You may remember the moving essay, “The Vines Across the Road” by Rev. David Bumbaugh that Ron Cox read from the pulpit last year. It was a reflection on a scenic but less-travelled and often stressful detour during a car trip in West Virginia that yielded him with certain insights. “This road, indeed all roads sooner or later, leads home.” “What is important is not the destination but the journey itself.” “What gave that trip…its deepest and most profound meaning was that I did not travel it alone.”
This road metaphor defines the situation of our church in early 2017. We are at a crossroads. Through our pledges this year – and next — each of us will share in determining what direction our church will take. Can we raise enough money during this pledge drive to put UUCSV finances back on a growth path, justifying the hiring of a full-time minister in 2018 – with the benefits for growth and stability that this could bring? Or is this simply a bridge too far for our congregation at this time — should we rather think for the indefinite future in terms of a part-time minister?
The situation is straightforward. Last year our revenues fell by 18% due to a sharp drop in pledges to $175,000. The reasons were many: departures of some high donors, a change in fortune for some others and, yes, some anger about church governance. What we have now is just enough to pay our current part-time minister and barely cover other operations.
According to the Ministerial Search Committee’s survey last fall, a strong majority of congregants support the recruitment and hiring of a full-time minister by the summer of 2018. However, to cover all the costs of a full-time minister* while also tending to our building, maintaining staff and key operations and providing for growth, we will need to raise our pledge level substantially.
We can conceivably do this in steps. Our pledge target for FY17-18 is $200,000. Such a $25,000 increase would demonstrate that our finances have turned the corner and are back on an upward trajectory – necessary if we are to credibly recruit a full-time minister (and in the short term we can use the money for some neglected priorities, including sorely needed building repairs). To achieve this goal (a) overall pledges for FY17-18 must increase by around 10%, and (b) some members who did not pledge for this year need to reestablish their pledges for FY17-18. But we can’t stop there. Even with the uptick in growth we hope for, pledges will almost certainly need to increase again in FY18-19 if we are to reach by that time a necessary pledge level of roughly $225,000 to sustain a full-time minister.
This is a large order. If we cannot reach these goals, so be it – the UUCSV will certainly continue, albeit for the time being with a smaller footprint than we had hoped for. But whatever the outcome, I look forward to travelling the road with you.
MSS/President, Board of Directors
* Less than half of a settled minister’s compensation is for salary; the rest goes for housing, retirement, health insurance and other standard benefits. The total package in FY15-16 was $85,093.