Session 2015 the Year in Review

The following details are in chronological order (February – December omitting July & August summer hiatus).
Rev. Scott brought Session up-to-date in the 2015 General Assembly in Vancouver – he has been confirmed as the Representative Minister for the Presbytery of Kitchener-Waterloo; June 1st to 7th, 2015.  Rev. McCandless and David Krueger would be traveling to the general assembly. 

Great Hespeler Reunion slated for July 8th, 9th and 10th of 2016. Elders heard how this would be a significant event with Saint Andrews as a central participant in the festivities.  Outlined how Rev. Richard Warne has been contacted and approved as guest speaker at worship service on Sunday, July 10.  Rev. Warren is a homegrown Hespeler boy with significant contacts within Cambridge.  A variety of events will be hosted during 2016.

In support of the Great Hespeler Reunion 2016 and in recognition that St. Andrew’s approaching its 160th anniversary Session discussed envisioning a yearlong celebration inclusive of: homecoming, worship service homilies, multiple planned evens throughout 2015-2016 and culminating in the Great Hespeler Reunion July 8-10, 2016. This celebration slated to run June 7th, 2015 until the church picnic to July 10th 2016.

The 2015 target for Presbyterian Sharing was set at the actual amount from 2014 which was $18,210. The budget 2015 was passed at the AGM shortly after this.

Session approved the Music and Worship committee recommendation to re-direct $25,000 interest free loan offered by the Presbytery for heating/reno (unspent – not required) to the audio/visual install. A request to Presbytery on re-directing the loan elicited a favorable response with no reservations. The loan is interest free and the payback terms are 10 years. There is a possibility that this loan may be a forgivable debt although no information is currently available. Session will schedule a Congregational meeting to approve up to $25,000 spent on A/V project at an appropriate time.

Approved by Session – the Human Resources Committee recommends that a revised User Fee/Charges Schedule for 2015; use of St. Andrews Church facilities be approved. This revision is based on a task group noting that many years have transpired since fees have been increased.
A workshop was facilitated at the Joint Deacon/Elder spring meeting. Rev Scott led us through a process of establishing key traits of Saint Andrews.  The rotating and changing groups were directed to eliminate lesser strengths while submitting group consensus on what were key before them. The process went through five iterations that reduced the 60 some key traits to five indicators of significant values are at Saint Andrews. The results were: Honesty/Integrity, Trust, Respect, Spirituality, and Service (not in any specific order).

Session implemented an open-ended schedule of joint Deacon/Elder meetings and workshops to develop:
1.     Share experiences and get to know each other.
2.     A better understanding between the two group’s duties and co-duties.
3.     Implement “best-practices” leading to new or better practices.
4.     Discover how to best communicate to the Districts of faith and congregation.
5.     Review accomplishments the have been discovered along the way (feedback). The next meeting is February 8, 2016.

Jane Neath has led the re-branding of the Hespeler Clothing Closet for 2015 by: outlining the history, detailing the evolution and endorsement of a strategic mission upon the insolvency of the former financer. Jane has been invaluable in creating a structural support inclusive of fund raising to make it all happen.  Details are as follows:  Elders agreed to rename the mission formerly known as the Clothing Closet to Hespeler Place of New Hope (HPNH). From this conception to established program two instrumental forces has shaped the success so far. Jane Neath has leveraged her time and talents to provide a business plan and financial framework that, although still early in the development seems to be off to a running start. The other instrumental force has been Karen Kincaid. Her talents at facilitating the day-to-day-operations, bootstrapping the launch of HPNH as well as an enthusiastic go-to-gal of the highest order are unequaled. People skills and work ethic are no stranger to her either.  Her team building skills are equally well developed. These two ladies have created an enduring mission at St. Andrews. Possibly one of the greatest happenings in recent times – due to the greater need now, compared to The Great Depression of the 1920’s.

As initiated by the 2014 AGM a task group to explore how to replace the church Auditors has been selected and met a number of times. Led by Donald Paddock and assisted by, Ray Godin and Glen Nixon have researched the best course of action. This Stewardship’s sub-committee recommends that appointing independent auditor(s), beginning in January 2016 to review the financial books for 2015 is the best solution. It is estimated that the ½ day review of the books and statements by independent auditor(s) will enable a surety report on the books. This new paradigm is necessitated by the need for oversight by qualified professionals.

In the summer of 2015 Session implemented the following ideas for deficit reductions from the Brainstorming Workshop recently held:
a.    Target deficit elimination communications to families to support St Andrews with hoped for $150 step increase.
b.   Hold an auction (walk-a-thon) and one other signature event for 2015/2016.
c.    Implement Fundscript Gift Card program – ongoing incremental income.
d.   Invite as many people as possible who have had an affiliation with Saint Andrews in the last 160 years to visit in 2016 and possibly make a donation towards eliminating our debt.

Early winter a task group was struck to explore the: Audio/Visual Project, roof repairs on the new addition side of the structure and any high priority projects for Session. The listing of projects and priorities for completion would be presented at a Congregational Meeting for review. In the interim Session postponed most significant expenditures in light of the recurring year end deficit.

Rev. Jeff Veenstra memorial walk-a-thon has been OK’d by both the Veenstra family and Session for 2016. This event was conceived by KW Presbytery but will be held in association with St Andrews – at a to-be-named site in or near Cambridge. In adjunct a tree planting service to be designated in memorial will be planned.

The General Assembly 2015 of the Presbyterian Church of Canada has embarked on defining how the LGBT community will play a role in the church in the near future. A support document Body, Mind and Soul – Study Guide on Human Sexuality has been produced by the church as announced at worship by Rev. Karen R. Horst on Anniversary Sunday.  The church is interested in ideas on the topic. Various avenues to express your thoughts will be made available.  Individual churches may, and can respond in a formal way before March 2016. St Andrews can meet to explore local thoughts on this transitional change. If support is found a group discussion and documentation recorded thoughts forwarded for incorporation into the final results.

The 2016 Budget process was discussed in light of the ongoing deficit contained within the Stewardship Report. Elders agreed that the budget controls that served for a number of years are no longer representative of changing economies. Elders agreed that help in defining a new working model, which takes into account: the congregation’s outlook; that annual shortfalls need to be rectified, Human Resources projections of 2015 and 2016, capital expenses both scheduled and some unexpected requirements (roof replacement on new section, AV Project currently on hiatus and uncertainty of utility increases) need analyzing. Expenses need to be optimized in addition to commencement of significant fund raising 4 or 5 times a year to offset these recurring negative balance sheets. By consent Session created a task group to deliberate what needs to happen. 

     Due to some “glitches” in executing meaningful communication directly from Session to the Congregation a revised communication channel was discussed. Session approved the launch of a Clerk of Session blog that would be available on-line and mirrored on the Saint Andrew’s web site.  Further, it was proposed that the Clerk of Session deliver to the congregation at worship an announcement of the blog on December 6, 2015.  link

As part of the 160th anniversary discussions Session sponsored of two ¼ page advertisements in the Hespeler Reunion 2016 official guide. The first ad in recognition of Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church and the second ad to support/communicate the ongoing efforts of Hespeler Place of New Hope were approved. Cost $250 each.