Fund contained $454, and the Discretionary Fund has $143 in it. 

I am starting to work on the PPP loan forgiveness application.

I have nothing additional to report concerning audits: the vestry needs to decide how to proceed with this.

As an attempt to improve our internal controls, I have started having Susan scan all incoming checks, so we have a copy of them.

I spent a considerable amount of time in October dealing with a payroll issue, which needs to be further addressed by the vestry.

It is time for the vestry and the Finance Committee to start working on the 2021 budget.

Concerning the budget spreadsheet, I continue to make small changes to improve its accuracy and transparency. As part of this month’s report, I am including the Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss sheet generated by Sheila, as well as the bank statement from Heartland Bank. I have not studied the Balance Sheet or Profit and Loss sheet thoroughly, so I can’t vouch for their accuracy. However, I am quite confident that the Quickbooks file that Sheila used to generate those reports matches my records and also the bank statement.

Respectfully submitted,

Rick Johns,
Music Ministries
Advent is full of beautiful liturgy and music. During our Sunday Liturgy of the Word and Table zoom services, you will hear and be able to sing along on many of your favorite Advent and Christmas hymns. You will also be able to hear seasonal choral anthems from the St. Paul's choirs, that were recorded from previous worship services over the past several years, or from their previously recorded CD Albums. Below are a few anthems to help you get into the spirit of those four Advent candle messages - Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Advent Anthems (click the underlined text below to listen)
Come, Jesus, Holy Son of God - G. F. Händel, Arr., Hal Hopson
Light An Advent Candle - Becki Slagle Mayo
Sunday, December 20th, at the 10:30 AM service, Mthr. Barbara will be leading a traditional Lessons and Carols. Thanks to Kathleen Johnson (Organist) Hannah Buckle (Pianist) and Lynne Jacobson (Alto Recorderist), our Sunday worship services are a combination of prerecorded and live music.

We are preparing for our first Christmas Eve 6 PM Service via Zoom. And in the spirit of Christmas, we hope you enjoy the anthems below.

Christmas Anthems (click the underlined text below to listen)
Sing A Glad Noel!  Mary Lynn Lightfoot
Like A Whisper Lyrics: Sylvia Dunstan Music: Bob Moore

The St. Paul's community garden yielded 295 pounds of fresh organic produce this year! We were blessed to have such a great bounty to share with our local food pantries. The bumper crops this year were cucumbers, beets, and green beans. The gardeners all enjoyed our time of fellowship and work in the garden. We praise God for the opportunities this ministry provides us and thank you all for your prayers for the garden. Plans for next year will be coming soon!

Submitted by Rebecca Smith
This year’s convention was held via zoom. This was my first time at convention, so I can’t compare it to the in-person format. There was a worship service Friday evening that included remembering all those who passed into eternal life this year. George Nenonen, Jan Bach, and Henry Leonard were included in the Necrology.

Convention business was conducted on Saturday. Voting via zoom was worrisome, but the convention coordinators did an excellent job preparing attendees in advance. Delegates voted on the candidates for the Bishop and Trustees and for the Standing Committee. We also voted on several resolutions. You can find the results on the Diocesan website. It was also announced that there will be no General Convention in 2021 – it has been postponed to 2022.

Bishop Lee led Morning Prayer on Saturday for attendees. I was grateful for this “bonus” gift. Bishop Lee was slated to retire June 2020. COVID-19 delayed the work of the Bishop’s Search Committee, so Bishop Lee stayed on to help us weather the crisis. He has truly been a blessing to our Diocese and will be greatly missed! The Farewell Celebration for Bishop Lee and his wife Lisa will be Dec. 5, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm via zoom.


Zoom send-off on Saturday, December 5 at 4 pm.

The Transition Committee invites all members and friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago to join in a celebratory send-off for Bishop Jeff Lee and Lisa Lee on Saturday, December 5 at 4 pm via Zoom. The event will include video greetings from parishioners, clergy and bishops; remarks from Bishop Jeff and Lisa; reflections on his episcopacy; and a festive toast. All are invited to join the virtual farewell celebration using the Zoom link below.

Use this link to register in advance for the Zoom celebration. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to join the gathering.
Once again we are collecting donations for Safe Passage, our local Domestic Violence Prevention Agency. St Paul's has contributed to them at Christmas for many years. This year, as last, we will give funds to them so they can purchase gift cards and use them where needed. If you would like to participate please write a check to St Paul's, list "Safe Passage" in the "Memo" line, and we will forward the total to Safe Passage. It will become part of your donation record to St Paul's. If you prefer to write a check directly to Safe Passage, we will forward that also.
If you have any questions, please contact Maureen Gerrity at or 815-895-8084. Thank you!
We would like to brighten Thanksgiving & Christmas for Gail & Lonnie Piper and their family this year. In the past, St. Paul’s has ordered Thanksgiving & Christmas dinner for them from Hy-Vee, and provided Christmas gifts for the family. Each holiday meal is $89.99 plus tax (8 servings).
Thanksgiving is late this year (Nov. 26), so I am suggesting a combined Holiday Assistance drive for the Sitzes-Piper family. Donations should be made out to St. Paul’s and “Sitzes-Piper Holidays” should be noted on the memo line. We hope to provide Thanksgiving & Christmas dinner once again this year. Any extra amount received will be used to purchase gift cards for the family for Christmas.

If you have any questions, please contact Maureen Gerrity at or 815-895-8084. 
Our long time member Henry Leonard passed away on November 10, 2020. The Reverend Alan Leonard and his wife Brenda assisted Mother Barbara in a zoom Celebration of Life at St. Paul's followed by interment at Fairview Cemetery on November 17th. Arrangements were made through Finch Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the family would like memorials to be made to the Eva Leonard Memorial Fund at St. Paul's.
Food Pantry Collections for December
As The Salvation Army responds to the Coronavirus, financial donations are the most helpful. We are able to obtain food and supplies at a better cost in bulk, and they help us support businesses. If you're interested in making in-kind donations of non-perishable foods and supplies, please call 888-369-1349 to make arrangements.
St. Paul's has been sending in financial donations that have been made to the church (see the Treasurer's Report).
The Rector's Discretionary Fund Collection

First Sunday of the month
December 6, 2020

Donations allow us to assist people in need
in our community.

While there are no gatherings at church,
please remember donations can be mailed.
Activities & Events

Activities for December are mostly limited to on line gatherings. Please check our website
for what is offered.
December Birthdays and Anniversaries


12/3       Ava Stubblefield
12/7       Betsy Pool
12/16     Martin Mounts


12/6       Barbara Wilson+/Lynne Jacobson
12/13    Terry/Jackie Dickow
12/22     Rob/Peggy Russell

St. Paul's Episcopal Church Contact Information
900 Normal Rd., DeKalb, IL 60115 
Parish Office: (815) 756-4888 
The Rev. Barbara A.T Wilson, Rector