Vestry News & Meeting Minutes
Vestry News, August 2020
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
As the Vestry began its August virtual meeting, Leo Coco started us off per custom with a reflection on “what matters,” and noted how very different our St. Alban’s world is now compared to his first turn at offering the Vestry meditation years ago when we with joy welcomed our new Rector. He cited the difficulty in not focusing daily on the effects of the pandemic on our collective psyche. Leo has been turning to poetry (as well as ukulele lessons!) for peaceful distraction and I thought the first one he offered us by Mary Oliver was particularly worth sharing with you:
Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look up into that blue space?
Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions.
And don’t worry about what language you use,
God no doubt understands them all.
Even when the swans are flying north and making such a ruckus of noise, God is surely listening and understanding.
Rumi said, There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?
Yes, I know, God’s silence never breaks, but is that really a problem?
There are thousands of voices, after all.
And furthermore, don’t you imagine (I just suggest it) that the swans know about as much as we do about the whole business?
So listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly.
Take from it what you can.
Treasurer Hollis McLoughlin began the business of the evening with encouraging financial news based on Doug Dykstra’s always-thorough written report. July pledge income bounced back after a slower June, and all indications are that 2020 pledge income will allow us to have a balanced budget. Reductions in “plate” offerings, special offerings and Op Shop income have been balanced out by some reductions in operating expenses due to closed buildings, as well as our forbearance in hiring a new Parish Administrator until the buildings do reopen. The late Dick Parkins’ bequest directed at Global Missions was mentioned with appreciation, and it was noted that we have been able to fulfill our promised contributions to the schools in Jordan and the South Sudan without tapping the Endowment’s newly-established Parkins’ fund.
In his Youth report, Glenn Davis praised Associate Rector Yoimel’s efforts to sustain activities for our youth, including a Bible study of Revelations using art works that represent various aspects of that Book. Whatever the autumn brings, there are plans for a fulsome youth program, including reinitiating their involvement in the new pandemic-sensitive Grate Patrol. On that latter note, Barbara Manard reported the plans to routinely prepare 120 Grate Patrol “supper bags” in individuals’ home kitchens that will be delivered to masked volunteers on Lychgate Road and retrieved from folks’ car trunks. St. Alban’s will thus be able to help address the ever-growing hunger needs in our community with nominal exposure to volunteers and no use of our buildings. This effort is currently more than adequately staffed by parishioners and neighbors of St. Alban’s, but as needs arise Barbara will keep us posted.
The chairs of the Annual Appeal, Rachel Colson and Lisa Garnett, provided an update on the plans to begin this stewardship drive late in September. These plans include calls to parishioners by Vestry members and other volunteers, and testimonies about the joy and fulfillment of giving back during our virtual worship services. By the end of September, the online pledge cards will have been adjusted for 2021 pledging, and all parishioners are reminded that paying one’s 2021 pledges in 2020 (to take advantage of the CARES Act temporary elimination of a limit on the deductibility of charitable contributions) is welcomed.
I was pleased to report that StART (St. Alban’s Regathering Team), comprised of approximately 30 clergy, staff, Vestrypersons and other parishioners, is up and running. Please contact any of the following subcommittee chairs should you wish to become involved or want to provide input in a particular area: (Worship: Dudley Winthrop; Music: Matthew Steynor; Technology: Deborah Potter; Facilities: Ted Swett; Op Shop: Robin Rudd; Kitchen Use: Barbara Manard; Christian Education: Emily Griffin and Jim Quigley; Communications: Megan King; Parish Life: Megan King; and, Finance: Hollis McLoughlin). All groups are anticipated to have preliminary reports to the StART chair (me) by the time I return from vacation September 9. Focal, overarching issues currently include timing of re-gathering in person, the capacity of our buildings’ air-handling system to bring in fresh air, and ensuring that those who are allowed to use the building acknowledge the risk and promise to hold the church harmless. The latter is occasioned by the high likelihood that any lawsuit brought against the church based on an allegation that a person contracted CoVid-19 in our facilities, would not be covered by our insurance.
Junior Warden Ted Swett reported on ongoing contractor work to perform an engineering analysis of the extent to which our various heating systems recirculate indoor air as opposed to exchanging it with fresh air from the outside. Analyses of this type are being completed in facilities throughout the world based on emerging science that aerosolization of the CoVid -19 virus causes its spread to be potentially worsened by re-circulated indoor air. While I don’t wish to get ahead of the engineering report or the work of StART, there is a likelihood that our HVAC systems will not achieve a clean bill of health (so to speak) with regard to bringing in fresh air. This, together with the metrics used to calculate how ubiquitous the virus is in our Region (which fluctuate but have not shown a steady decrease by any calculations), mean that it is much more than likely that in-person worship or other large indoor gatherings at St. Alban’s will not occur any time soon. Your parish leadership will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our beloved over all things, including our collective, understandable desire to be physically together.
Given that it may be some time before we see one another without a computer screen between us, many of you are like me and know it’s much harder to connect with your church family when you don't see each other at least once a week. But one way to keep in touch is our Alban Life blog. The blog is updated about once a month with news and stories from the parish. If you subscribe (and I hope you will), you’ll get new posts by email. Want to suggest a topic? Deborah Potter.
With prayers for your continued well-being, this report is
Ken Patterson, Senior Warden
Vestry News, July 2020
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
At the Vestry’s virtual meeting this month, the customary opening reﬂection was given by Rachel Colson who spoke of her participation, at the age of 23, in an Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps mission to Kenya. She was awestruck about how immediately welcomed she felt, and how very much “at home.” Her relationships there were marked by extreme generosity on the part of people who had little to spare. These memories have been on her mind as we deal with the current realities of the pandemic. Rachel observed that, while these memories sustain her, they also cause her to mourn the inability to be out in the world providing in-person support for others. During the pandemic, many are torn between seeing so much that needs to be done, while being cautioned about doing those things that require human contact. Other folks at the meeting responded about how much they relate to this feeling of loss when we ponder serving others “with one arm tied behind one’s back,” a frustration exacerbated by the fact that the “normality horizon” seems to keep moving further and further away.
In the business of the evening, Rachel and Lisa Garnett updated the Vestry on plans for the Annual Appeal to support our budget for 2021. Among the ideas being considered are a series of calls in the nature of the “We Call” check-ins, undertaken by Vestry members and others, and/or Zoom-based information sessions about the budget for 2021 where parishioners are invited to listen and learn. The early calls would focus on asking parishioners how they think the church is doing in these unusual times, and would hopefully help to stem some of the “drift” that may be occurring as a result of not gathering as a church. It was pointed out that “We Call” eﬀort had been sometimes frustrated by the staleness of our database contact information, and Ann Nix was praised for her eﬀorts to help update contacts for many folks.
Robin Rudd, Vestry liaison to the Workers of St. Alban’s (WSA), was joined by Susan Morris in a thoughtful and thorough presentation asking the Vestry to consider a very limited reopening of the Opportunity Shop, which has been closed since the Diocese suspended public worship due to COVID-19. The WSA proposal highlighted steps that would be taken to protect the
volunteers and patrons, and was grounded on: (1) a desire to address an overﬂow of donated merchandise that needs to be sorted with an eye toward being ready when a full reopening is possible, as well as allowing for unsellable items to be donated to various charities who could use those things now; (2) providing an opportunity for volunteers to return to providing a service they love, and for shoppers who have long relied on the Op Shop to return; and, (3) generating income to enable the WSA to fulﬁll its mission of supporting the community around us. Concerns were raised by some Vestry members about: the upward trend in new coronavirus cases in this area; inconsistency with current Diocesan guidelines about opening our buildings; uncertainty about the risk to patrons in particular due to the small size of the shopping ﬂoor; and the lack of a clear assessment among experts about the of risks of transmission. While a formal vote was not taken, the general sense of the Vestry is that we should support allowing a controlled number of volunteers to work on number (1) above while observing all known precautions, but not open the Op Shop to customers. Robin and Susan will draft a proposal along these lines for the Rector to present to the Bishop, and we will revisit the question of reopening to customers at our August meeting and regularly thereafter as necessary.
As to church ﬁnances, Treasurer Hollis McLoughlin noted that after a very strong pledge income for the beginning of the year, we have experienced a signiﬁcant drop oﬀ in June and July. While our operating capital is very adequate at this time, Hollis, Doug Dykstra and the Vestry will continue to monitor pledge and other income. The Rector and Treasurer are working with Doug about where we can realize savings from needs reduced by not gathering in person (e.g.,printing, coﬀee, and similar), as well as exploring what costs can be deferred until we have a better idea of how close we will be to the income on which the 2020 budget was based. We are also carefully monitoring the Reserve Fund, earmarked for capital expenditures, that has been tapped for a number of expenses related to water-inﬁltration abatement and refurbishments in Satterlee Hall. On a brighter note, the endowment achieved a record high of $5.3 million in July.
I would like to express my appreciation to the many of you who continue to honor your pledge to St. Alban’s and contribute in other ways, and remind those who are in a ﬁnancial position to do so to consider taking advantage of the temporary lifting by the IRS of ceilings on charitable contributions by making a gift to St. Alban’s or paying your pledge for 2021 this year.
As Senior Warden and Chair of the St. Alban’s Regathering Team (”START”) I updated the Vestry on the membership, proposed subgrouping, and slate of issues before this task force aimed at planning for a gradual regathering in person when it is safe to do so. We have assembled a very capable group of clergy, staﬀ, vestrypersons and parishioners to tackle the formidable job. More to come as START begins to meet. This group will weigh in on, and add to the planning for our near-term response to the pandemic that was already underway by the clergy, staﬀ and Vestry.
With blessings and wishes for your continued safety and health, Ken Patterson
Vestry News, June 2020
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
Walker Carter led off our monthly reflection, choosing the topic of the role of institutions, including churches, in engaging in political discourse on the issues of our day. He discussed a personal experience of disappointment in the decision by his preparatory school headmaster not to make a statement condemning gun violence after the August 2019 mass shooting in a WalMart in El Paso. The headmaster cited the necessity to comment on all such events if the school addressed this one, and that the fact that this shooting was in the hometown of Walker’s school classmate Beto O’Rourke during his presidential campaign, might appear as a partisan political gesture. Walker saw an analog in recent actions by our Bishop, who did choose to speak out about the events at St. John’s Church on LaFayette Square. A range of views were expressed by Vestry members in the discussion that followed. During difficult times, many people draw their strength from, and effect change in the world around them through, the institutions to which they belong. If that institution is the church, what should we expect of that church as to commenting on the “non-religious” issues of the day, or there some actions at the political level that are so antithetical to the teachings of Jesus that they become the purview of the church? In weighing in as “the church” on politics, do we preclude the views of those members who don’t agree with a particular stance? How do we take care not to only listen to and surround ourselves with people who agree with us, and promote the church as a place where we can be exposed to a range of views? Is church a place to escape politics for a while? Altogether, I thought it was a great discussion!
In the business of the evening, the Nominations Committee put forth David Ridenour, whom many of you know as a Sunday School teacher to the 2-3 year olds and as volunteer outside counsel to the Cathedral, as Chancellor. The Vestry unanimously approved his appointment for a term beginning immediately and lasting until the Vestry takes up nominations for all officers in 2021. Congratulations, David!
The Treasurer’s report indicated that St. Alban’s is in a strong position from an operating standpoint. Pledges continue to be fulfilled, we are benefiting from very good contribution levels online, and the endowment is again over $5 million at the time of this report. Of course, the Vestry will continue to monitor our financial health, given the uncertainties of our times and additional expenses that will come from re-gathering as safely as possible. At this time, should pledge and online support continue as it has, we should be able to meet our operating needs and fulfill the Christian-Social-Ministry outreach obligations that were budgeted for at the beginning of 2020.
The main business of the meeting was continued discussions around the timing and form of re-gathering. Vestry members had been asked to review three sources, and to come to the meeting prepared to share their hopes and wishes about how re-convening in person. The resources we reviewed, which may be of interest to parishioners are found at:
It was acknowledged upfront that, given reports of current levels on COVID-19 levels and anticipated surges, this is a moving target. In addition, doctors and scientists offer a range of evolving opinions on how to manage the risk of becoming infected. Vestry members offered a number of views that I will present as questions (be advised that I do not claim this list to be exhaustive of the many ideas floated):
- The Diocese led the way in shutting down public worship early, erring on the side of caution; should churches, and ours in particular, consider being among the last to re-convene?
- Is a later re-gathering that can involve all of us “safely” better than a gradual opening that involves multiple smaller services or other measures that promote social distancing?
- Should we focus our energies on outdoor worship (smaller gatherings around the Peace Cross, use of the amphitheater as available from the Cathedral)?
- Isn’t re-gathering the best way to enable the personal connections with church family that are integral to the experience of many parishioners? The longer we wait to re-convene, how much is the fabric of what “makes church church” damaged?
- On the other hand, if we are masked, and cautioned against any physical contact, and gathering in smaller groups, is that much better than virtual services?
While we consider these and multiple issues, I offer these updates:
- Our average attendance for the English and Spanish virtual services is around 350 persons.
- We now have the technology to livestream services from the Nave and Nourse Hall when we are ready to move to that approach.
- There is wide acceptance that, regardless of the timing of re-gathering in person, we should continue to make our services available virtually into the future.
- The Op Shop continues to make progress in evaluating the best way to continue their essential mission.
- The Vestry continues to offer our immense gratitude to our Clergy, Matthew Steynor, Charles Porter, Deborah Potter and others I no doubt missed who continue to provide us with the beautiful online services; this is an immense undertaking.
Finally, as Senior Warden I will be expanding the group evaluating various options for re-gathering by establishing a Re-Gathering Task Force made up of Clergy, church leaders and parishioners. Please be open to serving on this group if asked.
Respectfully submitted, and in hopes that you are all safe and healthy.
Vestry News, May 2020
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
Virtual Vestry for May began with our monthly meditation offered by Paul Brewster who shared readings from the diary of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), a British member of Parliament and Secretary of the British Admiralty, chronicling his experience during The Great Plague of London. Pepys observations were hauntingly similar to the collective angst of today, but hinted at cause for hope. Paul then asked Vestry members to share one positive element from their pandemic experience, and the discussion that ensued included observations such as: building of new relationships with folks in our neighborhood; more frequent and regular contact with family members; enjoying the quieter time of weekends no longer occupied with social events and multiple errands; appreciation of how the clergy and staff and volunteers have risen to the occasion with our wonderful and varied online worship services; and, pride in how the parish has been able to show generosity through significant donations to the Diocesan Relief Fund and WSA’s contributions to various feeding ministries (the WSA contributions being bolstered by a recent donation of $10,000). There were also expressions of great sadness experienced by recent losses of parishioners --including David Johnson, John MacNeil, and Barbara Yeomans—for whom we have not been able to grieve together as we would have traditionally.
As to the business of the evening, the Treasurer’s report was a positive one especially considering current conditions, with above-average pledge income and online contributions. Expenses are in line with average ones for this time of year, with minor diminution associated with the building being closed. Based on current budget conditions, the Executive Committee chose to decline a loan from the COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Act for which we had applied in an abundance of caution. It was believed that there were organizations and businesses who needed this money more than we did. Despite our current positive balance sheet, Doug Dykstra reminded us that the summer months in “normal” times are generally leaner as far as pledge income. I would like to express the Vestry’s appreciation to all our parishioners; it is obvious that there are many people who feel very connected to St. Alban’s and want to support it in these challenging times. For those who are in a position to take advantage of this, remember that another aspect of the recent COVID-19 legislation is to remove limits on the deductibility of charitable contributions; that is, large charitable contributions are 100% deductible.
Because there are unique expenses associated with responding to the pandemic, the Vestry approved the creation of a COVID-19 Fund within the Reserve Fund, and initially allotted $50,000 to it. This will allow for expenditures to occur without prior Vestry approval for ongoing needs like improving our online worship, and additional expenses that will come with gathering again in person such as cleaning and disinfecting, thermometers, masks, etc.
In Governance Committee business, the Vestry approved a resolution amending the professional prerequisites for eligibility to serve as parish Chancellor. That position’s charter currently allows for the Chancellor to possess a bar membership in the bar of any state. Based on the church’s location in the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, the Governance Committee learned that the lack of membership in the DC bar may expose a Chancellor to allegations of the unauthorized practice of law. Thus, the Vestry approved a change that the Chancellor must have and maintain membership in the DC bar. I wish to thank Laura Ingersoll, the incumbent Chancellor, for alerting us to the necessity of making this change, particularly because it means that she must step down as her bar membership is in another state. I thank her for her service in that position. We hope to submit for Vestry approval Laura’s replacement at the June meeting.
Finally, the Vestry began discussions related to what our services and parish life may look like once we are able to gather in person again. The Executive Committee, on its own and in collaboration with and based on guidance from the Diocese, has been considering this issue for some time. The Rector has developed a thorough “think piece” that will provide fodder for a more thorough discussion at the June Vestry meeting.
Personally, I commend to all parishioners recent “This Week at St. Alban’s” emails that describe the exciting plans for upcoming services for Pentecost, St. Alban’s Day, etc. I particularly direct you to the opportunity to be a video participant in singing the Doxology on Pentecost. Please consult the TWASA email sent on Friday, May 15 at 1:00 PM for instructions from Matthew Steynor, and consider joining this virtual choir (even if you feel the need to just lip sync!).
Vestry News, April 2020
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
The second virtual meeting of the Vestry began with a meditation by Junior Warden Ted Swett, who shared how he is experiencing these difficult times, and appreciating how fortunate he and his family are compared to many. He shared a funny story about how, having closed his computer while listening to one of the recorded Easter services and gone to bed, his computer awoke on its own in the middle of the night and the voice of Yoimel offering a prayer jolted him from his sleep! Ted also shared a poem by Lynn Ungar that I thought worth sharing with all of you:
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Geoffrey then checked in with all those present about how they were faring during the COVID-19 lockdown, a conversation that yielded primarily positive news. Megan King’s brother has recovered from the virus, as have Geoffrey’s niece and her mother. Folks observed how much they missed the life they had, but that there were silver linings like increased regular virtual contact with family and friends.
Paul Brewster, fresh from a Diocesan Council meeting, described reports of some parishes experiencing a new type of energy from connecting to one another electronically, an energy that might transform aspects of our religion in a good way. Heather Sondel remarked how moved she had been by receiving a call from a St. Alban’s parishioner she had not previously known, to check on her well-being (as many of you know or have experienced, a cadre of St. Albanites lead by Carol Aschenbrener and Jim Quigley, are calling all members of the Parish to find out how they are doing. Nota bene: If you do not receive such a call, please make sure that the Parish has your current phone number. The effect of people abandoning land lines in favor of cell phones, and the age of our data, has resulted in many calls reaching dead ends).
Financially, given current circumstances, St. Alban’s remains in relatively good shape owing to a January surge in pledge pre-payments and other pledge income. One income source that will continue to suffer while we are closed is money from the offertory plate, and I would ask those who have chosen this year to contribute through non-pledged payments to continue to do so as you are able. From a cash-on-hand perspective we are in good shape to meet our projected obligations, potentially up to a year. At this point, it is too early to project trend lines about our income.
I want to recognize our Treasurer Hollis McLoughlin and Finance Director Doug Dykstra for closely monitoring our cash-flow situation, and our Finance Committee for their diligence in tracking all our financials with eye toward minimizing our risk. On the recommendation of the Finance Committee, the Vestry authorized the Treasurer to transfer such funds as he deems appropriate from our PNC account (our operating account) to our Schwab account for investment in Treasury bonds. This mitigates our risk given limitations on how much the FDIC insures accounts.
In other business, Geoffrey cited our recent mailing to all parishioners, intended to supplement the calls being made to assess needs for pastoral care and provide other news of the Parish while we are absent from one another physically. He also described some of the challenges of offering virtual services, and the clergy efforts to adjust future services to accent those portions of worship that better lend themselves to the format.
Leo Coco, on behalf of the Nominating Committee, recommended the following appointments, all of which were approved unanimously: Michele Armitage and Matt Reeder as the new non-Vestry members of the Nominating Committee; and Sally Craig (for a one-year term) and David Brown (for a three year term) as members of the Memorial Lecture Committee.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my personal thanks to God (and a goodly number of God’s faithful servants) for the following:
- As of this writing, I am aware of no one in our Parish who is ill from the COVID-19. There are those who have family members who have suffered or died, or have friends and family who serve on the front lines of caring for the ill, but for now this plague has not hit us directly so far as I know.
- For our Bishop who cancelled all public worship as quickly as she did, and ahead of many church and political leaders. As many of you know, the Executive Committee of St. Alban’s was in discussions about when to schedule to cease gathering as a church, but the Bishop’s action prevented us from having to do so and had, of course, much wider impact; my sense is that her leadership contributed to other Dioceses following suit. As bad as things appear right now, who knows how much worse things might be at this time absent this relatively quick action.
- For Charles Porter, Ted our Junior Warden, and the Property Committee for enabling us to continue – within the bounds of social distancing and allowable business activity during the pandemic -- to work on infrastructure upgrades (the refreshing of Trenbath, water infiltration abatement, etc.). Not only will be welcomed back to an improved space, but we are also employing small business. v For those in the parish I mentioned earlier who are engaged in making phone calls to all our members, prioritizing those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 and may be having trouble negotiating the complicated world the disease has created.
- For Geoffrey, Emily, Jim, Yoimel, Deborah Potter, Charles, Matthew and the choir members, the Flower Guild and Altar Guild, and anyone else who has and continues to help make our services available to us virtually. They have been widely attended (including 40+ families for the Children’s Chapel service). There were times during the Easter Sunday service of such beauty and grace that one was almost lulled into forgetting that we weren’t all together.
Our online services have been widely attended.In hopes that you are safe and well, and that the time comes soon to be together again.
Vestry News, March 2020
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
God of wisdom,
Bless medical scientists and researchers around the world
With insight and skill, dedication and fortitude,
As they combat coronavirus,
So that their work yields knowledge and understanding,
Speedily finding a vaccine, treatments and deterrents to its spread.
Source of life,
Grant public health and government officials
The strength to act swiftly and decisively,
With compassion and understanding,
In service to humankind,
Fighting this outbreak
And the other diseases that still plague the planet,
Diseases threatening the lives of our brothers and sisters,
Nations and communities,
Young and old.
Rock of Ages,
Bring an end to disease and suffering,
So that all may know
Your compassion and Your grace.
Praised are You, God, healer of flesh, maker of wonders.
The Vestry approved the Parochial Report, an annual report to the Diocese regarding the number of parishioners, our income and expenses including our expenditures on social ministries, etc.
Paul Brewster, Vestry member assigned to Worship Groups, used his report to discuss our recent and continuing forays into virtual worship, and Vestry members praised the recorded Eucharists in Spanish and English that were made available last week. The merits of airing a recorded service vs. a live-streamed one were discussed, as were current plans to possibly add music. Emily Griffin plans to explore recommendations that a children-friendly service (such as a recorded Godly-Play lesson) be offered. More to come, particularly as to efforts under development to provide for as meaningful a slate of Holy Week services as can be made possible in our current reality.
Finally, Geoffrey announced that the refreshing of Trenbath (painting, floor refinishing, etc.) previously funded by the Vestry would not be delayed by the church closure. The contractors stand ready to begin. In addition, this refurbishment will somewhat smoother given that Trenbath is currently not in use by IONA or other groups. We anticipate that the water infiltration work will also be able to begin while the church is closed.
In closing, one observation that threaded throughout the meeting was how much we missed seeing one another and all of you. Please take care of yourselves and each other. On that note, Jim Quigley remarked how many folks have already volunteered to help meet the needs recently arising from fellow parishioners. We are surely all in this together. God bless you.
Vestry News, February 2020
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
St. Alban’s new Vestry for 2020 kicked off its year with the annual Vestry retreat at Claggett Center in Adamstown, Maryland on February 7th and 8th. We also conducted the February business meeting
as part of the agenda because the Rector was to travel to England for his father’s memorial service at the time the regular Vestry meeting would have occurred.
The retreat began with a study and discussion of Acts 16, v. 1-20, the story of Paul, Luke, Silas and Lydia, that provided an excellent basis for the discussions that followed the next day about how the Spirit can help to guide us to the right strategies for our ministry. On Saturday morning, Emily and Jim led a very thoughtful presentation on how St. Alban’s interacts with, and responds to the needs of those we encounter at varying levels of engagement -- from those who are vicariously connected to us because they use our buildings (e.g., IONA, AA, op shop customers), to those who occasionally attend (e.g., Christmas/Easter only, funeral attendees, folks who come to special forums and programs), and finally our core group of Sunday sacrament attendees who range from those who only avail themselves of regular services to those who are involved on deeper levels such as through participation in ministries or activities aimed at deeper spiritual growth.
Geoffrey touched on some of the themes of the day in his February 9 sermon, in particular the issue of “nontransactional” relationships where there is no implied “quid pro quo” between us and the people we
want to reach, but rather a mutual quest for meaning and purpose. How do we encounter various the range of individuals in our sphere in a way that embodies Christ? Isn’t our relationship with each other and those we have not yet met not just about sharing what we have, but receiving what they have to give?
Business focused on appointments for the remainder of the year. The Vestry appointed Megan King as the newest Vestry member. Megan’s appointment is for one year, backfilling the remainder of newly-elected Junior Warden Ted Swett’s term. Carol Aschenbrener was appointed Secretary of the Vestry, Hollis McLoughlin as Treasurer, and Laura Ingersoll was appointed Chancellor. We approved the appointment of the two young people nominated by our youth to be Youth Representatives to the Vestry: Annie McLean and Ruthie Rhodes. Under the bylaws, Diocesan delegates are appointed by the Vestry, and the following were approved: Heather Sondel (term ending after the 2021 convention); Barbara Manard (term ending after 2022 convention) and Amie Vandersluis (term ending after the 2023 convention). We also approved four alternate Diocesan delegates to ensure our full representation at the annual conventions if an appointed delegate cannot attend: Jessica Kelley, Mercy Lightsey, Candice Brown, and a fourth alternate delegate with whom we still must confirm an interest in serving.
Vestry News, January 2020
by Secretary Ted Swett
Our Senior Warden was not present, as he was recovering from a recent encounter with a surgeon. Please join with the Vestry in extending best wishes to Ken for a successful and speedy recovery.
The Vestry conducted its final review of a draft budget for 2020 and, after discussion, voted to adopt the budget as proposed. The budget is balanced at $1,997,500 in operating income and expenses. Apart from addressing the usual variety of needs, this budget is notable for addressing several priorities identified in recent years by making significant resources available for the Youth Ministry, the Music Program, and the Spanish Liturgy. It also moves the financing of outreach programs and Christian social ministries fully onto budget so as to free them from the vicissitudes of special funding efforts.
All of this has been made possible only through the generosity of our parishioners and their commitment to having God’s work done through the church. The cornerstone of the budget is the assumption of $1,350,000 in assumed pledge income, including $25,000 representing a conservative estimate of likely pledges that have yet to be submitted. The pledge campaign is currently running slightly behind last year’s experience in terms of the number of households pledging but reflects a considerable increase in total dollars pledged. And there’s still time for stragglers to get their pledges in!
A notable piece of good news: the Vestry received word of a gift of a little more than $150,000 from the estate of Heather Karen Hunt, to be devoted exclusively for social outreach ministry. The Vestry voted to accept the gift with that restriction, allocating $50,000 to a designated fund available for immediate use and the balance to a restricted subfund in the Endowment to be named The Heather Karen Hunt Fund.
There was a lively discussion of the Strategic Plan adopted by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington in terms of what it implies for our parish. The plan emphasizes engagement with the surrounding neighborhood and challenges churches to know their communities and to envisage new ways of interacting with neighbors who, for whatever reason, may not be drawn to mainstream faith traditions. This is a complex topic that will bear much thought and discussion in coming months.
The meeting closed with personal reflections of Vestry members whose terms drew to a close with this meeting: Adrienne Allison, Michele Bond, Lucy Fraser Cage, Rachel Colson, and Jane Schubert. The love and care that each of them has lavished on this parish through Vestry service will be sorely missed. Yet all of them will surely find other channels through which to continue to contribute to our common life as a community of faith. God bless them all!
Vestry News, December 2019
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
Our Advent Vestry meeting began on the joyful note of celebrating that one of our youth representatives to the Vestry, Woodfen McLean, was recently accepted to Colorado College (his first choice!).
Our now traditional “what matters” meditation was led by Paul Brewster, who had recently attended the St. Alban’s silent retreat. We discussed the impactful poem by R.S. Thomas, "The Empty Church," which likens our Savior to a moth, enticed out of the darkness by human candles, only to be burned; yet, he escaped. It is an enigmatic verse, the interpretation of which I leave to those of you who deign to seek it out.
The Vestry approved the final slate for the January 26, 2020 Parish election. That slate in random order includes the following candidates for Vestry -- Lisa Garnett, Rachel Colson, Megan King, Karina Rodriguez, John Thorne IV, and Anton Vanterpool -- and for Junior Warden, Carol Aschenbrener and Ted Swett. With grateful appreciation for their willingness to serve, I congratulate all nominees, and recognize and thank the Nominating Committee made up of Michele Bond, chair, Jane Schubert, Adrienne Allison, Lucy Fraser-Cage and Mary Beth Albright, for assembling this impressive, capable list.
The financial report supported that we are in extremely good shape fiscally as the year closes. While the demands associated with condition of the HVAC system are an exception, we are largely at or below budget for other expenses. The endowment is still strong ($5 million +). The Vestry passed a continuing resolution that allows us to spend money in January 2020 pending the final approval of the budget later in that month. We had a lengthy discussion of the proposed 2020 Budget.
Treasurer Hollis McLoughlin reported that next year’s budget reflects the key focuses of outreach and the continued support for the Spanish liturgy, youth ministry and the music program. Another area of increased spending in the category of Buildings and Grounds is necessitated by the anticipated continuing maintenance of our aging HVAC system. As to pledge income, the 2019 expected total is $1.299 million. For 2020, we have $1.1 million pledged to date. Based on the assumption that those 70 households who have not yet pledged will do so at a level approximating their 2019 amount, the proposed budget assumes a total 6.5+ percent increase in pledge income over 2019. Approximate 8.3% of the proposed budget is dedicated to outreach (approximately $92,000). (Keep in mind that this is outreach as a line item in the budget, and does not take into account the many thousands of dollars in outreach accomplished by the Workers of St. Alban’s using Op Shop proceeds).
The Junior Warden’s report presented reasonable assumptions for when different construction and refurbishment activities already funded by the Vestry should occur, including addressing of the water infiltration in Nourse and Satterlee halls, refreshing of Satterlee Hall’s appearance, and improvements to staff offices (the latter being near completion). On the subject of space utilization, the Spanish Liturgy will take place at 11:15 a.m. in Nourse Hall on January 5, 12 and 19, as the participants explore whether permanent relocation of that service to that space is desirable.
I commend to your attention our January 2020 schedule of events: the January 5th candidate forum; the January 12th visit by our Bishop followed by a reception; the January 19th forum when former Virginia Governor Terry McCauliffe will discuss his new book Beyond "Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism;" and the Annual Parish Meeting and Election, January 26.
On a personal note, please know that the opportunity to serve as your Senior Warden -- the joys of which far exceed the demands -- is a gift. Brian and I wish each of you a safe and joyous Christmas season.
Vestry News, November 2019
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
The Vestry had a shortened agenda for our November meeting in order to provide an opportunity for Vestry members to place telephone calls to folks who have traditionally pledged to St. Alban’s in the past but haven’t yet done so. On that note, I would ask each one of you who hasn’t gotten around to pledging to please practice generosity today. Our goal is a 10% increase over last year’s campaign total, and that we meet or exceed receiving pledges from 300+ households (as we did last year). We are at or above 50% of those goals, and while this is not unusual at this point in the campaign, we hope to see an influx of the additional pledges over the next couple of months.
Jane Schubert began the meeting per our tradition of pondering “what matters” with a meditation drawn from the book being used for the Wednesday morning Bible study, Short Stories by Jesus: the Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine. The book examines the parables of Jesus as they would have been heard in the historical and religious context of Jesus’ time, and inspires the reader to consider the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son as tales of the incomplete being made whole again. Jane related her own experience about a time when she wasn’t “churched,” and described how easy it was to come home to the Episcopal Church and feel more complete again.
Treasurer Hollis McLoughlin distributed to the Vestry a first draft of the 2020 budget, a placeholder. The budget will not be finalized until we determine whether we will meet the aspiration goal of a 10% increase over last year.
The Nominations Committee reported that we now have the six candidates contemplated by the Bylaws as needed to stand for election in order to fill the four slots that will be open on the Vestry at year’s end, and we currently have one candidate for Junior Warden. The Vestry approved the slate as it currently stands, but will convene by electronic meeting on November 25 to review and approve the final slate that may contain additional names; this will give a number of folks currently considering standing for one of the positions an opportunity to complete their discernment. The final slate for the January 29, 2020 election will then be announced to the Parish.
Vestry News, October 2019
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
Glenn Davis opened the October 16 Vestry meeting with a meditation invoking one of the themes of The Rev. Steve Carlsen’s “one church, two languages” presentation from last weekend: interesting and glorious things can happen when people get comfortable with being somewhat uncomfortable. After all, God is with us wherever we go, and St. Alban’s aspires to be a place where we feel safe even when outside our comfort zone.
St. Alban’s remains financially sound and heading toward a balanced budget for the year. Pledge income is on track. The endowment will exceed $5 million this week, a milestone made possible by the addition of a generous bequest of the Rev. Loren Mead. Average attendance for September was up 14% from September 2018.
The Vestry approved a number of much-needed building repairs using money set aside for that purpose. Work should begin later this year on all the following:
- water-infiltration remediation for the basements of Nourse Hall and Satterlee Hall
- improvements and repairs to the Parish offices
- installation of a new ramp to the Rectory
- repairs to a bathroom and the screened in porch of the Rectory
- a refresh of Trenbath and the office corridor including painting, floor refinishing and other cosmetic improvements
While everything possible will be done to minimize disruption, St. Albanites should prepare for a period of construction that will include considerable excavation of dirt and landscaping around Nourse and Satterlee.
In his report-out on Youth and Children’s formation, Glenn Davis emphasized the continued need for youth leaders. Please consider volunteering to serve your parish in this important area. Remember that three to four adults are lined up for each class, so one does not need to prepare or present a lesson each Sunday, and we are open to folks observing for a month or so before actually teaching. While all are welcome to help, we could especially use a couple more men!
Josepha Musabyemariya Nelson reported on the work of Global Missions, highlighting plans to expand our support to South and Central America; research is being done about possibly assisting the Episcopal Church in Puerto Rico. Josepha also highlighted the Holy Land Olive Oil Product sale fundraiser during Advent, and the fact that the September Mustard Seed raised at least $6700 for victims of Hurricane Dorian.
The annual stewardship campaign has kicked off. Please add your pledge to the $200,000 in pledges we have already received. So far, half of the households pledging have increased their pledge over last year by an average of 19 percent.
Vestry News, September 2019
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
At the September 18 meeting, the Vestry was happy to welcome back Josepha Musabyemariya for her first meeting since being seriously injured in a post-church automobile accident earlier this year.
Walker Carter, one of the chairs of our upcoming pledge drive, began the meeting with his personal reflections on stewardship, later asking other Vestry members to speak about what motivates them to give to St. Alban’s. Walker described the impact our church community had on his family during times of great personal loss, and shared a lovely collect on stewardship, an excerpt of which is: “Send your Holy Spirit to help us as we swim against the rising tides of materialism, envy, individualism and greed in our culture. When we are tempted to think of money as a private matter, remind us that you have asked for part of what we are given, to be returned to you as a symbol of our awareness that you give all we have.” Be on the lookout for your stewardship letter, the arrival of which is imminent.
On the financial side, while pledge income took a 5% drop in August, as of the end of the month, year-to-date pledge income is 5% over budget and 10% over where we were at this time in 2018. The Reserve Fund and Endowment remain very healthy, but the Treasurer reminded the Vestry of the imminent need to absorb large expenditures related to the physical plant, e.g., water infiltration, refurbishment of Trenbath. Efforts to get final estimates for and prioritize these and other repairs are near completion, with likely Vestry action in October.
The Vestry approved the Nominating Committee, to be chaired by outgoing Vestry member Michele Bond, and charged them with identifying candidates for the Vestry positions held by Michele, Adrienne Allison, Rachel Colson and Jane Schubert, all of whose terms expire this year, as well as candidates for Junior Warden as Lucy Fraser Cage’s term also ends this year. Parishioners should feel free to contact Michele with recommendations for candidates in the short-term, and the rest of the Nominating Committee will be made public after the non-Vestry members have agreed to serve.
Jane Schubert reported on the God’s Work in the World’s (GWIW) impressive slate of Christian social ministries. As St. Albanites consider their pledges for the coming year, keep in mind that our support for GWIW ministries aimed at education, feeding the hungry, global missions and transforming the lives of children have made a real difference locally and abroad, and when those contributions are combined with WSA’s generous grants, St. Alban’s spends more on outreach than any other church in the diocese. Speaking of WSA, the Op Shop is well on its way to another record-breaking year.
By way of update on our emergency preparedness work, a training by Cathedral security is scheduled for Sunday, September 22 at 12:30 for ushers, vergers and staff, and a forum open to all will follow later in the year.
I’d like to extend my personal gratitude to Tricia Pinkard for agreeing to serve as Parish Life chair over the next year, and to Michele Bond for serving as Tricia’s Vestry partner in this important work until the new Vestry is elected. Also, hearty congratulations to Jim Quigley and all who contributed to making the Ministry Fair a great success.
Vestry News, August 2019
by Senior Warden Ken Patterson
The August Vestry meeting began with Leo Coco’s meditation as part of our series of “what really matters” testimonies by members. He described the importance of community, and how he takes comfort gleaned from how closely connected we all are. Among his examples was when he learned, moments before a major surgery, that his surgeon’s children had played with his own children years before, and that coincidence immediately calmed him as a sign that all would be okay.
Highlights of the reports to the Vestry include:
St. Alban’s finances remain sound. June’s pledge income was up 90% above June 2018, and year-to-date we have already received 2/3 of the projected pledge income for the year. The endowment is just shy of $5 million, and we made the first deposit in the Schwab account that allows a portion of capital available to meet expenses to gather more income. Looking forward financially, Walker Carter, Suzy Mink, Andrea Fraser-Reed and Doug Dykstra (and others) are well along in planning the 2020 Stewardship Campaign.
In special giving, the June Mustard Seed offering yielded over $4,000 for Hope and Resurrection School, and the Parish funded a generous purse for the Rev. Debbie Kirk on her departure. (Debbie asked us to extend her thanks to you all for this and the lovely reception.) Finally, as of the end of July, the Op Shop gross sales were up 20% over last year.
The Rev. Emily Griffin updated the Vestry on the Diocesan Plan, which she, Paul Brewster and Glenn Davis have helped develop as representatives of St. Alban’s. Central to the Diocesan plan is this mission statement (still in draft): “The mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is to draw people to Christ by equipping our faith communities, promoting spiritual growth, and striving for justice.” The current draft of the “one-pager” on the Diocesan vision will be placed on the Vestry bulletin board in the Wade room. Vestry members will be contributing their thoughts on the draft; it was noted as problematical that the current plan omits any reference to the importance of ministry to children and youth, and there is no reference to the LGBTQ+ community in terms of either outreach opportunities to welcome more people into the church or as victims of social injustice.
Jim Quigley reported that the development of an incorporation plan for newcomers, focused on supporting their spiritual growth, is near complete. The Rector’s report focused on reflections on the recent J2A pilgrimage to Greece, supplementing the blog pieces that can be found on Alban Life. Geoffrey also shared some thoughts from reading he has been doing on St. Paul this summer (Paul: A Biography, by N. T. Wright).
While I am sorry that this planning is necessary, I am pleased to report that your church leadership, with Emily Griffin on point, is taking steps to ready the parish in the event of an emergency situation arising while we are gathered together, whether in the form of a fire or natural disaster or an unspeakably frightening event such as an active shooter. Coordination with Cathedral Security continues as we formulate an organized approach to this issue. A number of steps are already contemplated, including: the development of updated schematics of the church with evacuation routes; the ordering of walkie-talkie devices to enable communication between areas of the church and the Sunday School as well as directly to Cathedral security; training this fall for ushers, vergers, staff, etc.; and, a forum for all those in the parish wishing to learn more about staying safe in these troubling times.
|November 25 2019|
|November 13 2019