Merger Announcement Letter to St. Paul’s Congregation

The leadership of St. Anne’s and St. Paul’s working together with Bishop Dietsche has proceeded diligently and creatively to form a unique plan going forward whereby we will not only share clergy, but we will also merge the congregations in our worship. We will initially be sharing Mother Claire Lofgren who is St. Anne’s current priest-in-charge. This plan has
been unanimously and enthusiastically approved by both vestries. This is a two phase program.
Phase 1: Both congregations are currently doing Zoom Morning Prayer services together at 10am each Sunday with Mother Claire. As the Covid vaccine is disseminated early this year, we hope to return to in-person services perhaps sometime in the March to May quarter. At that time we will have three Eucharist services celebrated by Mother Claire and one Morning Prayer service led by lay leadership each month. Every week we will alternate the church building that will be in use—so two services would be held at St. Paul’s and two at St. Anne’s each month. Both buildings are in
excellent condition, and St. Anne’s is even handicapped accessible and has their own parking lot. Both churches are on Rt. 94 and only 9 miles apart.

How will this affect St. Paul’s financially? In the year 2020 salaries and clergy benefits at St. Paul’s made up 74% of our total expenses. Our new venture with St. Anne’s in this phase will reduce those expenses by 60%. That is a huge savings. And because of all the new renovations made in the last few years at St. Paul’s, we should only need funds for routine
maintenance and utilities. The leadership of St. Paul’s over the years has been very frugal (as evidenced by the amount of sweat equity invested in all our renovations) and has been a good steward of our pledge monies.
In addition to the financial benefits of our merger with St. Anne’s, there are more important advantages. Each church on any given Sunday could potentially have twice as many people in the pews. This is a real asset in attracting new congregants. From my many contacts with St. Anne’s, I can personally attest that they are really a great group of people. They are highly motivated and very talented. The merging of two congregations into one Christian community provides the opportunity to release more energy and creativity into our mission as a church. Also the spreading of the work
among more people offers greater efficiencies. And by keeping both churches open, the Episcopal Church also maintains a larger footprint in the county, which offers the opportunity for greater community outreach and recruitment. St. Paul’s also benefits by gaining an organist to replace Reilly. All of this offers us an exciting way forward and something to be
thankful for.

Phase 2: Under Bishop Dietsche’s leadership he has encouraged both congregations to take a longer view. To really grow as a joint congregation, we need a full time priest. To enable this to happen, the sale of one of the churches may be necessary. The proceeds of that sale could then be used as an endowment from which a full time clergy could be paid. A possible phase 3 has also been envisioned. There have already been discussions between a Spanish speaking parish in Newburg and St. Anne’s. If St. Anne’s and St. Paul’s find a bilingual full time priest, a third merger is possible.

The above plans are dependent on our love of God and our commitment to the people of God, our churches. As a congregation, St. Paul’s will need to continue their pledges from 2020 to 2021. The importance of this cannot be
overstated. Under phase 1 of this plan if we each increase our pledges 5 or 10%, we may be able to operate without a deficit for the first time in many years. Each vestry needs to continue providing new vision, leadership skills, and listening skills to the congregations they serve. Mother Claire has indicated a willingness to postpone her much deserved retirement for our benefit. And we are dependent on the support and approvals of Canon Perris and Bishop Dietsche. Let us not overlook the new organist we will also gain from St. Anne’s, a talented musician, Paul Davis. We are all
dependent on each other for good things to happen. So let us spread the love. This is an exciting undertaking with unimagined possibilities.

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