Wow! Have things really opened up – and not just the daffodils at the church’s front door. Like the robins outside my open window – the church has become a busy, busy place over the past month and the schedule looks fabulously full for the rest of the spring and summer. We’re back up to a normally-sized congregation for Sunday morning worship and I look forward to our Congregational Meeting on May 1st following the service when we will vote in three new Council members.
But first, a hearty thanks to retiring Council members: John DiStefano, Jan Eberhard and Joanne Herman. Together they have a given 16 years of loyal service to your Council and have guided us through church staff changes, the pandemic and procedural updates.
We’re so glad to be able to come together in person again for our Congregational Meeting after two years of pandemic restrictions and virtual meetings. If you can’t attend in person, I encourage you to log into our Church Zoom with this link: https://zoom.us/j/8685902067?pwd=R2h4bkNpblNyRTVYS1VGNGR0SXVzQT09
Over the last two months, Council has been working on implementing a number of recommendations from Charlaine Aspel, financial consultant from PRC (Practical Resources for Congregations) and treasurer of the New York UCC Conference. These include: changing our bookkeeping software to QuickBooks and training our office administrator, Jennifer Tarbox, to enter information about income and expenses. Jennifer’s work responsibilities now include much of what our financial secretary, Pat Richards, had done for us prior to her retirement last month.
The church has joined PRC as a full subscriber for this year. Our membership affords many benefits for members, leaders and staff. I encourage you to explore their offerings of webinars, blogs and other practical resources -- go to prcli.org. It is a great place to discover how you can match your desires for Park to practical ideas and possibilities from other churches.
One of Rev. Gary’s many gifts to us is his ability to see our operations with a 30,000 foot view and to make suggestions that can bring our policies and procedures up to date with current technologies and contemporary church functioning. He reminds us that while we’re proud of our illustrious history, we can also live into our mission and have a bright future if we work on church growth strategies NOW!
Council, with assistance from Ms. Aspel and our Budget & Finance Subgroup, is in the process of drafting some new policies relating to how the church accepts and uses financial gifts. Because of our duty to be transparent and fully congregational, I want to keep you up to date with these evolutions. This list may seem droll, but Council wants to be sure that the membership understands that we take our fiduciary role seriously.
In the past, a number of donors had made gifts with restricted purposes, for example for music or education or emergency mission assistance. A total of $21,000 had accrued in these “restricted” funds, and while it had been invested, it had never been spent in the manner intended by its donors. This money is now deposited into a new savings account so that it is available to draw on to fund operations and special projects through our operating account as the donors wished. We will no longer be accepting gifts with restrictions. Three other financial policies are under discernment and will be brought to the congregation for final approval:
• When the church receives an inquiry about a bequest or gift, we will direct donors to choose to give to one of three Park Church Endowment Funds: Capital Improvements, Historic Preservation or General. • When the church receives memorial gifts, these funds will be deposited and then sent on a quarterly basis to Valicenti to invest in the General Endowment Fund. A listing of the donors will be sent to the family. • Any donor to the Endowment Fund of $1,000 or more will be enrolled as a member/s of The Beecher Circle and will be recognized annually on All Saint’s Sunday. The Church Fellowship fund, once managed as a separate account, will become a standard income and expense line where fundraising project income can be deposited and expenses for improvements to our worship and fellowship experiences can be paid for. The PayPal account has been discontinued as we have on-line giving with Breeze software capabilities. Our Top’s Cards inventory (total value $695) has been given to Jan Butts to use to purchase groceries for our monthly Community Kitchen meals. She will keep receipts. We will not be participating in the Top’s Cards program again. Payroll and records keeping services for our employees has been contracted with GLN Tax & Payroll. Our bi-weekly payroll system continues with the pastor approving the number of hours prior to notification sent to GLN by the Church Administrator. Our investment firm, Valicenti Advisory Services Inc. will make quarterly deposits into our checking account of $10,000 each, unless they are notified not to do so. This will allows us better quarterly tracking and projecting of operating accounts.
Upcoming activities at the church include the May 15th 4 PM Installation Worship Ceremony and Dinner in honor of The Reverend Gary Brinn. This is a joyous celebration of the formal installation of the fifteenth minister for our congregation. Make sure you’ve sent in your RSVP to the firstname.lastname@example.org so we have enough barbecue to go around!
Other events at The Park Church
six performances of Elmira Little Theatre’s Doubt: A Parable (April 29 – May 8) in the sanctuary
an American Guild of Organists May 22nd organ recital with guest organist Amanda Mole.
Two more theater groups will be using the church in May for rehearsal space: Kai DonDero is the director for Project Fluid and Mary Guzzy is directing a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Inspire4Hope, a volunteer organization is hosting a training session during the first week of May for a two-day facility use. It’s wonderful to have our building busy. Not to mention the Rummage Sale! (See schedule, p. 11)
In closing, I hope you enjoy reading about Phyllis and Jon – the Artists Upstairs – and join me in thanking all the great volunteers that made the church such a lively place last month – Bertie, Connie and Jan for palms and flowers; John, Jim and Doug for the wonderful Easter morning breakfast; and the Climate Justice team for a new banner. It’s great when we can make our passions visible and our radical hospitality evident. Thanks for your part in it, too! Jenny