On Sunday, December 16, Senior Warden Fred Winters announced two “early Christmas presents” at the 7:45 am and 10:00 am services.
The first is that St. Christopher’s has commitments in hand to eliminate the parish’s remaining construction debt of over $800,000 within the next five years.
The second is that, this evening (Wednesday, December 19), the vestry will be adopting a 2019 operating budget with significantly more resources for ministry than St. Christopher’s has ever had before. This has been made possible by the generous response of parishioners to the Annual Stewardship Drive - an increase in pledge commitments of more than 15%.
In his announcement, Fred reminded the congregation that the theme of this year’s Annual Stewardship Drive has been “prepare the way." Everyone was asked to help “prepare the way” for the arrival of our new rector and to “prepare the way” by growing and expanding our vibrant ministries in order to fulfill God’s vision for St. Christopher’s. Fred noted that, during times of transition from one rector to another, many churches slide backward or just coast - putting everything on hold until the arrival of their new rector. “But,” he said, “that is not St. Christopher’s!”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Fred shared a letter from Bishop Jennifer, who commended parishioners for their faithfulness and commitment during the interim time. She called it “a stunning example of what a productive transition period can be” – one that promises “a strong and healthy beginning with a new rector.”
The full text of Bishop Jennifer’s letter can be read here
Some background may be helpful in putting the good news of these two “early Christmas presents” in context.
Since the third phase of construction on the campus ended in 2009, St. Christopher’s has been paying off a loan on our buildings. The parish has been able to service the debt without impacting the operating budget because of income from previous capital campaigns and the sale, in March of this year, of the last piece of property owned by the church on the west side of Meridian Street/US 31.
By taking advantage of a guaranteed loan program through the diocese, the church successfully refinanced the debt in July 2018 following an extensive analysis of options by former parish treasurer, Norm Callahan, and the work of current treasurer, Barb Lyter.
Norm’s analysis identified a dark cloud, however. The new loan of $816,000 far exceeded remaining funds. When remaining capital campaign funds and proceeds from the land sale were exhausted (in a period of less than two years), principal and interest payments on the loan would have to come from the church’s operating budget, thereby severely limiting the parish’s ability to fund its current ministries and programs and impeding the growth of any new ministry initiatives.
The dark cloud also had the potential to discourage candidates who might otherwise have had an interest in becoming our next rector.
This past spring, the vestry appointed a small team charged to find a solution, including a possible broad-based capital campaign, to reduce the debt to a more manageable level. The vestry also authorized the retention of a highly experienced fundraising consultant whose fee was covered by grants from The Center for Congregations and the Diocese of Indianapolis.
Earlier this year, the parish received a matching gift challenge grant of $500,000. The donors’ goal was to inspire others to eliminate the remaining debt completely and to grow the Building Maintenance Memorial Fund, established earlier this year by a major gift from the estate of Dick Gilbert.
The challenge grant proved to be a game-changer. Several active parishioner families responded with generous commitments that came very close to meeting the challenge. Then, because of a second challenge, parishioners made new and increased pledges to this year’s Stewardship Drive. Those new pledges and increases to previous pledges earned a matching gift that was directed to debt elimination, thereby making it possible for all parishioners to participate in debt elimination. With the added matching gift, we earned the full $500,000 challenge grant and put the effort over the top.
The pledged resources will do more than eliminate debt. St. Christopher’s will also have sufficient funds to increase significantly the Building Maintenance Memorial Fund so that maintenance for our aging facility can be funded for years to come.