Dean’s Letter: Annual Meeting Report 2024

Hello St. Paul’s,

Episcopal Churches have their own way of governing, and a great opportunity to witness this tradition is to attend our Annual Parish Meeting. In case you missed it, here’s a report from the meeting that took place on January 28. It was my privilege as Dean to chair the meeting.

Following the 10:30 service, a large number of parishioners packed into the Great Hall and enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by The Invisible Chef. As the business of the meeting got under way, we established that we had a quorum of voting members. The diocesan canons and bylaws specify the qualifications needed to be a voting member: aged 16 years or older; has been baptized with water in the name of the Trinity; has been a contributor of record in the past year and has received Communion at St. Paul’s at least three times in the last year. 50 constitutes a quorum, and 104 voting members made their presence known. After approving the minutes of last year’s annual meeting (preliminarily approved by Chapter (the cathedral’s board of directors) last February, while memories were fresh), the membership approved the agenda.

The Bishop has asked all congregations to reframe their bylaws in accordance with a template that was created by the chancellor’s team last year. St. Paul’s Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor accordingly revised our bylaws to fit the template. The revision was approved by Chapter and by the Diocesan Standing Committee last year, and the approval by this annual meeting was the final step in implementing the change. The content of the bylaws changed very little, but having a consistent template makes it much easier to note future changes. The membership unanimously approved this revision.

This year we needed to elect four people to three-year terms on Chapter and one to a one-year unfinished term. Seven brave people stood for election. It took quite a while for the counting to be completed, as it was a very close election, indicating how highly we all regard all of the candidates. In the end, we elected Kimberly Fernandez, Angel Ibarra, Allen Mutchler, Phyllis Lengyel and Jill Sanford. Many thanks to all the candidates for being willing to stand! The new Chapter members will receive briefings on our finances, the LLC relationship, and their fiduciary responsibilities before their first regular Chapter meeting on February 6. Chapter will also gather for a working retreat on February 24, to set the direction for the year ahead. Regular Chapter meetings are at 5:30 pm on the first Tuesday of the month, usually via Zoom, and all members of the parish are welcome to attend.

The other important election was that of lay delegates to represent the Cathedral at the annual Diocesan Convention, which takes place on Veterans Day weekend each year and will be at St. Margaret’s, Palm Desert this year. One consequence of the revised bylaws is the requirement that the congregation, not just Chapter, elects the lay delegates, so this must now take place at the annual meeting. The number of lay delegates is based on the annual Sunday attendance in the prior year. For St. Paul’s this meant that we could elect four delegates. (All clergy canonically resident in the diocese are also voting delegates to Convention). Most years at least one of the delegates is ultimately unable to attend Convention, so we always elect alternates as well. We had six candidates this year: Darien DeLorenzo, Lisa Churchill, Diane Lopez Hughes, Allen Mutchler, Stacey Klaman, and Tom Merrick. Tom and Darien expressed their willingness to be alternates, so the annual meeting was able to elect the slate by acclamation. Thank you all!

Our governance system calls for the parish budget to be approved by Chapter, not the whole congregation, but our wonderful Treasurer Betsey Monsell presented the preliminary 2023 financial results and the 2024 operating budget as approved by Chapter earlier in the month. She reported that we ended 2023 in very good shape, thanks to the generosity of our members and the careful stewardship of the staff and leadership. The 2024 budget represents a milestone in our history, as the first annual budget to exceed $2,000,000.  This includes a 3% COLA increase for staff and allowances for the much increased utility expenses and health insurance premiums. We are blessed with a fantastic financial team in Betsey, finance director Erin Sacco Pineda, and bookkeeper Wes Dayhof, and we now benefit from the hard work of the last decade to develop best practices for accounting and handling donations. You can be confident that your donations are in safe hands. The Finance and Endowment committees oversee the work and ensure that our financial resources are well managed. The annual audit of the 2023 financials is already underway.

Canon Richard Hogue reported on the 2024 operating pledge campaign, which is officially over although we continue gratefully to receive pledges. We haven’t quite reached our ambitious goal of $1.05 million, but it is still within reach. Richard then reported on the progress of the capital campaign to fund the new music center. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to those who have already made significant pledges and gifts, and we are hopeful that the next phase of the campaign, opening it up to the entire congregation, will bring us very close to the goal. I am also very grateful to Russ Okihara and Rockette Ewell, co-chairs of the campaign, and the rest of the steering committee for the work they have put into this important project.

I am deeply grateful to those who completed their terms on Chapter this month: Dean’s Warden Darien DeLorenzo, Wanda Porrata, Jim Wright, and re-elected members Kimberly Fernandez and Allen Mutchler. I am looking forward to this new year with Dean’s Warden Kimberly and People’s Warden Sue Kelly.

I was delighted to award the Robinson Cross (for sustained voluntary lay ministry) to our retiring Chancellor Andrew Brooks, who has served faithfully for a decade and now moves to serve as a vice-chancellor of the Diocese.

Finally, we were treated to the first public performance of the newly installed pipe organ in the Great Hall gallery, as we sang a closing hymn. Many, many thanks to the Young family for this generous donation.

I hope that this report gives you a sense of the democratic nature of our church’s polity, in which a high priority is the sharing of power between lay and clergy. The annual meeting is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate what we have accomplished together, to give appropriate thanks, and to prepare ourselves for the year ahead. If you would like to know more about any of the ministries mentioned in this report or in the very substantial 2023 Annual Report (found at stpaulcathedral.org/annual-meeting) don’t hesitate to ask!

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

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