Last Sunday, May 3, I announced that the Vestry and I are moving Sunday worship for the months of June, July, and August to Karns Hall, which now is under renovation to prepare it for use as a worship space. Long-time members will remember that what now is Karns Hall was the main church for the first half of St. Margaret’s life as a congregation. We’re working hard to ensure that worship there is comfortable, beautiful, and edifying. The target start date is Sunday, June 7, though that date may slip if construction is not complete. Watch for additional announcements in late May. The tentative Sunday schedule will be as follows:
- 7 a.m.: Holy Eucharist, spoken
- 9 a.m.: Holy Eucharist with music (choir though June, as customary)
- 11 a.m.: Holy Eucharist with music (same as 9 a.m., though possibly alternate liturgy)
The decision came as part of an effort to bring our resources, especially our facilities and cash spending, more in line with our missional and ministerial goals. It’s part of a larger facilities use strategy, and driven ultimately by our 2014 parish-wide discernment of God’s will for us around mission and ministry. The summer move to Karns is an experiment, and may be reversed if actual experience shows that the experiment is not meeting our objectives effectively. Those objectives include:
- Create a more accessible and intimate worship experience for the summertime congregation, who otherwise are seated far apart from one another in a space that isn’t proportionate to the size of the congregation. Karns can be entered without climbing stairs, and coffee hour is close at hand. When our air conditioner failed on Independence Day weekend in 2014, we observed one of the best-attended coffee hours ever during a season when it’s normally barely attended at all.
- Make a meaningful impact on our operating budget by reducing wasteful spending on heavy air conditioning a room that’s empty 163 out of 168 hours a week during the summer. The room still will be air conditioned, but only as needed to keep the area around the organ in the upper 80s. The organ will require retuning at the end of the summer, but it’s our practice to tune it then anyway. Currently, one of our highest costs is air conditioning the church through the summer months. Because the organ requires stabilization at a constant temperature, the room historically has been kept in the low 70s all summer long, 24×7. That’s an extremely expensive proposition in desert summer heat in a large space with little insulation and enormous windows facing every direction. Combined with other operating changes in the church building, we believe we can reduce substantially one of the biggest costs we face every year: air conditioning the church itself.
- Vacating the church while we make necessary upgrades and modifications to a 27-year-old air conditioning system. We’re replacing the temperature control system, two compressors, and some critical pumps and timers to increase operating efficiency and our ability to regulate the temperature comfortably in the building. The upgrades also will reduce substantially the rates of catastrophic failure of critical air conditioning components we’ve suffered at great financial and operational cost in the last several years.
The service times will be re-evaluated at the end of June. At current summer worship levels, three services would be required. But if attendance declines, we may consolidate back to 8 and 10.
The summer move would not be possible without renovations to Karns Hall, which will offer the additional benefit of creating a more beautiful and functional space for educational and fellowship programs. The ever-stained carpet will be replaced with ceramic tile with a woodgrain pattern. The room will be painted an off-white color with a dark brown accent reminiscent of the original worship space, and holes and blemishes patched. The roof will be repainted. The interior lighting will be replaced with high-efficiency LED fixtures that distribute light more effectively. Selected furnishings from the original church are being restored, and additional wall decorations are being added. Seating will surround a central altar for intimate worship. The grand piano from the church will be relocated to Karns to lead music. The air conditioning has been reworked to ensure good temperature control and efficient energy management. A state-of-the-art sound system is being installed to distribute sound evenly in the room with minimal echo. We are working with acoustic engineers, and panels will be added as needed to manage reverberation. The very loud refrigerator in the kitchen will be silenced. The restrooms at the Lee Building and their air conditioning have been renovated for Sunday morning use, and the concrete walkways outside Karns Hall are being repaired to eliminate trip hazards.
The Vestry has authorized $70,000 of work to be paid from unrestricted reserve funds, and the work currently appears to be coming in for about $58,000. Alice Sleight has donated the lighting, and Lucy Karns has donated the sound system. Other donations are being solicited for liturgical furnishings including an altar and comfortable seating for the people.
Response to date has been mostly very favorable, but some have raised important concerns, and this change is very painful for some. Good and reasonable people will disagree about the best way forward. Most who’ve raised concerns understand that we all love St. Margaret’s and want what’s best for the congregation, and extend the same courtesy and Christian love to parish leadership that you’d expect from us. Emotions can run high because we all care deeply about the congregation, and our community of faith is supported best when we speak the truth in love. I’m grateful for those who have spoken directly to me or to the wardens.
In the coming days, I’ll send additional information about the financial aspects of the change, the larger mission and ministry context, and additional campus changes under consideration. For now, I’m hoping the information below, including the contact information for parish leaders, will be helpful. I’m looking forward to seeing you Sunday, and to many more years of fruitful ministry with you.
The Rev. Lane G. Hensley, Rector
- DISCERNMENT/MISSION DRIVEN: All the proposed changes are based on the Vestry’s considered collective judgment that they help us move toward goals identified through the 2014 parish discernment exercise spearheaded by Rita Saari. The overarching goal is to ensure that our physical plant is aligned with missional goals. Right now, our best spaces are unavailable for our best ministries.
- HVAC UPGRADES APPROVED AND FUNDED: The air conditioning upgrades to the main church building are underway now, and likely will move into high gear, with sporadic scheduled air conditioning outages as various equipment is replaced. That project was approved by the Vestry at its December meeting, and is being funded from reserves. A 2012 engineering study revealed that the operational savings from the new equipment greatly exceeds the loss of investment income from the applied reserve funds.
- KARNS MOVE APPROVED AND FUNDED: The renovations to Karns Hall are funded by a combination of draw on reserves and gifts from generous donors, and have been approved by the Vestry. The exception is the furniture, and we still are working on securing donations for that. It’s unlikely that the permanent furniture will be ready in time for a June move to Karns Hall, but we’ll use temporary furniture in the interim, and will be able to display posters with photographs of the hoped-for upgrades. The project is on schedule and we are beating the budget significantly.
- SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF WORSHIP IN KARNS HALL
- Coffee hour will be in Karns Hall during the summer months, even if coffee hour later moves to Meyers and the courtyard during high season.
- Choir will continue to sing at Karns Hall through the end of June as scheduled.
- No St. Margaret’s or outside groups are being displaced to make this possible.
- BRIDGE CLUB ended its use of Meyers Hall on May 2. We had offered to extend the use of space through the end of the summer, but they asked for end of May instead, then moved the date to May 2.
- SOLAR PROJECT still is being actively pursued, but is complicated, and likely to take much more time.
- SCHOOL BUILDING SALE still is on track. The tenant/buyer extended their option to buy by one year in 2014, and we anticipate knowing by about September whether they will exercise the option. Indicators are favorable. If it sells, half our debt will be eliminated. Current lease payments are being used to pay down the principal on our mortgage.
Significant questions and misconceptions
- How can the church afford these building projects but not an associate rector? We can afford an associate rector under the current budget, and are searching for one now. But salaries are paid from the operations budget, and the building projects are funded by reserve funds and outside gifts. In each case, the goal of the building/operational changes is to increase available funding for operations, including the job security of an associate rector.
KEY POINT: The problem is not that we don’t have enough income. The problem is that most of our income is used to pay for aging infrastructure and crippling debt.
- Is this the beginning of the end of our music program? On the contrary. We are eliminating one of our largest expenses (air conditioning a huge empty building at 72 degrees through the hottest months of the year) so that the income we have from generous donors can be applied directly to music, worship, education, and outreach – mission and ministry – and not to inefficient operation of an aging physical plant.
- Is the message that year-round members don’t deserve to have the organ? Absolutely not. In fact, our hope is that the change of venue will improve the intimacy of our worship during the summer, and our musical offerings will continue to be high caliber. The reason for the move to Karns is not to scale back when the snowbirds are gone, but to reduce the runaway cost of operating a 27-year-old air conditioner during the most expensive months. It’s the same reason many people don’t heat swimming pools in February.
- Why is this information secret? It’s not. All Vestry meetings are open to the whole congregation. We meet the second Monday of each month (sometimes with summer breaks) at 4 p.m. in the conference room of Karns Administration, the parish office building. Financial statements are available for inspection by any parish member, and are audited annually.
- Why not use reserve funds to pay off debt? That’s a possibility. The Vestry chose to wait until the results of the school property sale are known and make a decision based on a better awareness of our financial footing in 2016.
- The Rev. Lane Hensley, Rector; email@example.com; 760‑346-2697, ext. 106
- Barb Gibson, Senior Warden; firstname.lastname@example.org; (760) 779-9998
- Steve Hanson, Junior Warden; email@example.com; (760) 200‑1797
- Brad Burr, Treasurer
- Bob Dean, Vestry
- Mary Ann Ekman, Vestry
- Marge Freeman, Vestry
- Meredith Hardy, Vestry
- Samantha Hirsch, Vestry
- Dennis Hooper, Vestry
- Frank Jacobi-Lewis, Vestry
- Liz Kennedy, Vestry
- Dave Skinner, Vestry
- Dave Strom, Vestry