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Year in Review
Highland celebrates its 35th Anniversary!    
The Day of Pentecost, May 20, 2018, marked the 35 th Anniversary of the commissioning of Highland Presbyterian Church. While the actual date fell in May, the Session of Highland chose to have the formal celebration in September to avoid the hectic end of the school year and to allow time to contact former members and friends during the summer months. A slight delay also made it possible to identify exactly what kind of celebration would interest and involve the community around us. A musical event seemed to fit the bill.
A celebratory worship service followed by a reception and an evening musical event titled “Gather Us In” was scheduled for Sunday, September 23. Printed invitations were sent out to current and former members and friends of Highland and the work began. The church was adorned with new paraments of paper cutouts; strong, rooted, soaring, reaching, vibrant, fruitful, sheltering and comforting trees – from Highland’s Vision Statement. The Mission Statement, Connecting Our Community with Christ, led the direction for the evening musical event. The talent for the evening included the Highland Presbyterian Church Choir, led by Aubrey Nelson; a brass quintet from L.S.U.; a vocal Quartet from L.S.U., including Aubrey Nelson; and the woodwind group, Acoustic Oxygen . The scriptures and music chosen for the evening featured an original vocal piece composed by Aubrey Nelson for the occasion and brought a blessing to the whole community.  
Highland Presbyterian Church ended its 35 th year with 54 Active Members, 3 Affiliate Members and 12 Baptized Members.  Our one membership loss this year was Charter Member Jim Martin who entered the Church Triumphant on November 19, 2018. Over half of our 54 members are female (33) and 37% of our members are over the age of 70. Visitors are an important part of our Congregation as well. Highland had an average of seven visitors weekly, approximately 350 for the year. While Highland may be small by some standards, we always consider ourselves “mighty” in the eyes of God.
Seven Active Members served as Ruling Elders on Session, three females and four males. In October Ruling Elders Mike Groves and Dudley Payton were elected to the Session Class of 2021, having previously served one term each. Bob Buck completed his term of service and received the Congregation’s sincere appreciation. Dave Adams continued to serve as Treasurer and Louise Dye continued to serve as Clerk of Session for Highland.
2018 brought its share of changes in the staff of Highland. Choir Director Aubrey Nelson graduated in May, was offered a teaching position and youth choir directorship, and resigned from Highland during the summer. Due to financial restraints Highland was unable to replace her. Jennifer Hirstius, our part-time Office Administrator, took a full-time position and now works remotely continuing to do Highland’s financial and bookkeeping duties. 
Worship, Study, and Fellowship
Highland’s 9:30 a.m. Sunday Worship Service continued to be the backbone for the life of the church with an average attendance of 35 people each week.  The holy seasons of Lent/Easter, Advent/Christmas and Pentecost, along with special worship for Youth Sunday and the 35 th Anniversary of Highland Presbyterian Church, formed a framework for Worship at Highland.  Lent/Easter Worship was celebrated with a Maundy Thursday Service and Congregational meal, memorial Easter Lilies, and flowering of the cross on Easter Sunday.  Pentecost marked the 35 th Anniversary of Highland and was celebrated with our traditional Jambalaya lunch and the “wearing of red.” September 16 was chosen as Youth Sunday.  The young people of Highland led a powerful worship service sharing their experiences from the Youth Conference in Montreat, NC. The calendar year closed with the beginning of the liturgical year – Advent/Christmas . Again, traditions of “Greening of the Church,” decorating the Chrismon Tree, enjoying special music and attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service all made this time of year extra-special.
Education goes hand in hand with worship and has been a cornerstone in the life of Highland Presbyterian Church. The Tuesday Morning Study group continued faithfully meeting throughout the year. Mary Martin, Connie Buck and Louise Dye shared opportunities to facilitate this group as they used various forms to study the word of God. Highland’s Youth Group , led by Rev. Janie, attended a Montreat Youth Conference in July. It’s been such a blessing to see the growth these young people have experienced through opportunities such as this.
We should also never forget the importance that fellowship has in the life of Highland Presbyterian Church. It’s what helps to bring us together as a family. Whether it is gathering for Third Sunday Lunch, Lagniappe Ladies eating out together every few months, or celebrating the mile-stone birthdays of members the importance of knowing each other personally is a special gift that should be and is shared at Highland.
Highland Presbyterian Church is connected to its denomination, its neighborhood and the world through Mission.  Financial support for Offerings of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) was one of many ways Highland contributed to God’s work on Earth in 2018. The One Great Hour of Sharing Offering received at Easter totaled $355. This offering assists those affected by natural disasters, provides food to the hungry and assists in helping to empower the poor and oppressed. Sixty percent of the Pentecost Offering, $237, went to enable the PC (U.S.A.) to encourage, develop and support its young people, as well as provide assistance for at-risk children. The other forty percent of this offering, $158, directed locally, went to the local office of Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services. The Peace and Global Witness Offering was received on World Communion Sunday, October 7, and totaled $310. This Offering is also divided with 75% going to the denomination to assist in the mission of promoting the peace of Christ by addressing systems of injustice across the world. The other 25% remains in our community. This year Highland’s portion went to the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge. The Christmas Joy Offering , received during the Christmas season, brought in $505. These funds are divided 50/50 by the denomination to provide financial assistance to current and former church workers and their families, and to provide opportunities for deserving students to attend Presbyterian-related racial-ethnic colleges and schools. Beyond the offerings of our denomination, Highland also generously supports the mission of Heifer International , an organization that works globally to end hunger and poverty. Thanks to the generous gift of an LSU-themed quilt from the “Giving Quilt,” Highland held a raffle in November with all the proceeds, $821, going to Heifer.

Local Mission has always been a passion at Highland Presbyterian Church.  St. John UMC’s Shepherd’s Market , a partner of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank serving our neighborhood directly, received both financial support, $312, and donations of non-perishable food items and fresh produce from our garden and orchard in 2018. Highland’s “Gift of Literacy” program provided books at Christmas and the end of the school year for each first-grade student at Magnolia Woods Elementary School. The Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge is another partner in mission. Highland’s financial support and participation in their yearly “Hunger Walk” helped in their mission of cultivating unity, justice and peace in our community. During the year, members and friends of Highland collected Box Tops for Education and Community Coffee coupons for Magnolia Woods to redeem and benefit their educational programs. 
Service was another way Highland Presbyterian supported God’s mission.  Highland’s community garden provided fresh fruit and vegetables for St. John UMC’s Shepherd’s Market. At Christmas bags of citrus fruit from our orchard were given to Highland’s neighbors and participants in the Alcoholics Anonymous groups meeting at Highland. Service also included ministry to our own congregation. In October Highland offered an opportunity for members to get flu shots after Sunday worship. A prayer card ministry touched each and everyone in the congregation and bulletins were mailed to members of the congregation who are unable to attend worship regularly.
As part of its mission and outreach, Highland Presbyterian hosted different community groups during the year.  Alcoholics Anonymous continued to be a large ministry. Highland provided space for five AA groups offering nine meetings a week – one of the busiest locations in South Baton Rouge. The Wasted Women Quilting Bee, a group of dedicated local quilters who recycle donated fabric, unfinished projects and sewing room waste into quilts for charitable donations, met faithfully twice a month. Highland’s Youth Group hosted the Presbytery’s Day of Service on Martin Luther King Day, January 15, 2018. The focus was on combating hunger and special attention was given to Highland’s garden.
What comes next?
Budget concerns bring changes for 2019.  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.
What can we do? 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. 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. 
Budget Summary 2018 - Projected Budget 2019
About HPC
Highland Presbyterian Church is a vibrant tree in God's grace-filled orchard. Deeply rooted in God's life-giving presence here on earth, this tree extends its branches to support one another in faith and reach into the world around it to produce fruit. Whether you are seeking God's presence through questions or service, discussion or fellowship, there is a home for you at Highland.
Connecting with Our Pastor
Rev. Janie McElwee-Smith

cell (call or text): 314.283.7596
office: 766-5775 (please leave a message)

Highland Presbyterian Church (USA)
10024 Highland Road • Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • 225.766.5775 •