Good morning! When I became Junior Warden, someone asked what I wanted to eventually accomplish as Senior Warden. I didn’t have an answer.
Well now I’ve had two years to reflect on that question. After watching three wardens before me dealing with all the issues that were thrown their way, all the stuff no one else wanted to deal with, and after sharing some of those burdens myself over the past two years, I finally have an answer.
The first thing I’d like to do is demand a recount!
Actually I am truly blessed to have had Audrey as a partner. Audrey, your wisdom, your energy, and your faith have guided us so surely over the past four years. I have learned so much watching and listening to you. On behalf of all us, thank you for your wonderful contributions to Christ Church.
And I am also fortunate to have George Belshaw as my partner. George, your talents have been so amply displayed in steering our Capital Projects to a successful on-time and on-budget conclusion. I’m really looking forward to working with you over the next two years.
So where do we go from here? Thanks to Jim’s steady hand and caring leadership over the past decade, we are ready to set new, ambitious, goals.
As Peter Helmer’s presentation so clearly demonstrates, we need to raise the bar on our revenues. Or as one of our past Treasurers put it, our parish income needs to reach ‘escape velocity.’
To accomplish that goes beyond our Annual Appeal. Yes, it’s about attracting new members. But it’s more than that.
At the 5 o’clock service this Christmas, Jen and I looked around at the standing room only crowd and thought, who are all these people? I’ve been a member for 32 years, and I recognized only a fraction of the faces. How do we get them to show up the other 51 Sundays?
I believe it’s about invitation and engagement – getting people to come in the door and giving them something meaningful to get them to stick around. And return. To create a welcoming place that feels like home, so you care for it, and take care of it. As the saying goes, nobody washes a rental car.
The good news is we have so many wonderful resources. Not everyone knows this, but we have a school at Christ Church! Two years ago, of the 90 children attending CCNS, only three came from Christ Church families. But the news is spreading. Thanks to the great leadership of the school board and its director, Jennifer Purdy, that number is now up to eleven, and we are turning away families for next year’s morning “twos” classes.
And then there’s our outstanding music program. The quality of Jamie’s choral instruction is one of the best kept secrets on the East Coast. One recent graduate, who now attends Johns Hopkins, came home from her fall break and told her mom how disappointed she was that the college choir didn’t quite measure up to her experience at Christ Church.
Jamie and Jonathan, thank you for everything you do to create such an incredible music and choir program for us all.
I could go on. Courage and Faith, Neighbor to Neighbor, Faith on Fire. These programs represent such unique opportunities for learning and service. And they all happen here. To increase the number of engaged members we don’t even have to leave our campus! We just have to better communicate and coordinate among those who attend these programs.
Think about our partnerships: Greenwich Suzuki Academy, YWCA, Temple Sholom, and Trinity Church. As you know we are providing Trinity a home while they consider their longer term needs. And while they are immensely grateful for our generosity – and indeed have recently made a donation to demonstrate that appreciation – they now recognize the challenges of incorporating such a large congregation here on Sunday mornings. Accordingly they are exploring more permanent options elsewhere in town.
This experience forced us to think how we utilize our space. The Parish Hall is a wonderful resource, but it’s empty much of the time. And if Trinity goes, so will the rental income they provide.
The same is true of Tomes-Higgins. It’s a jewel of a home, and historic landmark. But as Barbara Arenz, who is responsible for facility rentals can tell you, zoning restrictions make it hard to generate meaningful facility fees. And once Neighbor to Neighbor moves out of the Annex cellar into their new home, that will be additional space we’ll need to consider.
We are in a real sense property rich and cash poor. Last year a task force led by Stella Maybury conducted an inventory of our buildings, analyzing square footage and estimating real estate values. This study will help guide us as we consider ways to more efficiently monetize our underutilized assets.
Our successful capital campaign addressed the most urgent needs, but there remain a number of unaddressed tasks. Less-urgent at the time, they grow more so with each passing year.
For example, we were not able to renovate the Annex. You may have noticed the wrapping on the chimneys on the west side that’s still there. Also, there’s significant interior work that needs to be done if we want to optimize the office and living space there.
You may also remember we allocated $350,000 for repairs to our organ. A task force led by George has looked closely at its condition and found the costs to fully restore it approach those of a new instrument. So we’re considering options in that regard, which we’ll share in the coming months.
These things and much more. Fortunately, under Audrey’s leadership, we formulated and the Vestry approved a Long Range Plan to address many of these issues. At next month’s Vestry meeting, George and Peter Helmer will be presenting specific recommendations on turning our Plan into reality.
To do that, however, will require more than two hard-working Wardens. More than the best Rector in the Episcopal Church and his terrific staff. More than an amazingly accomplished Vestry. It will take dozens of dedicated volunteers in each of our commissions, committees, guilds and task forces.
Not all of those groups are sufficiently staffed or directed. We need thoughtful, motivated leaders who want to make a difference. Or as the Commission Book calls them, “fresh meat.”
Think about what one or two people with a vision can do. Susan Sterne with the Greeters Program. The Michonski’s with our Ushers. Randy Wolf and Lucy Rinaldi now leading Outreach. Becky Ford with Courage & Faith, the Bookstore, and Website.
I have appreciated hearing from many of you over the past seven years about ways we can do things better. But now I need your help. We have incredible talents in this parish. Help us build on our accomplishments to raise us to the next level in our life at Christ Church.
Now I know all this work will not be completed in the next two years. Or even in the two years after that. But as your Senior Warden, I am honored and privileged to help us take these next steps together.
God bless you all, and God bless our Church.