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Summary of Congregational Meeting March 4 on Recasting Our Assets


Summary of Special Parish Meeting - Sunday, March 4, 2012

Note: St. Bart's is considering this process. We have not made the decision to enter it.


Many thanks to all who stayed after Sunday's 10:30 service to learn about "recasting" from Sally O'Brien, Vice President of the Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF). For those who could not attend, this meeting summary can help you stay informed.

Sally began by asking for a show of hands - Is St. Bart's in a growth cycle, stability cycle, or decline cycle. The majority of participants agreed that we are in decline.


History and Evolution of The Episcopal Church Building Fund

Established in 1880, ECBF is an autonomous, self-funding, agency of the Episcopal Church. Its purpose was to respond to the expansion of the Episcopal Church in the USA and church building projects. They maintained a revolving fund for loans. Today, they have expanded their purpose in response to current needs.

For over 10 years, Episcopal Church giving, attendance, and income have sharply declined. The current average size is 70 members, and 3 to 4 churches close each month. Many congregations must choose between maintaining their building and supporting clergy and programs.

In response to these trends of decline, ECBF updated their mission to help congregations address the overwhelming issues surrounding their buildings. They work with churches across the USA to help when "plate and pledges" are not enough. They help congregations to identify their place in the community and to use real estate assets to develop financial stability.

In 2009, ECBF relocated from the national Episcopal Church headquarters to Richmond.


Where there is life, there is change.

Those in attendance noted many changes in the Episcopal Church over our lifetimes. Examples included female clergy, vestry members, acolytes, and ushers, service changes resulting from adoption of the 1978 Book of Common Prayer, more casual dress, more lay involvement, inclusion of more types of music, and many more. ECBF changed its mission. They are now helping Episcopal churches "recast" their real estate in order to increase their relevance in the community and their financial health.


What is the Recasting Process?

The three objectives of recasting include:

1. Financial sustainability through creative and innovative use of buildings.

2. Increase relevancy of the congregation to the community.

3. Disperse or reallocate real estate assets that are redundant or cannot be sustained.

Several churches (perhaps 3 to 5) go through the recasting process together to help each other. This partnership increases the ideas and knowledge and provides a sense of accountability to help all stay on track. Clergy find the partnerships with each other to be particularly helpful.

The process affects the entire congregation and involves active work from a core committee of about six members. Since meetings rotate between the participating churches, travel is often required. ECBF facilitators meet with the core committees of the participating parishes for three training sessions (about 1 1/2 days each) over nine months, and they conduct in between web-ex meetings. Assignments stimulate problem solving, increase resources, develop community connections, and keep the congregation engaged. The process tends to invigorate parish life and create relationships within the community. During the process "everyone has a say; not everyone has their way."


Application Process

Interested churches complete an application. Per Sally, the application is not overly difficult and may be submitted in creative ways, such as via a video.


The Timing and Potential Partners

ECBF works nationwide and is making an effort now in the Diocese of Virginia. In time they will move on. The recasting process is available now. ECBF is in conversation with several churches - one in Charlottesville, one in Northern Virginia and one in the Richmond area (other than St. Bart's).


Examples of Churches Who Completed the Process

Sally described three churches that have gone through the recasting process. One chose to become a mission church; another merged with two other churches; and the third has made little or no progress.


Some of the Questions from Meeting Participants

Q: Is this the right timing since we have an Interim Rector and are in search for a permanent Rector?

Sally's Response: One other church entered the process with an Interim Rector and found that it was a good thing to do. The rector search benefited because it indicated to potential applicants that the parish was active and willing to consider creative solutions.

 Q: What is the cost?

Sally's Response: That depends on how many other churches are involved, but probably about $5,000.

Q: How do we make the decision? Does the Vestry decide or do we put it up for a total membership vote?

Sally's Response: That is up to you.

Q: We are smart people, why can't we undertake the process by ourselves and not have to pay $5,000?

Sally's Response: You can. However, you will not have the benefit of partnership with other parishes or the guidance from ECBF. The results benefit tremendously from the accountability caused by the partnerships and the specific guided process.

 For more information, go to The Episcopal Church Building Fund website at ecbf.org.

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