I've mentioned in previous posts that Robert E. Lee died following a vestry meeting. He was a vestrymember at his church in Lexington following his service to the Commonwealth and the Confederacy. The guns of war didn't kill him; it was the stress of vestry service.
And, as I've said before, I can relate.
Last night's vestry meeting was of note. The church faces almost $50,000 in unbudgeted expenses resulting from damage caused by Hurricane Isabel. In addition, for next year (that would be the new year starting in 7 weeks) we are currently projecting we will receive about $30,000 less than this year from the endowment (the amount we receive is based on a set percentage of the "three year trailing average" which means that with the stock market tanking last year, our trailing average tanked, too). Oh, and did I mention that pledges for next year are off by about $20,000 from this year?
By my very rough calculations, that means we need to find some $100,000 in order to continue to maintain the level of service and ministry we are doing this year.
The endowment is an interesting subject. Some people believe we should care for it, but use it. Others believe it is really only for some future generation.
The foundation was started by some now-deceased member of the parish; I'll call him Frankenfooter. Frankenfooter was a wiz with money; he was also loaded. Frankenfooter would have wanted the endowment to remain nearly untouched. He was building it for the future generations, or so the claim goes. So the Frankenfooter disciples, of which there is a vocal and passionate minority, want to leave the endowment alone. Take out 4% a year, but no more. Let it grow for the future.
What would Frankenfooter have said or done? In a moment of passion and loud voice, one member of the vestry last night suggested that if our current situation was faced by the vestry of 30+ years ago, they would have solved the problem, easily. No, they wouldn't have tapped into the endowment. They would have gone to Frankenfooter who would have stroked a check for whatever the parish needed. No need to touch the endowment with the Frankenfooter Savings & Gifts open.
The cynic in me says that the Frankenfooter disciples are only doing half of what Frankenfooter did: talk to protect the endowment. I don't see them reaching for their checkbooks.
Did I mention that 19 members of the parish have made no pledge; not even a dollar a week. Nothing. No giving back for ministry. And 11 members of the parish have reduced their pledge for 2004 from their 2003 levels.
Did I mention that I received a note yesterday from one lady of the parish; she is raising her pledge by 10%. I'm following suite, as painful as it might be. The Senior Warden is doing likewise. Who will follow the example?
Will the Frankenfooter disciples put their money where their mouth is? Will they follow the example and teaching of Jesus? Will they buy into Frankenfooter's example of word and deed and stroke a big check?
Time will tell, but I have my suspicions.