What is up with Wapiti?

Bishop.JPG

In the last month, we have held four open budget hearings in the diocesan community with one more scheduled in the next week. That process is paramount to me. I want each of you to understand what is in the diocesan budget - how it reflects an over-arching commitment to proclaiming the Gospel, addressing the pain in the world and investing in our churches.

 

Part of the budget includes Wapiti. Even before I was elected, I heard your questions about the property. Here, I would like to provide some answers in the hopes that knowing the facts may better allow us to move forward as one body.

 

What is Wapiti?

Wapiti is a 432-acre property in Maryland purchased in 2003. There are 11 rooms on the property for rent, a large covered pavilion near the water and several tent platforms for camping.

 

 

I thought there was a resolution to sell the property. Why wasn't it sold?

-        In 2008, Convention passed Resolution R-9. This authorized the governing bodies of the Diocese to list the property for sale. However, it did not mandate or require that the property to be sold. The property was listed for sale at $15 million but no offers deemed acceptable were received.

-        In 2011, the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council and the then Finance and Property Committees all voted to accept an offer for $6.6 million. However, Bishop Bennison declined to accept, thus blocking the sale.  

-        At Convention 2011, another resolution (R-8) was passed which allowed the property to be sold without the consent of Bishop Bennison. This resolution became null and void when Bishop Bennison retired in 2012.

-        The property remained listed for sale but no other serious offers have been received since. The property has not been actively listed with an agent since 2013.

-        During his time in office, Bishop Clifton Daniel publicly stated that, because of the temporary nature of his authority, he did not believe it appropriate for him to authorize a sale.

 

Would you be willing to sell it?

I would be willing to sell if we receive an offer of at least $6.6 million, which is what the governing bodies of our diocese previously elected to accept. I will not agree to an offer that amounts to pennies on the dollar. This would not be good stewardship and would be poor exercise of my fiduciary responsibilities as your Bishop.

 

What is the value of the property?

As per our Audit in 2007, Wapiti was valued at $9,848,306. This represents land acquisition costs and investment in the buildings. This does not represent the cumulative costs of salaries, maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc. These expenses bring the total investment to approximately $11.5 million.  

 

Since then the value of the property has consistently depreciated and at present we carry it on our books at $4.5 million. This significant depreciation reflects both changes in the real estate market and a change in the zoning rules that cut the number of developable lots in half from the original projections.

 

What are the annual operating expenses?

In 2017, our net expenses were $165,401 after $21,474 in income. This includes all expenses for salary, benefits, maintenance, insurance and taxes. In the interest of reducing the net expenses, we are actively examining all contracts and relationships related to the property.

 

How is the property being used now?

The property is maintained and it is available and used for a variety of retreats. In 2017, twenty groups used the property. So far this year, 14 groups have used it. We currently have a draft policy before the Chancellor that would allow people from outside our diocese to make use of it. We believe this could significantly boost the income generated and thus help further offset the operating costs without any new program development. We will also actively promote the property for rentals inside the diocese until a decision is made on rentals outside the Diocese.

 

What about the future?

I have asked our Creation Theology Committee to develop a model that would allow for organic and sustainable agriculture as well as developing capacity to serve as a spiritual retreat center. To that end, we organized an Open House event on October 6, 2018 in the hopes of introducing as many of our members as possible to the property with the goal of getting your feedback and input in further developing their ideas.

 

 I recognize that the history of Wapiti is long and complex and like any complex issue, there are many different perspectives, which are sometimes accompanied by some strong feelings. But, we cannot continue to allow ourselves to be defined by the past. All things are being made new in Jesus Christ. We must look at Wapiti with fresh eyes to see how we might use it in our efforts to make Jesus known and to change the world in his name.

 

I sincerely hope you will consider coming down in October in order that you might look at it for the first time or the first time in a long time. Who knows what God might have in mind? Therefore, let us root our hope in Jesus Christ and move forward in our faith.

    

 

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

 

R and R

            Last week was my last week of the school year. I am a teacher, so even though I work in the summer, the end of the regular school year is full of extra work, extra activities, and a lot of students with extra energy. Needless to say, I did not want to get out of bed any day last week and face what was ahead of me.  

            This happens to all of us. Sometimes when this happens to me, I remember the passage from 1 Kings 19:

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [e]a still small voice.

13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19 11:13

            I remember this passage, because of a theory I heard in a homily over 20 years ago. The pastor proposed that the second voice Elijah heard was his own.

        Elijah was a prophet who was very well known in his time, and very vocal about what was happening in the world. He made very clear to King Ahab that Queen Jezebel was not a good queen (to put it mildly). Elijah was not one to back down from a challenge. He had complete faith in the Lord to protect him. However, after Queen Jezebel convinced Ahab to kill all the other prophets in the area…Elijah decided that perhaps running away would be the better option this time.  He runs away to a cave, lies down, and begs God to let him die.

            The Lord let Elijah rest awhile. He sent Angels to feed him and give him drink. Once Elijah finished resting, the Lord called him to stand out on the mountain where he witnessed all of God’s power and beauty. And heard the second voice: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

        We get so worried about the possible outcome- the final destination of whatever we are working for, we forget that all of life is a journey. Humans get tired and we sometimes become so overwhelmed with how hard the tasks before us are that we just can’t face the day. The passage in 1 Kings reminds us that even the most celebrated of God’s prophets had this problem. It reminds us that it is ok to rest. It is ok to take a few minutes and recharge. God will give us what we need to restore our energy, so we can continue his work. And afterward, we might come out stronger for it. I like to call it perpetual character development.

            So, Elijah is in the cave, looking out. He is rested and sustained. It is then he remembered what God called him to do. Being God’s prophet was something he did with gusto. It was time to go back to his work and trust God. There is no reference in any translation I have ever read to the second voice being God. The passages always say a voice came  to him. This is where the thought of the second voice being Elijah’s own- Elijah finding his voice and strength again- comes from. I have heard myself ask what am I doing many, many times. We all ask ourselves this when we are down.

            Interestingly, the chapters after 1 Kings 19 God provides Elijah with a protégé named Elisha. He is also a prophet and helps Elijah with his work. This further sustains Elijah’s ministry. Elijah was human and admitted a need. God once again provided it. We must work to remember that it is ok to ask for help, and to teach our children this too.

            My son recently earned his black belt. It was a 2 year effort and he failed the physical test the first time. His master gave him some very sage advice- “It’s the journey that you are working for, not the destination.” My son turned that advice into a personal mantra: “I am the Journey, NOT the Destination.”

            Perpetual character development, being the journey, listening to our own inner voice- call it whatever you want. The bottom line is that we are all human, we all must rest, and after we are rested, we all must listen to God and continue His work.

Have a wonderful summer!
Yours in Christ,

Karen Rodgers, Vestryperson

Martin Luther

I have a confession to make. I love history. I don’t love it a little bit. I love  history A LOT.

Since we began our confirmation/youth partnership with St. Michael’s, the Lutheran Church in Unionville, I wanted to know more about Martin Luther. After all, he came around a bit before Henry VIII reformed the Church in England and began the Episcopal version of worship.

The big question I had going into finding out about Martin Luther was: how did he survive being a reformer?

This may sound like a ridiculous question. However, it’s actually a very good one. The vast majority of anyone who dared speak out about the Catholic Church’s corruption and methods of worship from the 1300’s- late 1500’s usually ended up dying in a very gruesome way. 

It turns out, the answer to this question is vitally important not just for Martin  Luther and his reforms, but for our time as well. Martin Luther was not harmed for speaking out against the Church, because he put his words in print and widely disseminated his work. He had his 95 Thesis printed in pamphlet form and distributed. He didn't just send it to his Archbishop. In other words, the Church could not harm him, because all of Europe knew who he was.

The reason his words reached so many was the printing press. The printing press in its original form was invented around 1440. Martin Luther was born in 1483. He grew up with printed works. This means he was educated with booklets and books printed from a press. His was the first generation to have access to print on a wide scale.  The result was that he understood how to use print to his advantage to get his message out far better than previous reformers.

There has only been one other invention that has had the communication and educational impact equal to the printing press: digital social media.

This means our children are growing up understanding the power of mass communication much better than we, as adults, are. 

My point for bringing this up is, as a person responsible for communications, I'm realizing that I should not be frustrated at my 14 year old son's involvement with social media. I should be asking him about how it impacts him and how I can use it. Yes, I have to monitor and restrict as part of being a parent. But, I think our youth have much to teach us about how to get along and communicate with one another. 

Martin Luther was a very smart man, but he very much was a man of his time. I look forward to seeing what will happen when our children harness the communication power in social media for good. 

The most powerful thing a teacher, or parent for that matter, can be is a student. So, ask a young person what it is they are gaining from social media and how you can use it, too.  You might be surprised by what you discover. 

Yours in Christ,

Karen Rodgers, Vestryperson

 

 

What's New With Advent's Finances?

What’s new in Advent finances? Last year, we paid our debt of $100k down to -0- and remain debt free as of this writing. We substantially drew down our cash reserves to accomplish this, since we were paying more interest than we were earning on our deposits. Our Endowments grew from market increases in our investments, but have since given back some of those gains in 2018.

The Congregation responded overwhelmingly to the matching gift program at the end of 2017. This should allow us to rebuild reserves in 2018, while moving offices to the Church building and converting the PCOC to a rental residence. The PCOC rental income will provide for mid- to long-term capital improvements to Church facilities.

There are exciting changes happening at Advent. We are blessed to have the necessary resources, strong leadership, and a committed Vestry.

If the question I asked at the beginning was not the one you have in mind, please feel free to ask it, or make any budget-related suggestions. Your input is always welcome and appreciated.

Bill Steller

For A Common Good

About 2 years ago, there was a very important meeting at the Vatican. 
On one side of the  table was a group of very proper, well dressed academics with their books and notepads.On the other was a group of people who had lots of tattoos, piercings, and tablets. 

The person that brought them together had one goal in mind; to move a generation of teens and young adults to tears.

Let's start at the beginning, because believe it or not, that meeting at the Vatican was not the  beginning. The whole thing started with a wish.

The Catholic Church wanted  more 'young people' to come and see the Sistine Chapel. Lots of tourists see it every year and listen to the guides tell  them all about the wonder and beauty and artistry of it. But, not a lot of young people were coming anymore. Museums with  people talking were not something the  young were interested in due to the rise of digital media.

The result of this desire was a phone call to Marco Balich, the artistic director responsible for the last few opening ceremonies at the Olympics. He is a master of engaging people in an age of social media. The Vatican asked him to create a plan to engage more youth in the Sistine Chapel. 

A few months later, the meeting I mentioned at the start of this article occurred. The 'properly dressed' people with their notepads were Vatican art experts and historians. The tattooed tablet holders were top video game designers. The goal of what would become several creative meetings was clear for each group. The academics' job was to teach the designers everything about the Chapel. The designers job was to make it come to life. Mr. Balich's job was to help the groups understand each other. 

At the start of this NPR story, I began laughing at the thought of these very different groups of people just looking at each other. But, by the end of the piece, I realized that the point of this story was what can come out of two groups learning to listen to each other. And, I'm being very specific with my vocabulary here. We, as a world, are not very good at really giving others a chance to teach us their story. When groups of people come together to do something new, they need to trust that it is for a common good and recognize that they must learn to listen to each other meaningfully. 

I am proud of our Parish for all the community work and partnerships we have entered into over the last year. I feel that we are learning to listen to each others' stories. It is not easy. It is especially difficult when we don't feel listened to. But, we all keep meeting and setting goals for activities and events that are for the common good. I believe we are doing what God is calling us to do. Compared to all the  ills of this world, it may seem small. Yet, like Bishop Gutiérrez mentioned on his first visit to us: "..a single drop in the water causes a ripple that can travel miles." We are making a difference to our little microcosm of the universe and the good coming from that is spreading. And, we are doing it together! 

Last weekend, the interactive show  Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel opened in Rome. And scores of teens and young adults went to see it. The news reported that many of the spectators left in tears, because they didn't realize how meaningful and beautiful the Chapel was and how important a connection it was to their faith. One group of diverse people, one goal, lots of time and effort, but in  the end: mission accomplished! 

Yours in Christ,

Karen Rodgers