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Budget makers say stories of ministries behind figures

Stories of young adult interns and interfaith campus ministry that build hope for the future are behind figures discussed at the Annual Meeting hearing on the budget.

michelle and wendy

Michelle Doherty, accounting manager, and Wendy Blight, treasurer.

One decision incorporated in the budget was to send an additional one percent to the national denomination for a total of 31 percent, said Wendy Blight of the Stewardship Committee.

Undergirding the stories are the numbers, said David Anderson, reporting on the budget before the delegates. 

He reported that the conversation at the budget hearing focused on ministry and possibility.  Wendy Blight, treasurer of Alki UCC, is also business administrator at Plymouth UCC.

“This is the first budget I can be excited about and the second I’m involved with,” she said.

During the hearing that offered delegates an opportunity to learn more and offer their input, Wendy gave a fuller presentation on the budget.

“We invest in Our Churches’ Wider Mission (OCWM) and reserve funds to spring forth next year and in the future with a new position.  We are investing in new ways,” she said.

The two camps stand on their own and make money, she pointed out.

The budget has projected to receive $7,000 less OCWM in these challenging times, especially for local churches in transition and facing conflicts, she said. 

“We need strong churches to maintain and increase giving to support the conference, which exists to make sure local churches and clergy are strong, resourced and connected,” Wendy said.

If the conference does do that for churches, the churches give revenue.

Rather than reducing what the conference sends of OCWM to the national, the PNC is not only continuing to send 30 percent.  We feel this is the time to show our support, belief and trust in the national UCC, so we are increasing it to 31 percent, $2,600,” Wendy said.

The conference needs to show local congregations that supporting the conference is worth it.

The budget includes a two percent cost of living salary increase for staff and includes hiring a new staff position at $65,000 salary and benefits to help Conference Minister Mike Denton serve PNC’s 80 churches.

“We believe we need someone to connect with and resource churches, to help them with their struggles, so they find their own answers to their own ministries in unique settings,” she said.

Those resources include connecting nationally with the denomination, nonprofits and people working on the edge to propose ways to work effectively, to inspire members to move out into the community to do church in these new times. Wendy said.

The job description is now ready for a new PNC staff person who can be a catalyst, curator and connector. 

“We will use some reserves for three years for the new position and then hope to have a turnaround,” she said.

No position is permanent.  We need to try it, to risk and do something different, Wendy commented.  Money for the position has been included in the last three budgets. 

Originally the job description described someone working with justice and witness, youth, young adults and outdoor ministries, given that the request came from these groups. 

More ideas developed as the search started and became bogged down.  Now the original components are included but the job description is broader, to help the churches and communities figure what is vibrant and how to do it.  

Insurance assistance fund is in place for the conference to help local churches and retired clergy pay health care premiums.

“We ask churches to contribute to the fund,” Wendy said.  “Once it was mandatory.  Now we take the message to churches to donate to the fund to supplement $15,000 from the operating budget.”

The UCC’s national Young Adult Service Community and Justice Leadership Program interns have been in place for the third year as a partner of local churches, the conference, the national UCC and social justice agencies.

The Church in Pullman asks for support for what was once the Church Ministries in Higher Education (CMHE) with $1,000 for Washington State University. 

Chip Laird of the Community Congregational UCC in Pullman, said there is no CMHE but now Common Ministries at WSU is doing interfaith ministries. 

“Funding is always hard.  It gives GLBT people a safe place to explore their spiritual path,” he said.  “We experience pressure to expand our base into faiths.  We want to see more than a narrow campus ministry.  Interfaith House was sold by the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest after 45 years.  They have the money.  The common Ministries office is in our church.  Jessica Stokes, 27, an American Baptist, is the director.”

A loan to Campus Christian Ministries at the University of Washington, a ministry that no longer exists, will be paid back by the end of the fiscal year.

Wendy commented that for years, the conference ran a deficit budget.  Then it took a loan from itself, from the Conference Home Fund.  It moved money from that fund to the operating fund. 

“Now we will reverse that process and put $172,000 back into reserves,” she said.

Delegates adopted the budget during a business plenary session.

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Copyright June-July 2015 © Pacific Northwest Conference News



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