Dear Cathedral family,
Alleluia, Christ is risen! As we enter the second quarter of 2018 I give thanks for the dedication and generosity of our cathedral community. As always, our worship throughout Holy Week was both profoundly reflective and gloriously joyful. Many, many people dedicated themselves to preparing the church, learning the music, creating the service leaflets, offering hospitality, and making sure all was done with beauty and order. Thank you for all the gifts you share with your cathedral family, including your financial donations throughout the first quarter of the year, and especially for your generous response to our Easter appeal, which exceeded expectations!
In a large congregation like St. Paul’s, it is sometimes hard to communicate the complexity of our life together, and misconceptions can arise. I want to take advantage of this letter to clear up some conflicting narratives regarding cathedral finances. First, let me say that our finance staff and volunteers have worked hard over the last four years to transform our financial picture from complete obscurity and disfunction to transparency and clarity. (You can read more details of that history in my recent blog post, dated April 26). We now know what we have, where it came from, and what we need in order to maintain our current level of ministry. And we now know that our expenses consistently exceed our income. Here are some points to summarize the picture.
1. Some very generous, designated donations from a small number of parishioners have financed significant capital improvements including the installation of the audiovisual and sound systems and the floor restoration (which will continue in 2018). This is entirely separate from our operating budget, no pledge moneys have been used, and the funds were specifically given for the purposes above.
2. We are now in the third year of a three-year plan to subsidize our operating income with moneys from our reserves, to the tune of $220,000 for 2018. Chapter’s hope three years ago was to grow our giving to the point where pledges would take over from these reserves and we would once again have a balanced budget. However, this has not happened, and instead of reducing the subsidy, we had to increase it for 2018. This is obviously not a sustainable strategy.
3. The Cathedral Campus Redevelopment Project will bring us a certain amount of money (the exact amount is not yet clear, because of likely costs during the construction period). However, we know that we will lose approximately $100,000 in rents from Park Chateau and that we will be paying $42,000 per annum in HOA fees. We estimate that this is about half of what the net sale proceeds will yield in annual interest income. The other half will not quite meet the anticipated deficit as described in paragraph 2.
The obvious conclusion from the above is that we need to find ways to expand revenue and shrink expenses. The stark truth is that the only way to make significant savings is to look at reducing staff positions. We have a terrific staff team that is devoted to St. Paul’s, and I want to keep the team intact if at all possible.
St. Paul’s is an exciting, vibrant, innovative congregation with much to offer both parishioners and the wider community. As we prepare for the three-year construction period, we are also preparing for our sesquicentennial year. Both of these prospects offer wonderful opportunities for community-building and celebration. As we continue to modify the Vision for Mission plan to fit current reality, I believe that we can come through the next three years with a stronger, more caring, and financially sustainable parish, ready to engage in the 21st-century ministry that can be accommodated in the new building.
As you see, we have some challenges ahead, but we are in this together, and together we will discern God’s will for this wonderful cathedral, to ensure that St. Paul’s continues to Love Christ, Serve Others, and Welcome All.
Your sister in Christ,
The Very Rev. Penny Bridges, Dean