Sulin Milne, rector at St. Peters Comox, prepares for her class called Praying with the Body, a program of meditation and gentle exercise. Photo by Freddie Milne
BY GLENN LAWSON The pandemic has made it challenging to maintain churches everywhere. That is especially true for smaller parishes in our diocese. In the next issues we will hear from several voices about that challenge. This month: St. Peter's, Comox, a parish with about 200 active members. The annual budget passed at the annual vestry meeting was $260,000. -ED Through a combination of support programs, flexible and timely financial management, a faithful body of parishioners and taking the opportunity to provide a ministry to a broader community, we expect to break even by year-end. When COVID struck and in-person church services ceased, I anticipated a significant shortfall in income, both in reduced offerings and decreased rental income. I was not sure where expenses would end up; many of the expenses are fixed costs, but others, including staffing and programs, can vary. We budgeted for a net income of $45. Up to the end of October, our offerings were down by $17,800, less than 10 per cent. Hall rental income was down by almost $5,000, which was partially offset by unbudgeted rectory rental income. The CEWS wage subsidy helped to mitigate the effect of decreased offerings. Excluding a one-time Vision Fund contribution towards youth ministry, our total income to the end of October was down by $10,500, or just over five per cent. The continuing strength in offerings might be attributable to a couple of factors: continuing donations from faithful parishioners, regardless of whether they can attend in-person services; and secondly, the quality of the ministry delivered online. Our rector, Sulin Milne, is animated, telegenic and delivers an excellent message. In this time of COVID-19, some of the social amenities of attending church are not available, making the message from the minister that much more important. We are also fortunate in having a dedicated team that produces the on-line service. While all are in-house volunteers, they deliver a professional-quality service. We are blessed in many ways that were less evident prior to COVID-19. On the flip side of the financial equation, our expenses are $8,600, or four per cent under budget. There were decreased expenses in several categories, the most significant ones being: operations (reduced travel and kitchen expenses); worship (deferred AV equipment acquisition); and human resources (custodial and locum costs). There was a significant increase in buildings and grounds expenses due to the renovation of the rectory, an unbudgeted $20,000 cost. This was undertaken as a long-term investment, returning $1,500 per month in revenue. In the end, excluding the youth ministry grant but including the rectory renovation, our net income at the end of October was one per cent over budget. We are hopeful that we will be on budget by year-end. ■ Glenn Lawson is the treasurer at St. Peter, Comox.