Good Day to you Church,
We’ve got a gloomy, grey day for Groundhog’s Day this year, but a little elf told me that we can expect to actually see the sun for a few days beginning this weekend. Does anyone even remember what the sun looks like?!
Here’s the news for the week:
A Big Welcoming “Hello” to Andrew and Dee
Do you remember last January, a man named Brandon Rodriguez was released from prison in Ogdensburg and came to Potsdam because he had been enrolled in college through a program that SUNY Potsdam was running at Riverview Correctional Facility? Brandon is an exceptional student, and is closing in on graduating from SUNY Potsdam this spring, and now two other men who have been enrolled in SUNY Potsdam’s program are following in his footsteps.
Andrew Francis and Dee Smith both started school this week, and there’s a welcoming party for them this afternoon (Friday, Feb. 2nd) at 311 Satterlee Hall, from 3:30-5pm. If you happen to be on campus, or live nearby and have a minute to drop in and welcome them to our community, I know they would appreciate it.
Returning to the community after being in prison is hard enough, but these young men have come to a town where they don’t know anybody because they are committed to earning their degree and giving back to the world positively. I hope that we will be able to help support them on their journey in the coming months and years!
All-Church Potluck This Sunday, 2/4
Bring on the mac ‘n cheese! After church this Sunday we will be gathering together at the table to enjoy a lovely potluck meal together after our worship service. Please bring a dish to pass!
Annual Congregational Meeting Set for Sunday, Feb. 11th
Instead of tailgating for the Super Bowl, we at church will be “pre-gaming” by holding our annual congregational meeting during coffee hour on Sunday, Feb. 11th. I hope you can join us!
Jazz Night at the UU Church, Friday, Feb. 16th
If you enjoy jazz, you won’t want to miss this free night of live music at the UU Church. A quartet, including Tim Savage, John Danis, and James Galisinski, will be playing from 6:30-8:30pm.
Community Friendship Volunteer Program Presentation on Feb. 18th
During coffee hour on Sunday, Feb. 18th, Meghan Conklin will be offering a presentation on the Community Friendship Volunteer Program– a volunteer-based program that provides friendship and a helping hand to seniors in St. Lawrence County, whereby volunteers can assist a senior citizen through friendly home visits, phone conversation, light housekeeping, going on outings, help with errands, and more.
If you have questions, Meghan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (315) 379-8346.
Preparing for our Congregational Meeting: A Look at our Church’s Financials
Alright folks, it’s time to pull out your reading glasses and take a look at our financials. I thought I’d share the details with you in this week’s newsletter to give you time to peruse them before we meet on the 11th for our annual meeting.
If you open up these documents you will notice some crazy “yo-yo” numbers for our final totals. In 2022 we ended the year with a huge surplus: +$72,651 to be exact. And in 2023 we ended with a huge deficit: -$49,569. Both of these very large numbers have to do with our sanctuary renovation project.
At the very end of 2022 we received $64,000 from Brotherhood Mutual Insurance to go towards fixing the damage to our roof and the sanctuary. This is why we ended with such a large surplus in 2022–we received the money, but didn’t have time in the calendar year to do the work and spend the money.
Instead, the work started this past May, and as you know, is still ongoing. In 2023 we spent the majority of our insurance money– just shy of $50,000. Because we spent money in 2023 that we did not receive in 2023, our profit and loss statement says that we have a deficit of -$49,569 for the calendar year.
I know it’s frustrating to look at these numbers like this, but profit and loss statements only look at money coming in and out of our accounts across a certain period of time, and because the insurance money did not hit our account in 2023– when the work was paid for– it looks like we have a huge deficit. But! If you look at both years combined– adding together the totals we have in both 2022 and 2023– you will see that we are actually in the black over this two year span of time. Adding the totals together, we actually have a surplus of $23,00 over that 2 year period.
Now, $15,000 of this surplus is money still earmarked for the renovation project. We’re not done yet with the work. As I mentioned last week, we have decided to put down a new floor in the sanctuary in 2024, which will use up all of that $15,000 (plus another $10,000 that we need to raise to pay for the whole thing). But if you take out the $15k from the total surplus we had in 2023, we are still $8,000 above the board for 2022-2023!
Friends, this is huge news for our little church. We have been in the black every year since I started at the church in 2020–something I’m astounded by. But again, I must also explain.
Before I came, the church was regularly in the red every year. For years we have not had enough people coming to church and offering tithes and pledges to keep up with our expenses. So why are things different now? Part of it is that we are growing our little congregation, and you all are incredibly generous people! But the other reason has to do with the particularities of my life.
I am on disability because of my health problems, which ironically, has become a huge gift to our church. At the present time, the PC(USA)’s Board of Pensions program pays for my disability, supplementing what the federal government gives me (which is not enough to live on ….but that’s for another story).
Since I am not physically able to work full time, our denomination’s robust disability pension program pays for all of my health insurance and pension benefits, along with a chunk of salary. This is money that the church would otherwise be paying me in my salary package, and it amounts to nearly $30,000 a year. Thesehefty savings are a major part of why we have gone from being in the red every year to being in the black the past 4 years.
Now, I am currently still on disability, but I am doing everything I can to try and get better physically. I am hopeful that I am finally getting close to finding a treatment that will relieve enough pain and give me back enough mobility that at some point I will be able to go off of disability. If that happens, the church has to be prepared to pick back up the parts of my salary that it has not had to pay while I have been on disability.
Being prepared for this reality is the reason that every year our projected budget looks so grim. For 2024, we are projecting a -$87,000 budget. Gasp! But… but that huge negative number assumes that the church is paying for my full salary for the whole year (which it currently isn’t) and it includes payment for the new floor (which we have money set aside for from 2023, but is not reflected in the budget because the money did not arrive in 2024). Does that make any sense?
I know that profit and loss statements are frustrating, as is our annual budget. They are not designed to give the whole picture of what’s going on, which makes it maddening to understand if you don’t know the fine details! But there they are– the finer details. Hopefully I’ve done a good enough job explaining all of these finer details so that you don’t have a heart attack when you read the final numbers from 2023 or when you look at our projected budget for 2024. If, however, you read through this explanation and look at the P&L statements, and you still have questions, please reach out to me. Or, wait until our annual meeting and we can discuss it all together then.
All in all, I want you to know that Session and I take the church’s finances seriously and we are quite pleased with how well we were able to stick to the budget for our renovation project. It took a lot of effort, planning, researching, and prudence to not overspend, and I am proud of what we have accomplished this last year!
Where From Here?
And now a final word about our finances: When I first came to our church to be the pastor, I was prepared mentally that within 5 years we would need to sell our building and move somewhere else because financially we could not afford to stay in such an expensive home any longer. We had many meetings to discuss what this shift might look like back when I first came, and you were ready to make that jump with me.
As it is turning out, we probably won’t have to think about selling our building in the next 5 years. At some point in the future we might still have to, but for the time being we are bringing in enough money (and also not spending what we otherwise would have had to), to be able to stay where we are.
All this to say– where do we go from here? I honestly have no idea what God has in store for us in terms of the finer details, but what I do know is that we are a beautiful, lively, and caring church community that has a lot of life in front of it! And I can’t wait to see what God will bring about, not only in 2024, but in the coming years as well.
May God continue to guide us, teach us, mold us, and bless us!