There’s a good article on Episcopal Cafe by the Rev. Cameron Miller, titled Plan Your Escape Route Now. The article, which discusses the importance of being prepared to let go of outdated, burdensome church buildings, is highly relevant to Grace Episcopal. The article can be found here.
In the article, Miller discusses various churches at which he served, ranging from a small, simple rural church to a majestic Gothic edifice. All but the small rural church required massive repairs. Not surprisingly, the only church building that didn’t prevent mission due to its cost was the small rural church.
Carrying the lesson forward, Miller reports that his current cure is Trinity Place, a congregation that shedded its former church building in favor of a small storefront. The result? A vibrant renewal of the parish as its space serves multiple groups in the community.
The lessons Miller shares are important for Grace Church. As the parish pumps more than a $1 million into replacing the HVAC system, with much of the money borrowed, it gives short shrift to the local community. Less than 3 percent of the budget goes to serving others. At the same time, the parish devoted more than $1.2 million to buying a private residence for Bob Malm, and paid a bonus of $100,000 to him in 2014, at a time when it was cutting employee health benefits and donating $3,000 to Chris Byrnes’ farewell party. The latter wasn’t even drawn from income, but rather from savings.
Just imagine what would be possible if these resources were put into serving those in need.
And exactly as Miller discusses with his previous churches, even with all the money being poured into the building, there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of work that will be needed. Much of that work is not even on the radar for vestry members or staff, including what will happen when the original copper pipes start to fail. That alone will be a huge project, and yet no one pays attention to it, let alone budgets or plans for it.
So what is Grace’s plan? How will it cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of work that will be needed? Is this the best use of the church’s rapidly dwindling resources? Are the church’s current priorities healthy? The church has plenty of money when it decides to take up a purse for perjuring priest Bob Malm, but not so much when it comes to feeding the needy.
If the answer to the latter question is no, what is the church’s escape route?