Last summer, as we commemorated the 150th anniversary of the first Episcopal service on our island and reflected on the stewardship that built this church, a few folks began to wonder what kind of legacy we are leaving for those in future generations. The Bicentennial Club was born from a commitment to make our community sustainable for at least the next fifty years: taking care of our physical plant as well as looking to the long-term financial and demographic health of our parish (I had suggested “The Biker Gang” as a cool nickname for the Bicentennial Club, but Jim Vallette didn’t think that was as clever as I did). As we celebrate more anniversaries in the next few years (the founding of our parish, the completion of our first building), count on the Bicentennial Club to remind us that stewardship of our history extends into the future as well as the past.
One of the first efforts in this direction has been a sensitive remodeling of our front entrance to be more accessible to those with mobility issues. We were quickly blessed with four initial gifts totaling forty-five thousand dollars, including a generous pledge from our neighbors at the Parish House. More gifts have continued to come in, and we are on schedule to begin construction on the project this fall.
When we presented the proposal for the entrance at a parish meeting, several folks mentioned other items around the campus that need some attention. The Vestry had many of these on our radar, but others were things we might not have thought about. Our ever-attentive Junior Warden, Wayne, quickly added more items to the to-do list: some major capital improvements, some minor maintenance fixes. Your vestry has been addressing these responsibly.
No one seems to know just how old the church boiler is, and that should tell us something. The faithful old beast has always (so far) rumbled to life every fall, but that can’t go on forever. This summer the Vestry hired Richard Rollins, PE, to evaluate our system and write specifications for a replacement. We are currently soliciting bids to replace our boiler (we will send the old one to live on a farm, where she will be able to run free and chase rabbits), as well as to tune up our other heating systems to be more efficient. This work will begin in the spring, when heating contractors are less busy and more competitive.
We had also asked Dick Rollins to investigate options to increase our energy efficiency and decrease our carbon footprint. Some ideas (like heat pumps and geothermal heating) were found not to be very appropriate for our building and location, but we plan to do further research on possibilities for solar electric generation. There are grants and loans available for such projects, and we may be able to coordinate with the replacement of our roof shingles, another need on the horizon.
You may have noticed the church looking a little dim, especially in the back of the chancel as bulbs have burned out, and you may have wondered why no one has replaced them yet (there is room here for the old jokes about how many Episcopalians it takes to change a light bulb: “Change it? My great grandfather donated that bulb!”). A few years ago we replaced the lamps in the church chandeliers with super-efficient LED bulbs. Since then, the cost of LED’s has come down dramatically, and in the next month we will be replacing the lamps in the track lights and spotlights as well. This will significantly reduce our electric bill from lighting, the LED’s will last several times as long as incandescent bulbs, and will generate far less heat (I can’t guarantee that they would have made the last two weeks in July comfortable, but every little bit helps).
One of the goals of the Bicentennial Club has been to reconnect with the families of some of the folks whose names are commemorated on the plaques and windows that fill our church, inviting them to be part of the future of our parish as well as the past. One of our first endeavors at this will involve necessary repairs and restoration of several of the stained-glass windows. These conversations are ongoing, and I have great hopes that we will be able to rekindle relationships with some of these families.
All of these projects are important, and all of them cost money (you knew I would get there, didn’t you?). But this is not about a big capital campaign to raise funds. In 2015 and 2016 the Living Stones Team did a great job of educating all of us about the realities of our parish finances and our responsibilities as stewards. In response to that campaign, St. Saviour’s congregation did an impressive job of increasing pledges and annual giving to reduce the amount we draw from our endowment every year for operating expenses. The endowment is healthier, and our budget is more sustainable than it has been in some time. The task now is to continue our annual stewardship so that we can live within our means, and cultivate the endowment so that it can support the long-term sustainability of our parish.
Part of that cultivation is “the duty… of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses.” (BCP p. 445). Just as we set aside part of our regular income to be a sacramental offering to God, we are invited to sanctify all that we have gathered in our life by giving part of it away. One of the reasons we have an endowment, and one of the reasons that St. Saviour’s has been a strong rock in this community for almost 150 years, has been the generosity of our people in their estates. This is an easy way to ensure that St. Saviour will be healthy at the celebration of our bicentennial.