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#LentWellLived Daily Reflections

February 26, 2020

Daily reflections on the Lenten Gospels, written by the people of St. James.
Read along at www.LectionaryPage.net

"Lent is a season of the Church meant to mirror the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before his public ministry began. As Lent begins, I think about the experience we sometimes have of entering into and residing in “wilderness." What happens when we enter such seeming barren places, spaces, or mentalities? What do we learn and how might we grow? In today's Gospel reading, Jesus "was praying alone, with only his disciples near him" (Luke 9:18). What is reveled in this quiet moment? After being named by Peter as “The Messiah of God,” Jesus describes his own death and resurrection and he tells the disciples: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Oftentimes, when we read the Gospels, we may be perplexed and maybe overwhelmed by precisely what Jesus is calling us to do. I know I struggle with the simultaneous simplicity and strangeness of that calling. But in the wilderness of Lent, we can begin to break well-worn patterns and to quiet the cacophony around us, and in such stillness we might, like the disciples, begin to recognize who Jesus is and we begin to understand the implications of his presence. We can freely contemplate the immensity of his calling for us. And we can begin the painstaking work of inscribing that recognition, that understanding, and that calling firmly onto our hearts."
- Sean Bala, St. James Young Adults

"How wonderful it is that Jesus’ disciples were willing to rebel! We read in today’s Gospel that Jesus and his disciples were eating with tax collectors and sinners and we hear Jesus’ inspired response to the cynics. But what was going through the minds of his disciples? Were they willing? Or were they still anxious? 'Feel the fear and do it anyway,' says Susan Jeffers. Then the disciples are criticized again – this time because they are not fasting when they ought to be. They were stepping away from the normal expectations probably knowing that they would attract criticisms. What was going through their minds this time? Scared? Worried? Or perhaps starting to feel free from expectations; starting to think for themselves; to celebrate Jesus’ bold, fresh approach to love. If we are disciples of Jesus we need to feel the fear and get on with it anyway."
- Alison Barrington, St. James Staff Member

"Dear Lord,
We thank you for calling the tax collector Levi to be a follower of you. This gives us sinners hope that we can also be called to be followers of you.
We thank you for sharing the table with Levi and his fellow tax collectors. May we learn to share the table with people from walks of life outside our own.
We thank you for surprising the Pharisees by keeping the company of the unrighteous. May we not let our identity as Christians to blind us from realizing our own unrighteousness.
We thank you for coming to this world and calling your worldly company to repent. May we do our best to actively repent this Lenten season.
We thank you for transforming the tax collector Levi into one of your disciples. This gives us sinners hope that we can also be transformed by you to share the Good News with others.
Amen."
- Connor Riggs, St. James Young Adults

"In this early part of our Lenten journey, the church’s cycle of readings throws at us the frightening vision of the day of judgement that closes Jesus’ teachings in Matthew’s gospel - the teaching about the division of humanity into ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’. It is frightening stuff, and not just because the fate of the ‘goats’ is to be cast into the eternal fires of hell prepared by the devil. It is really frightening because neither the good guys or the bad guys are remotely aware of what they have done: 'Lord, when did we see you hungry….?' is the cry on everyone’s lips. Lent is a time to practice discernment, and, in so doing, to change our behavior to make it more Christ-like and thus more pleasing to God. Let us pray we never have to look Christ in the eye and ask, 'but when did we goof up, Lord?'"
- The Very. Rev. Dominic Barrington, Dean of the Cathedral

"Our Father knows what we need before we ask him. What a comfort and blessing! We must remember he is all-knowing and caring about each of us. We pray to God in The Lord’s Prayer that 'YOUR will be done,' not OUR will. Remembering this focus should guide us throughout Lent and life. We ask GOD to 'give us this day,' but WE must take each day and make it a productive gift to honor God."
- Kaye Wertz, St. James Usher & Reader

"How often do we look back at the people in the Bible and think how ridiculous and out of touch they were? How inconceivable it is that the Son of Man was right there in front of them, and yet, somehow they still were not satisfied by his presence? How absurd that they demanded more proof of God's power and ability to perform miracles even while hearing from Jesus Christ himself, who would soon rise from the dead--the greatest miracle this world has ever seen? But, if we're honest with ourselves, how often do we demand the same of God today? How many times have we asked for a sign or demanded that God work a miracle in our lives? And then, refuse to be satisfied when his answer is "no," or sometimes the even more difficult answer, 'wait!'? This Lenten season, ask yourself, are you challenging God to provide proof of his providence over your life, or are you satisfied by his presence? He wants us to prayerfully share our joys, struggles, and fears with him, but, unlike our Biblical friends, we must learn to trust him, no matter his answer."
- Lesli Vipond, St. James Young Adults

"A door can be viewed as a barrier or an opportunity. How often do we close doors to people and opportunities that need us, or truly open our doors to the lonely and marginalized? Do we find ourselves on the outside, too fearful or insecure to knock? To knock, ask for help, or ask for acceptance takes courage. It’s an overcoming of fear that requires faith in the person behind the door. Jesus assured us that the door will be opened to us if we knock. But we must knock. We must seek in order to find, and we must ask in order to receive. May we learn to recognize the people knocking on our doors, especially when the knocking comes from a place of vulnerability. May we have courage and faith to knock on the doors in our lives, and the faith to knock on the door of Jesus."
- Gemma Wilson, St. James Choir

"We all have the capacity for chaos, hostility, and evil within us. It can be easy for evil to overtake us. How do we control our anger instead? During the season of Lent, we need to remember Jesus telling us that all people are our brothers and sisters. We need to make forgiveness and reconciliation more important than anything else. If we don’t, Jesus says there will be a price to pay.”
- Dorian Abbot, St. James Meals Ministry

"In a world filled with hate, it is challenging to convince ourselves to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ We need a daily reminder of this when life throws hatred at us. People use hate to devalue others and take control. It is one of the most destructive, demoralizing traits of human nature and takes on a social status in communities throughout the world. Jesus asks us to go beyond our feeling of hate towards those we assume have done wrong and treat them with an open heart. We look to our faith to give us strength to be more accepting of others and become more humble people. Negative feelings towards others only amplify more negative feelings; they don’t resolve or help show others the love of Christ. When we struggle to show compassion and love towards others who display profound hatred, we can ask God to change their hearts and minds to understand the needs of others. It is only through forgiveness that we can be at peace with the hate we feel inside."
- Jane Marienau, St. James Parishioner

"We read today the verses where Jesus instructs us in what is often called the Golden Rule: do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. This is, of course, a teaching that some of us have heard often since childhood. However, in reading the passage anew today, I am struck by something new, namely, how radical Jesus’ call is, but, at the same time, what he tells us about himself and our relationship to him. I have tended to think of the Golden Rule as a standard of behavior that we try to achieve willfully through our own action. But what Jesus asks us to do appears so radical—almost beyond ourselves—that I cannot imagine any longer trying to practice that kind of love without seeking his help. In this sense, Jesus extends to us the love he asks us to extend to others."
- Arthur Clement, St. James Verger and Young Adult Member

"There are times in the Gospels when Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees in which I feel like Jesus is speaking directly to me. As someone who preaches, I desperately hope that my sermons are a supportive guide on people's faith journeys. I also know my imperfections and would prefer for others to not emulate them, yet people watch. As Christians, the people in our lives watch the way we live: the decisions we make, the way we treat others, the votes we cast, the love, or lack thereof, that we share with the world. Do we live our lives like Jesus? Do we simply talk the talk or are we also trying to humble ourselves and walk the walk that leads to the cross of Jesus Christ?"
- The Rev. Anna Broadbent, Curate

"We should have sympathy for Salome, the mother of James and John. Like every good mother, she wanted a preference for her children. But Jesus warned her: be careful of what you ask for. Before great rewards in the heavenly kingdom, there is service to others, terrible trial, danger, and even death. We should also remember Jesus’ advice to the wife of Zebedee - when we pray, we should not ask for foolish things. In the 1960s, singer-songwriter Janis Joplin sang, 'O Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.' It is better that we should ask for our daily bread."
- Bob Wertz, St. James Usher & Reader

"In the gospel of Luke, Jesus began his ministry by announcing 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' (Luke 4:17-19) Luke illustrates multiple times throughout his gospel writings that the poor are central to Jesus' message and ministry. Jesus warns his followers against showing favoritism and encourages them to not only show mercy to the poor, but also to invite them in. The gospel has always been for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. The gospel is where the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and the poor are given the seat of honor. As followers of Christ, how do our lives reflect this aspect of the gospel?"
- Elena Buis, Summer in the City Volunteer & Parishioner

"Today’s gospel reading is Matthew's version of Jesus’ story known as the Parable of the Bad Tenants. This is one of a series of Jesus’ sermons where his punchline flips the story into a scathing rebuke of the religious elites listening from the crowd, which eventually leads to his arrest and execution. Even during Lent when I’m supposed to be open to self reflection, I find it too easy to skim these stories just deep enough to catch the harsh judgments on someone else, on those self-righteous religious hypocrites. I have no trouble closing the book without myself considering whether Jesus’ words might also be directed at me. But the priests who heard the parable were furious, because they understood that Jesus was talking about them. So could I also be like a tenant entrusted with a valuable inheritance? Might I also be rejecting Jesus’ challenging teachings? Do I live my life as if I’m aware of having received a great gift from God?"
- Clay Johnson, St. James Choir Member

"Sometimes, we lose track of our faith; our priorities and sense of direction in life become compromised. Like the prodigal son, Christ calls us to renew our commitment to God, and to each other. With God's grace, it is never too late, or too early, to come to terms with our own shortcomings. Other times, we are jealous of others who we see as less deserving than us. Rather than measure our sins against theirs, we are called to celebrate our brothers and sisters who return home to Christ. This Lent, may we turn our hearts to the Lord, conscious of our own shortcomings, and support our brothers and sisters who seek to do the same."
- Isaac Drewes, St. James Organ Scholar

"Is your capacity for belief in Jesus stunted?
At first, it seems like Jesus’ audience was likely to believe his words, but as he finished speaking someone piped up 'Isn’t this Joseph’s son?' After all, Jesus grew up with them. I can imagine him as a child playing with them, sharing meals, and learning about them through his father’s trade, and maybe even attending this house of worship with them. It’s as if they are ashamed that they’ve been unknowingly part of some scandal, the wool has been pulled over their eyes, or they are jealous of his boldness or capacity to do the great things he was coming to be known for. Regardless, familiarity with him led to a skewed perspective of his credibility. Have you allowed the familiarity of your situation, environment, or attitude to undermine your trust in God? In addition to himself, all of the examples Jesus presented were individuals who were most effective when traveling outside of their hometowns. Are you too comfortable? Have you heard the same passages from the Bible so many times that you’ve accidentally allowed them to lose their power in your eyes? Today, pray for a fresh perspective, a new challenge, a change of heart, or that God would simply reveal himself to you in a new way, or maybe in a way that you just forgot."
- Jeremiah Vipond, St. James Young Adults

"In this reading, Jesus stresses the importance of true forgiveness. As a Christian, it can be easy to say we’ve forgiven someone verbally, but as a human, it can be equally as easy to hold a grudge, to say 'I forgive you' but not truly mean it, or to let the person’s actions against us alter our relationship or the way we see them as people long after we’ve said the words. It takes a great amount of grace to truly forgive, but when we look to Jesus’ teaching and see God’s abundant mercy, even for imperfect people like us, it’s clear that true forgiveness is strongly linked to unconditional love. This season, may we get closer to true forgiveness, letting go of the past, and being generous with the people around us, who are as imperfect as we are. May we learn the value, action, and conviction behind true forgiveness of those who have wronged us, even after apologies we never got."
- Alexandra Kunath, St. James Staff & Choir Member

"What is Lent? Lent is a time to prepare to celebrate the greatest gifts we humans have ever received: the Easter gift of God’s love and forgiveness. In today’s Gospel reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ instruction to the crowds that he has come ‘not to abolish but to fulfill’; not to dispense of the teachings of the Old Testament, but to offer himself in fulfillment of that covenant. As Christians, we believe that Jesus taught us to view the Law through a new lens – that the Law is best understood as a Law of love: to love God, neighbor, and self. We are taught the real definition of love and forgiveness in Jesus dying for our sins and God sending his only son into the world for us. Jesus wants us to live in a community of that love, supporting one another in faith. To be in true community with one another, we must be able to forgive, following the example of Christ, who forgave the sins of all of us in order that we might live in community with him."
- The Colao Family, St. James Choir Members

"Today's account of Christ's childhood reads a bit like Charlton Heston meets 'Home Alone.' Every parent (or choirmaster) has a horror story of a child wandering off. They don't always heed the boundaries we adults find obvious. But sometimes, boundaries blind us from the truth, and it takes the wisdom of a child to open our eyes."
- Stephen Buzard, Director of Music

"No miracles, no parables, just a simple declaration: 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' That is very good news. Isn’t that what we all hope to hear? And all it takes, apparently, is to affirm what Jesus said. We’ve heard it so often that most of us can recite it without hesitation. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. But what does this gospel really mean? Just agreeing with Jesus that this is what’s most important is all that’s needed to get near to the kingdom of God? It seems too simple. My Sadducee mind wants to ask more questions, parse the words more carefully, find out what conditions apply. And then I close my eyes, take a breath, and try to stop thinking so hard and hear the words with my heart. Yes, it is simple – though maybe not easy. But truly, all that is needed is to be sure love comes first with every action I take. I affirm what Jesus said not just by saying, 'yes, I agree,' but by saying yes with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and all my strength."
- Laura Jenkins, St. James Welcome Committee Member
"How does it look when we, the 'repentant tax collectors' judge the Pharisees? These two characters are both human and neither is free from sin. This story is simple. The Pharisees, being locked in their own understanding of orthodoxy, were missing something of great depth that the truly repentant tax collector received. Living in a world of 'tax collectors,' it’s easy for us to look at the Pharisee and say, 'I’m truly repentant; thank you for not making me like the Pharisee.' This Lent, it’s a perfect opportunity to truly go into the desert alone with Christ and judge ourselves instead of others to get closer to God and to the realization that no human is better or more entitled to God’s love than another. Judging someone else based on what we think God feels, other than love, is missing the ultimate point. 'For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.'"
- Kevin Godsil, St. James Head Acolyte
"There are some times in the Gospel where Jesus seems grouchy (like in Mark's Gospel when he cursed a fig tree that didn't have any fruit because it wasn't the right season). In today's Gospel, a man asks Jesus to come to Capurnaum to heal his son and Jesus replies 'Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe,' which is essentially a 'No'; this seems mean. Why dash this man's hope or make him jump through hoops?  Even if he has to believe before a miracle can happen, surely God can put in some extra effort to speed up the process and save a dying child. But perhaps, rather than being stubborn, Jesus is trying to make a point: that miracles don't happen to convince us to believe, instead they happen when we're so in need of a solution that we'll believe that anything is possible. I think that Jesus is reminding me that miracles can still happen, even when signs and wonders are nowhere to be found. He's asking me to believe that the world can change in impossible ways."
- Karl B., St. James Young Adults
"The invalid in today’s Gospel reading waited thirty-eight years for someone to notice him. Thirty-eight years he waits for someone to help him into the pool of water. Is the invalid ignored, or does he lack the strength to ask for help? For many of us, asking for help is a challenge. But revealing our weakness does not mean admitting defeat. When we recognize our own limitations, we open a window for divine connection. We allow Jesus to work through the hands of a friend or a stranger. 'Do you want to be made well?' Jesus asks. Like the passers by, we carry our own pain, sickness, grief, and brokenness. Let us not be so consumed with our burdens that we fail to recognize the life-giving potential of the simplest action: reaching out for help."
- Lieve Buzard, St. James Young Adults & Choir Member
"God’s selection of Mary as the mother of Jesus leaves us with a thousand questions. Why her? Why now? Why there? But Mary’s response is one of the reasons she has been revered throughout the millennia: 'Let it be with me according to your word.' This Lent, let us pray to have the trust that Mary does."
- Preston Winstead, St. James Young Adults
"Justice is decided today in a similar way as it was in Jesus' time. A person is accused, witnesses testify, and a judge or jury decides the accused's fate. Doubts, preconceived notions, and prejudices can impact how those accounts are received. Jesus faced a jury who persecuted him for breaking the Sabbath and claiming to be equal to God. Jesus' jury was doubtful and biased toward John and Jesus' testimony, and rejected the physical evidence of Jesus' works placed before it. With church buildings closed and regular worship interrupted, it can be a challenge to believe the evidence of God's presence all around me. Jesus asks us today: in our faith journeys, are we seeing and listening without doubt and bias to what he and his faithful witnesses are telling and showing us?"
- Erin Maus, Cathedral Chapter Member, Meals Ministry

"'Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.' The people in the crowd saw what Jesus was doing, and how the religious authorities were reacting to him. They recognized and then discounted Jesus’ special nature, waving it off because it did not look as they had expected. Their religious formation had led them to expect someone different-
certainly not a person from a neighboring town- to bear the message of God’s liberation from oppression. In this time of COVID-19 driven isolation, most of us find our worlds much smaller, with only our most intimate relations nearby. While we miss encountering the divine presence in our beloved cathedral setting, let us not discount the flashes of the Risen Christ that we glimpse in those well-known to us."
- The Rev. Canon Lisa Hackney-James, Sub-Dean of the Cathedral

"And here Jesus was once again. Among those who believed him and longed to be with him - and even one willing to speak on his behalf. Among those who were unsure. Among many who loathed him. And Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’ So the question is how do we as believers respond to this invitation? Is this loud voice one we silence when preoccupied with our earthly lives? Or do we hear him? In good times and bad? And so I pray. To listen. To drink what he offers. To feel his presence in my daily comings and goings. To accept the gift of the Spirit. And to live a life that reflects him and his love for me in all circumstances."
- Cathy Hill, St. James Meals Ministry

 

"Today’s Gospel reading is that well-known chestnut, the story of the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees bring the woman before Jesus and remind him that the law of Moses requires that she be stoned. 'Now, what do you say?' they ask Jesus.  Reading this story today, I am struck by how little attention Jesus pays to the Pharisees and their question. He is not at all interested in what these busybodies are up to. He has more important things to do; he is busy writing down his thoughts, and he keeps doing so until it becomes obvious the Pharisees won’t stop pestering him until he answers. Then he responds casually, almost over his shoulder, and returns immediately to his writing, not even bothering to notice how they react to what he says. And what does Jesus say? 'Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' With this one sentence, he reminds the Scribes and the Pharisees that the woman before them is not a legal case, but a human being. They melt away, one by one. So often, like the Pharisees, I tangle myself up with worry about someone else’s business, instead of going about my own, which is to remember and respond to the humanity of everyone I meet, every day."
- Marianne Culver, St. James Choir Member

"Although we are in physical isolation right now, we are not alone. God is always with us. This is a great time to reflect on our relationship with him and ask ourselves if we are following in the footsteps of Jesus: Are we always saying and doing what is pleasing to God?"
- Jilliann Smith, St. James Sunday School Parent & Parishioner

"Lent is a time of reflection. When Jesus has us confront the truth about our priorities, values, loyalties, and sins of omission as well commission, we naturally resist. If we do not recognize the sin in our lives, we cannot see how entangled our lives are. Jesus told the Jews, ‘If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’ We have the promise that we may live each day in the freedom of this knowledge.
 
Here are some questions we might consider in light of the Gospel regarding freedom:
Are we truly living each day in the freedom of knowing the Son? 
Which areas in our lives do we need to inspect for selfishness, lack of faith, or lack of love? 
Do we accept God’s direction in all we think, do, and say?
Do we commit ourselves daily to understanding the depth of God’s love for us as children of God?
Are we sharing that love with others each day?
 
As disciples of Christ, let us strive to immerse ourselves in God’s merciful love. Let us repent, accept His live-giving forgiveness, and go into the world to joyfully share this freedom founded on love."
- Sharon & Charles Peterson, St. James Reader & Altar Guild Member
"'Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.'
There are many pieces to this particular Gospel reading. There’s the promise of eternal life; the trust and faith one puts in that promise, in spite of what the world tells us. And there’s the all-too-familiar loneliness we feel when others twist our words and refuse to hear. Jesus is telling us that his way—the way of love—is the only path forward. Contrast that with the world in which we live, one that is angry, volatile, and seems determined to advance an agenda of hatred and division—out of all of that confusion we can find peace and strength through God’s light, and give agency to his promise."
- Noel Morris, St. James Invite Committee & Choir Member
"Earlier this week we had the story of the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees demanding that she be stoned. In today’s Gospel, the Jews want to again take up stones against Jesus for his words, rather than his actions, because they are afraid of his words and cannot control who hears and believes. But Jesus admonishes the Jews, saying '[B]elieve the works,' which are tangible and also public and full of hope in spite of fear. Then the Jews tried to arrest Jesus, and spoiler alert: he escaped from their hands. From there, Jesus travels across the Jordan to a land formerly occupied by John the Baptizer, who performed no signs but caused many to believe in Jesus with his words. How can we as an Easter people live into both the works and the words of Jesus, in spite of fear?"
- Karen D'Angelo, St. James Young Adults

"This Gospel passage follows immediately after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the last of the seven signs told in the Gospel of John*. For some, it was the final proof that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. But for others, it was the last straw. They went straight to the authorities, putting into motion the plan to put Jesus to death.

From the vantage point of two millennia removed, I like to imagine I would be in the first group, the believers, convinced that Jesus is Emanuel, God with us. But I wonder. Knowing my own doubts and fears, where would I have stood? This Maundy Thursday, as I sit alone at home to pray for an hour at a makeshift altar of repose, sheltering from an uncertain world, I will pray for faith to fill my heart anew with belief."     

*The seven signs are (1) changing water into wine, (2) healing the royal official’s son, (3) healing the paralytic, (4) feeding the five thousand, (5) walking on water, (6) giving sight to a man born blind, (7) the resurrection of Lazarus. 

- Robert Black, St. James Staff & Choir Member

Treasurer's 2020 Annual Meeting Financial Report

February 04, 2020

 

by Paul W. Thompson, Treasurer

 

INTRODUCTION

As I finish my 8th year as our treasurer, I’d like to extend my thanks to the Wardens, the Chapter, the Assistant Treasurer, the Finance Commission, the members of the Investment Committee, the Audit Committee, the Count Ministry, the Ushers, and to the Staff. We all work on this together. I thank you.

I turn your attention to the Financial Reports in your binder. These represent unaudited results, and certain post-close, pre-audit adjustments have not yet been made. Speaking of audits, our audit occurs in late spring and summer each year. We received a clean report from our auditors for 2018, and we expect another clean audit for 2019. But please remember that these are preliminary numbers.  

I have three broad topics I would like to touch on today: Operations, Investments, and Restricted Funds.

OPERATIONS

The operating financial results for 2019 are astonishing.

Income:
Pledges: We had astounding growth in “pledges pledged” for 2019 compared to the prior year, and when compared to the past several years. We even pledged more than we budgeted, for the first time in many years ($664K vs. $630K). The great news is that most of those pledges were fulfilled (99.1% of the budgeted amount, and 94% of the pledged amount). The figure for “pledges fulfilled,” $624,454, is the highest level of pledge giving that I am aware of, ever. This is thrilling, and you all are to be congratulated. To me, pledge fulfillment is the true hallmark of a dynamic, committed congregation.

Offerings: We booked the highest figure I can remember for offerings during 2019, $130,312. Much of that came at year-end, some due to generous folks giving above and beyond their pledge amount! Frequently this took the form of appreciated stock—you can please do that at any time! It’s quite easy to get the routing information from Canon Robert Black, and you avoid capital gains taxes—please check with your tax attorney, but that is my understanding.

Expenses:
Line-item operating expenses on our $1.6M budget were slightly over budget for the year, by $21,206 or 1.3%. Staff did a tremendous job of spending according to plan this year.  “Invite Welcome Connect” was an overage from budget of $8,463, because it wasn’t budgeted at all! The idea for it emerged after the budget was created and approved, but Chapter embraced it and I think we all are thrilled at how it unfolded. In a related item, Coffee Hour expenses doubled this year, by $8,020. Chapter also approved a one-time $10,000 donation to the Cathedral Counseling Center. Those three line items alone account for more than the variance from budget.

Effect of the Orville Taylor Fund for Operational Support on our Operating Budget:
Remember that this is a $1.3 million bequest that came to us entirely unexpectedly in 2015, from the will of a parishioner who passed away in 1969. 2017 was the year we decided to use Mr. Taylor’s bequest in a three-year plan of operational support, beginning in 2018. So 2019 was the second year of that three-year plan, which is designed to help cover the gap between our typical sources of income and our operating expenses.

We spent less of it that we budgeted (due mainly to the year-end surge of offerings). The Taylor Fund was expected to provide us with just under $393K in operational support, but we needed only $374,545. And there is plenty left for 2020, the third year in this plan. There is $531,570 remaining, but we are budgeted to need only $453,231.

During the last two years, what have we been able to do that we could not have done (and probably would not have tried) without this true gift from heaven? I believe that the Taylor Fund has allowed us to create three new staff positions, which have resulted in considerable parish growth, those being:

  • Curate -- who has fostered significant growth in Young Adult Ministry, Meals Ministry, and Summer in the City
  • Director of Children's Ministries -- who has fostered significant and unprecedented growth in the Sunday School
  • Organ Scholar -- without whom we could not have created the new Chorister and Junior Chorister programs

Also, thanks to the Taylor Fund, we have been able to expand our communications output; develop new Adult Faith Formation programs like the parish retreat; and restore our full common mission share to the Diocese, which was $196,000 in 2019 and is $215,000 in 2020. It is my understanding that we are one of only a handful of parishes in the diocese that pay their full common mission share. 

2020 Operating Budget:
Our budget for 2020 was recommended by the Finance Commission and approved by the Chapter at a level of $1,755,231, an increase of 8.6% over the 2019 budget and 7.2% over 2019’s unaudited results. We are relying on an increase in pledge giving and the $80K increase in utilization of the Taylor Fund to pay for this new year’s activities.

Effect of Taylor Fund:
What is the effect of the Taylor Fund for 2020? In addition to being able to sustain the areas I just mentioned for this year, the additional Taylor dollars that we will need will provide for three key areas of program growth and change. These are:

First of all, the new Youth Ministry has been discussed today and is already underway. It has received a line item budget of $15,000.

Secondly, staff Sabbaticals are scheduled to begin on a staggered basis, with the Sub-Dean receiving Sabbatical time this year. These are important for targeted staff development needs as well as for staff recruitment and retention. Note that several staff will have these in subsequent years, and in future budgets we will anticipate these needs, in order to smooth the budgetary impact.

And third, there is a new plan in place regarding our maintenance, security, office space and building reception needs, spearheaded and now implemented by Canon Black, our Sextons and Front Desk staff. As part of a long-range plan developed in coordination with the Diocese, our costs in these areas will rise by around $45,000 this year, but St. James Cathedral will have both greater and more flexible direct control over the ways we utilize these buildings; and, the types of costs that we pay to individuals, service firms and the Diocese will be based more directly on actual costs than in years past. I don’t have time today to fully explain the evolution of the plan we’ve adopted, but I’m sure you’ll agree that a plan that puts us more in control of our physical space and more in touch with direct (vs. indirect) costs represents good non-profit management and sound operational risk management practices. And, as a result of these changes, Canon Henry Leach is now listed on the back of every Sunday bulletin!

INVESTMENTS

The Investment report in the binder was written by Alan Gunn. The Taylor Fund that I’ve mentioned is part of our investments at Vanguard.

Vanguard investment update:  
It was a great year for our investments held by Vanguard. Invested assets placed in four exchange-traded funds grew by an annual Rate of Return of 21.6%, which is fantastic for a diversified portfolio with an eye toward management of risk. Even after $700K in draws to cover our cash needs, our balance at Vanguard rose from $5.4M last January to $5.8M at year end.

Because our investments are held mostly in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)1, Chapter voted at mid-year to consolidate the legwork of its investment oversight function within the Finance Commission, which I chair as Treasurer. And it created the position of Investment Officer, which Alan Gunn agreed to fill. The role of the Investment Committee as a working committee, meeting with investment managers and reviewing individual stocks as in former years , is obsolete now. The Finance Commission now reviews investment results, investment cash flows, risk management, trends in investment instruments, etc., alongside its other duties regarding budgeting, accounting, banking, revenue and cost analysis, audit interaction and advice to staff and treasurer. I do thank those parishioners who volunteered their time and expertise to the evolving nature of the Investment Committee over these many years.

RESTRICTED FUNDS

Bequests as Restricted Funds:
The Taylor Fund is a Chapter-designated restricted fund, as it came to us with no donor restrictions. But the largest fund in our list of restricted funds, showing $4.3M at year-end, is the Sarah Kitchen Otis Fund, dating from 1973.  If you are familiar with this fund, you realize that this figure is much larger than we have shown in prior years. This is because of a change in General Ledger treatment of the Otis Fund due to a recommendation from our audit firm.

The auditors did extensive research into this issue at our request, and came back with a recommendation accepted by the Chapter. We now treat these dollars as “Beneficial Interest in a Trust,” which is a new term for us.

We control some of this permanently restricted gift and its derived yield, but so does the Diocese. That’s been true for decades. We are now recording all of the portions of the fund in a unified way on our balance sheet, without any change in where the investments are housed or who directs them. There is about $1.5 million that we control, and about $2.8 million that the Diocese controls, all for our exclusive use. In prior years, the old methodology was discussed in a footnote to our audit report, but it is now an integral part of our General Ledger. That is why the totals you will see are higher than they were in past years.

Other Bequests:
Three of our beloved friends and long-time parish members died recently and left bequests to the Cathedral which they desired to be in perpetuity: Elsa Vaintzettel, Canon Miriam Hoover and Chuck Hamilton. You see their names on the list as well.

These three recent bequests include two with program area restrictions, and two that are expected to have additional gifts arrive in the future. These are all invested not with Vanguard, but with the Diocesan Foundation, for ease of tracking and for safe, long-term growth. These funds total about $210K. We did take $3,000 from the Vaintzettel Fund into operations this year, as budgeted. We will take $4,500 in 2020.

Restricted Funds for Off-Budget Program Activities:
These include Summer in the City, Choir Tours, Treble Festival, Flowers for Worship, Cathedral Arts, Charitable Collections, and New Employee Searches.

Restricted Funds for Capital Expenditures:
There are no capital expenditures are in the Operating Budget. These are handled through restricted funds which include Meal Ministry, Children’s Choir, Interior Fund (for building furnishings), Memorials Fund (for the altar guild and acolytes), Columbarium and Memorial Garden, and Deanery Renovation.

Restricted Funds for Capital Campaign Planning:
We have two funds that we have used during the planning phase of a possible capital project: Capital Consultation and Planning, and New Organ.

Restricted Funds for Capital Project:
New in 2019 were accounts set up for the upcoming Capital Project. We have already received $50,000 for the Project, which has earned $665 in interest from short-term bond investment through Vanguard, and which will be used for the Project as well. 

 

An exchange-traded fund is an investment fund traded on stock exchanges, much like stocks. An ETF holds assets such as stocks, commodities, or bonds and generally operates with an arbitrage mechanism designed to keep it trading close to its net asset value, although deviations can occasionally occur.

Author: Robert Black

Sr. Warden's Annual Meeting Remarks

January 31, 2020

From Outgoing Senior Warden Erin Maus

I am pleased to report on behalf of your Cathedral Chapter.

The theme of last year’s Chapter report that I shared with you was “growth,” as we had experienced incredible growth in all aspects of our life together. 

As you read in the ministry reports, continued growth -- both organic and planned -- could very well be again the theme of this year’s Chapter report.  We continue to grow in all that we do:           

  • from the numbers of folks who come through our doors;
  • to the number of children, youth and young adults learning, growing, singing, serving, and worshiping among us;
  • to the breadth of spiritual formation opportunities we experience together;
  • to the number of people impacted by our missions; and
  • in the amount of financial support pledged to provide for all that we do in this place. 

One beautiful manifestation of that growth is the bustling life of Wednesday night at St. James.  For the past two years our choristers have led Evensong on Wednesday evenings, offering to largely our chorister families an opportunity to worship together.  The families then share a meal together, and our children go outside on the plaza and, through their laughter and folly, remind the neighborhood that we are here. 

The adult formation and now prayer opportunities shared on Wednesday nights opens the beautiful Evensong offered by our Choristers to a larger number of people, and creates not only a new shared worship opportunity, but also an opportunity for community building and personal connection.  

I encourage anyone who has not had an opportunity to attend a Wednesday Evensong to come and experience the vibrant life of this Cathedral on a Wednesday night.  Personally, Evensong has become the most impactful 15 minutes of my week.  I am reminded, by our children, in those 15 short minutes of the presence of God, the importance of prayer, and the need to center myself in the midst of a busy week.  The community and opportunity for personal connections that follow are just spiritual reinforcement of that lesson.  So please, come and experience that for yourself. 

But today I’d like to focus on a slightly different theme, and that "is organizational maturity."  The health of this Cathedral is dependent upon the organizational maturity of its missions, as growth in any mission we undertake without such maturity can lead to a lack of direction, chaos, and, potentially, even long-term failure.  Your clergy, Cathedral staff, lay leaders and Chapter have collectively and collaboratively worked very hard this year at ensuring our ministries are organizationally maturing -- that they have proper leadership and management, that they have proper support from clergy staff, that they have an organization plan and ministry goals that can be measured, and that they are fiscally responsible and accountable to a prepared budget. 

Our ministries each report to Chapter, and some ministries have Chapter members serving on their planning committees.  Chapter has been particularly focused on ensuring that each of our ministries is properly supported in the Cathedral’s operating budget and by our staff, so that we are managing and supporting that growth through proper oversight, financial support and succession planning.  The primary goal of this focus is to ensure our ministries' long-term sustainability and success.

As I close, I want to take the opportunity to personally thank all of you for entrusting in me the opportunity to serve as your junior and now senior warden. We all have different viewpoints of what happens in the Cathedral.  Serving on Chapter -- especially being a warden -- provides a unique opportunity to "see behind the curtain," so to speak.  And it has personally been an honor to witness the work of your clergy in action.  Their leadership, vision, spiritual guidance and support for this dynamic Cathedral is frankly, extraordinary.  It’s a really hard job.  

The same is true for Cathedral staff.  They work tirelessly to support all that happens in this place and do so most often without any fanfare.  They are an incredible group of people and should be commended not only for the quality and professionalism of their work, but also for their dedication to the mission of the Cathedral.  

And finally, I want to acknowledge the backbone of this Cathedral—all of you.  We, the parishioners of St. James Cathedral, are collectively responsible for the life of this Cathedral, as it is our parish and home. The lay leaders among us volunteer their time, talents and treasures to this place, and without them, much of the vibrancy and the growth we have been hearing about, and the work of this Cathedral would not happen.  Thank you to our lay leaders for your dedication to God’s work in this place. 

St. James has been a part of my life for 20 years, and I firmly believe we are growing into all that this Cathedral can be.  I am as excited as I have ever been for the future of our church. Thank you again for allowing me to serve all of you and this Cathedral.   

Author: Robert Black
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