Dear siblings in Christ,
I write to you with confidence from the Holy Spirit. As many of you no doubt recall, we’ve come to the end of our 3-month Memorandum of Understanding of the “campsite” as of June 1st. Since May 23rd, we have returned to in-person worship, which I am so grateful for! In conjunction with your Bishop’s Committee, Bishop Susan, and our gracious hosts at Oceanside Sanctuary Church, Holy Cross will engage in a new one-year Memorandum of Understanding, at a rate of $3,000 per month until the end of next June. This will become official once the Executive Council and Standing Committee of the diocese votes to enact it on June 5th and 15th respectively. This is a structure which is very reasonable for both congregations.
This gives us one year of stability in our current worship environment and for our visioning process while affording us options in a year’s time. I want to thank the leaders of both congregations, especially our Bishop’s Committee, the Rev. Jason Coker, and Bishop Susan. This will be a time of transition, continuing since we first realized we could not stay where we were in Bressi Ranch, and we can live at our campsite for a little while as we determine our future together.
I know you probably have questions, so in lieu of my usual missives to you all, please avail yourself of this Q&A I’ve written. We will also dedicate this Sunday’s forum time (10.30AM, Zoom link here
), so you can ask further questions then.
Q: Why are we in Oceanside again?
A: Simply put, we were hemorrhaging financially in our previous location. We lost both the sub-letting communities, B’nai Tikvah and the American Catholics, which to the best of my knowledge have dissolved. Combined with relatively soft pledge numbers from 2019 and the economic downturn of the pandemic, we were likely to burn through reserves and the gifts of the congregation at a rate of $10,000/month while not being able to utilize the space ourselves. You can review much of that information from our previous communications by clicking here
. Fundamentally, we saved $79,000 on the life of our lease by accepting a buyout of $55,000 in February. The lease was to end in March of 2022, had we remained through it we would have drained $68,000 from reserves from our projected deficit this year alone, and likely looking for a new space as well.
Amid the lease buy-out process from our previous location in February of this year, we needed to find an immediate landing place to continue live-streaming worship, what we deemed a “campsite.” We estimated need a campsite for 6-8 months. A number of locations were considered, and the Bishop’s Committee was unanimous in our choice of Oceanside Sanctuary Church (OSC) for a few reasons, the values between our communities were aligned, the 3-month Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was reasonable to both congregations during the height of quarantine, and it was the most accessible space and welcoming congregation of the ones we considered. We began that MOU in March, that was for our “campsite” situation, and it ran out as of June 1st.
Q: Why are we signing a one-year lease, I thought this was a “campsite” for 6-8 months?
A: Circumstances have changed significantly, chiefly because we are once again worshipping in-person. Our estimate in February of 6-8 months of being at a “campsite” were based on a belief that we may not be back to in-person worship until September or later. Fortunately, between vaccinations, better health practices by much of the general public, and continuing drops in infection rates, we no longer need to merely “camp.” We are doing more than just administering and livestreaming from the building now.
As one BC member aptly put it, “we’re not camping anymore, we’re renting an apartment.” We are now starting to live together again, in the sense that we can worship together and meet people from OSC. Because we are going to be using the space more and more as public safety restrictions are lifted at the state, county, and diocesan levels, we hope gathering will become more convenient to more of you, especially later in June.
Thus, both congregations needed a new agreement at this stage for practical and legal reasons. By signing this one-year Memorandum of Understanding with Oceanside Sanctuary Church at $3,000/month under our current budget projections we will have cut our shortfall from $68,000 to just under $1,000. In a single year, we will have nearly eliminated the potential shortfall. This is a blessing from God for our finances, as close to a financial miracle as we will ever see! This is a one-year MOU, it affords us time to build, implement, and execute our forthcoming visioning process, and potentially find another location or negotiate an even more reasonable lease as this new MOU expires.
Q: We were paying $900-$1,000/month, this lease is for $3,000/month, why are we paying more now?
When we entered into the 3-month Memorandum of Understanding we were paying $500/month for a small office on the second floor of the building, small storage room and $100 for each Sunday we livestreamed from the Sanctuary. We did not have any additional access to use other spaces in the church, nor to gather in-person at the facility.
Now that we are able to gather in-person once again and hope to be using the space more and more as public safety restrictions are lifted at the state, county, and diocesan levels, we will have additional access to more of the facility and therefore, we have a new Memorandum of Understanding at this cost.
Our new arrangement includes the following: A larger private office space on the main level with a keyed private exterior entrance; small storage room; shared use of all main level spaces including the sanctuary, soundbooth, classrooms, library, cafe and restrooms, as well as the basement meeting space, kitchen and restrooms. Utilities, Internet, Cleaning Services and software booking admin for shared spaces is included.
As you can see this represents us going from renting a small office space on the second floor to a larger one on the first floor, along with reasonable access to most of the rest of the building while not having to directly pay for utilities. We look forward to using more of the space as our own activities begin to pick up and I settle in and also having the opportunity to get to know our brothers and sisters at OSC.
Q: Will we be able to worship at another time?
A: Yes, we can. The new Memorandum of Understanding provides for us to begin our service with one of two available time slots available on Sundays: up to 9 am or 12:30 pm or later. This is structured around OSC's current worship time of 10:30 am.
One important consideration for our start time for the up to 9 am time slot is the time needed for transition between our service and OSC's service. They need time to begin sound checks and service preparations and require us to remove all of our items (candles, vestments, flags, flowers, chalice, etc.) that we use in our service so we must be clear of the sanctuary, including the altar, by no later than 10 am. (The same applies in the reverse if we start at 12:30 pm - OSC must provide us access for set-up and preparations prior to a 12:30 start time).
Once we are able to resume social activities, HCE parishioners will be able to make use of the cafe and common areas for fellowship past 10 AM, but for those of you who have been up to the church already, we will have to be sure to clear the parking lot by no later than 10:20 AM so OSC folks have a place to park (again, the same would apply to OSC if we decided to worship at 12:30 pm or later).
We could move from 8:30 AM to either 9 AM or 12:30PM or later on Sunday. I welcome more input on this but cannot promise everyone’s desires can be met.
As an aside to this, a very popular option on the reopening survey were a beach worship or something at All Saints Episcopal Chapel near Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside. We can arrange these if some volunteers help envision it, market it, and are willing to help set it up. Contact me directly if you would like to help with either!
Q: What’s going on with the “visioning process”? Why haven’t we heard more about this yet?
A: One of the biggest benefits of signing this one-year MOU, for me as your priest, is the simple luxury of stability for a year, something we have not known as community since I accepted the call to Holy Cross just before the pandemic. This stability affords me the chance to prepare for the real work we have to do, and I’m excited to get down to the task. With this settled until about this time next year, I can dive deep into forming our visioning process and helping execute it. We received a grant of $14,500 from the diocese for this work, and Donald Romanik, the president of the Episcopal Church Foundation, has agreed to lead our process for us. This is a massive opportunity for us as a community and requires a wise use of time and resources.
We get to define a new way of being church in a time when we need experimentation, collaboration, living our joyful discipleship loudly to show the world the way of Jesus through our Episcopal prism! Knowing I can focus on this now means we can point a way forward with prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than worrying about cash-flow and where we might be next. I will take the time required to get this thing right for us in collaboration with our other leaders.
As such, I’m looking into how to best utilize this moment for the congregation as a whole, and I’m really excited about the possibilities. What I know we will likely do in the coming months:
· Between now and the fall with the help of the Bishop’s Committee prayerfully discern and appoint 10-12 congregants who will live out the visioning process as a community. This will likely require reading, training, research, collaboration, as part of a community covenant (also known as a “rule of life”) on the part of those on the visioning team.
· The visioning team, as a community, will be empowered to listen and discern with the congregation to define our values, aspirations, joys, concerns, and the mission. They will also be empowered to point the way forward for the congregation in terms of recommendations to the Bishop’s Committee and other leaders. They will not be responsible for a possible relocation of the congregation, but the Bishop’s Committee may convene an exploration team if necessary.
· Engage with the vicar and other coaches/instructors/collaborators to listen, reflect, and act. Those actions can be determined in the future, and could involve establishment of a new ministry, further experimentation with liturgy, or recommending systemic changes to our Bishop’s committee and other leader. Action may need not be limited to these aspects, in conference with the Bishop’s Committee and Bishop Susan of course.
· Visit other congregations for research purposes.
Q: What can I do to help?
A: If you would like to help in anyway, contact me, Rev. Richard at your earliest convenience. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call me on my cell, 715.492.0297. Texting is preferred, but if you leave a voicemail I’ll get back to you at my earliest convenience. Frankly, it would be lovely just to take those of you who would be comfortable out for coffee!
Beyond that, I want to know who would like to be on the visioning team, so I’m happy to hear your thoughts on who, or what skills, you’d like to see on this team which will point our way forward as disciples of Jesus in the Episcopal Church. Too many people are praying and rooting for us for this to fail, though we may stumble, we always persevere.
Yours in the name of Christ,