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 On Sunday November 13th, our own Esther Hisza will be preaching and the Wardens will be making some specific asks of the congregation as the leadership team begins planning for 2023. Esther will invite us to consider an image of a flower blooming and remind us, “To bloom where we are planted, we need to fertilize our soil.”

In order to prepare for that conversation, Parish Council and the Wardens want to provide you with some background information. 

Financially, St Stephen’s has done some things very well.

  • With the user groups in the building and the long-term tenant of Three Bears, we cover most of the annual costs of operating the building with rental income and building-related donations. This doesn’t include significant capital repairs and improvements, but does handle a lot of the smaller ongoing maintenance.
  • We have a high percentage of parishioners who give and many who give generously. This parish comfortably raises $80,000-90,000 a year.
  • We keep our expenses as low as possible; we’re frugal.
  • We have several successful fundraisers a year.
  • People are generous givers towards special projects.
  • We’ve invested past funds into the Consolidated Trust Fund (CTF) with the Diocese which has historically had strong earnings.

Yet St Stephen’s continues to struggle with a few things.

  • The cost of supporting an experienced, full-time priest requires at least $120,000 in giving each year. We could raise that other ways, but our most reliable and consistent source of income outside of renting the building is the ongoing donations of our parishioners.
  • By relying on the CTF to balance our budget, we are vulnerable to exactly what has happened in 2022: the markets have lost money rather than earning it.
  • The building is aging and the kind of work it requires to maintain it only gets more expensive.
  • Our CTF funds are the source we’ve been using for both big capital projects and balancing the budget.

The big problem we’re facing in 2023 is that the CTF funds have lost a significant amount and the experts do not predict that to turn around quickly in the new year. There’s a very good chance that the losses in the market will mean that our total asset won’t be large enough for us to pull the $20,000-30,000 we need to balance the budget and sustain a full-time priest.  So what are we going to do?

  • First, we are going to continue to pray. We believe that God has called us into this particular community in this particular time and place and that we are doing God’s work. So we are going to pray that God will help us find the resources we need to keep doing the work that God has called us to do. The Wardens have applied for a grant from the Vancouver Foundation’s “Recovery and Resiliency” funding for non-profits. We hope to hear about that grant in November.
  • Second, we are going to be intentional about our giving for 2023. We are going to review our own financial picture and let the church know what we can commit to in 2023. We know that everyone is struggling with the rate of inflation and other financial challenges. While it would be amazing if many of us could increase our giving, what is most important is that the leadership team knows what we can anticipate for next year. As we have said about other things post-pandemic, we can no longer count on “what we’ve always done” as our guide.”
  • Third, we are going to create a team within the parish to focus us all on how we invite others to join us in the work that God is doing in this place. The truth is that as long as we average 50 people on Sundays or less, we are going to struggle to reach the goal of $120,000 in giving each year. But we aren’t going to focus on growing the number of people who worship with us because we need to share the costs of being here over more people. We’re going to focus on the blessings and joy we get from belonging to this community and invite others into that.
  • And we’re going to trust that if we do that God will take care of the rest. 

Background Information on the Consolidated Trust Fund

After about a decade of being served by a priest working part-time hours, in 2017, the leadership of St Stephen’s mapped out a plan to return to having a full-time rector. The plan was to use funds from our Consolidated Trust Fund (CTF) holdings to support the extra cost while the parish grew to a size and giving rate that could sustain the additional costs. The Consolidated Trust Fund is an investment fund managed on behalf of parishes and the Diocese of New Westminster. Our money invested there includes some bequests, retained earnings, and the proceeds of the sale of the rectory ($89,161). The proceeds of the rectory sale require permission from Diocesan Council to use; we refer to them as “restricted funds.” Earnings from the sale of rectories are often used to support clergy compensation. St Stephen’s has also used its holdings in the CTF as our primary source of funds for large building projects. The original 2017 plan called for a total withdrawal of $135,000 from the CTF over 4 years and has been revised as we have moved through those years. We have aimed to keep the total withdrawal at the same $135,000 while not removing more money than we needed to. through 2021 the CTF’s earnings were actually covering what we were withdrawing. However, with the market downturn in 2022, things are not looking as good.

As of September 30th, 2022, the value of our CTF funds was $172,365. Because $89,161 is restricted, that leaves us with a balance of $83,204 available to use going into 2023. If the markets continue to lose funds, that sum will continue to drop. The losses in the Consolidated Trust Fund impact many parishes in our Diocese. We have reached out to diocesan leadership to alert them to our concerns. As stated above, the Wardens and Parish Council will be gathering your financial intentions for 2023 to build a budget. There will be members of our finance committee available on Sunday, November 6th and throughout the month to answer questions and discuss our options.