By Ken Harris, President
Last year, when I spoke briefly at the annual meeting, I mentioned that the Church would follow a path of three priorities I called Three Ships: Membership, Stewardship and Kindership—the last focusing on children and youth ministries. One year later I am pleased to say we have made meaningful strides in each area, many of which will be highlighted in this annual report.
Our congregation has a strong foundation and it is getting stronger. Figuratively and literally. 2019 has been a year of growth and change. Growth in our learning about the direction of the Church—particularly as it relates to children and youth programs. Change with a number of new faces on the staff and Board of Trustees and in the development of ministries, programs, and the needed reconstruction of the physical plant of the Church. As trustees, we are ever mindful to honor the past but look to the future. Please read through this annual report for updates on our key ministries, programs, and committees. While you are reading and reflecting, please consider joining as an active committee member or volunteer for whatever passion you would like to pursue. We have many opportunities to serve the Church, community, and the Lord.
In the Treasurer’s report, we recap the financial health of the Church which is in solid condition. Today our balance sheet is acceptable, but it was only through belt tightening and sacrifice that we were able to achieve this status. Over the summer, the trustees and staff worked hard to reconcile a budget deficit caused by a perfect storm of operational cost increases, increased insurance costs, and a slight shortfall in our annual stewardship goal of $2.1 million. This was before the unplanned maintenance expenses to prevent the north wall of the Church from falling into the Skokie Ditch behind the Church. Through thoughtful expense management we were able to balance the 2020 budget and we now look to the future to increase financial support from the congregation—it’s everyone’s responsibility.
As we are going through this process of transformative change, one of the key elements is how we think about Stewardship. Inherent in the word and true to the mission, stewardship of our Church involves handing the wonderful legacy of the past to the promise of generations in the future. It is about investment—spiritual, time, and financial—and it happens all year round. Our ministers will begin to relate our thoughts on stewardship from the pulpit and in our communication with congregation members in ways that are hopefully meaningful to us all. We will be modestly increasing our stewardship goal for this year to underwrite the necessary expenditures to sustain the ongoing high-quality worship and fellowship you deserve. As we are now acutely aware, costs of operating the Church continue to go up. While our ministers, staff, and board are vigilant, we must spend wisely as stewards to support what you have come to value as part of our Church.
As we head into the new year, it is important to recognize the effort of our beloved Reverends Evertsberg, Forrest, and Lancaster. They give so much to our congregation and we are truly blessed with their dedication and skills. They are the spiritual heart of Kenilworth Union Church. We need to continue to provide resources for them to serve us so admirably and thoughtfully—including the contemplation of a refreshed physical structure to carry on the ministry of our Church.
The committee reports provide details on the year’s activities which have been prolific and meaningful. Great work has been happening in all areas of the congregation. To give you a sense of magnitude, a few are worth a special mention.
Children and Family Ministry and Youth Ministry
Under the thoughtful leadership of the Rev. Evertsberg, the Rev. Lancaster, Silvi Pirn, Director of Youth Ministry, and the Rev. Christine Hides, Director of Christian Education, a full-day session was convened this April with Jake Mulder from the Fuller Institute. The theme was “Growing Young” and focused on how we can include all members of the Church in an effort to appeal to our young families and youth—the lifeblood of the Church. Many of our trustees and staff members, as well as a number of congregation members participated in this uplifting and productive event. Our discussion was centered on remaining relevant and attractive to younger families while including and honoring our past and senior members of the Church.
Under the direction of the Rev. Hides, the transformation has begun in The Children and Family Ministry including curriculum, participation, and early Sunday School success. We are starting to see the fruits of the effort with enrollment up 5–7% and teaching participation full for the upcoming year. We also welcome the recent addition of Associate Director of Children and Family Ministry, Greta Connor, to the Kenilworth Union Family. The future is bright for Children and Family Ministry.
A Joyful Noise Preschool
A Joyful Noise celebrated its 25th anniversary and is enjoying robust enrollment, parent engagement, and teacher support. We welcomed 33 new families in this year, 20% of which are Kenilworth Union Church members, and enrollment keeps growing. The relationship between AJN Preschool and the Kenilworth Union Trustees grows stronger thanks to the diligence of the AJN Preschool senior leadership and its Board. By opening new lines of communication, we now have a proactive means to support each other for the benefit of all to grow the missions of AJN Preschool and Kenilworth Union Church.
The Youth Ministry is one of the marquis highlights of the Church. Director Silvi Pirn and new Assistant Director Claire Revord are providing an essential and celebrated haven of peace, spirituality, reflection and fun to our local youth. This year’s annual mission trip boasted a record number of 110 participants this past June to Colombia, which by accounts was one of the best trips ever. As we look to the future, we need to make sure we are providing support and space to grow the youth ministry. This will be a focus of our upcoming fundraising effort.
Kenilworth Union’s inspiring choirs continue to be a source of consistent joy for our congregation. Through reverence, diligence, thoughtfulness and a whole lot of singing talent, the choristers have delighted us with creative and uplifting music, all for the glory of God. This year, Music Ministry is expanding to include the Cherub Choir (Kindergarten and First Grade) and, beginning in January 2020, the Bambino Choir (Junior Kindergarten). It is a labor of love and passion and we are grateful to Lisa Bond and the Church music staff for their dedication, creativity and teamwork.
Outreach and Rummage
This year Outreach contributed a record grant of $500,000 to 41 not-for-profit agencies. This generous giving was made possible through the results of our annual Outreach Benefit, a new and celebrated Dog Fashion Show and contributions of Church members in lieu of the annual Rummage Sale. As most of you know, the Rummage Sale was not held this year due to the construction at the Church and manse. Members responded by supporting the alternative fundraising activities and providing much needed financial resources to fuel the outreach programs that are so meaningful to our supported agencies. We are hopeful Rummage will return this year either at the Church or some other venue. It is an important ministry of Kenilworth Union Church and we support the need, the benefits, and the blessings Rummage provides for so many Church members, the community and our Outreach Agencies.
In addition to the highlights at Kenilworth Union, it is also important that we share the areas of focus where your ministers, staff, and trustees are investing their energies for the future.
Development and Communications
As I mentioned, part of stewardship is handing the Church to the next generation of Church members to continue the mission and promise of Kenilworth Union. As stewards, we must always think about future planning and the related financial support.
Last year we began a process to search for assistance by hiring for our staff a well-qualified person to lead our stewardship and capital giving activities. Being conscious of fiscal obligations and listening to the opinions of many Church members, we chose to hire a part-time consultant, Ami Campbell, to assist in this role and support George Wishart, the Chair of the Stewardship Committee. We expect any additional costs to be covered by increased giving.
Additionally, under the leadership of the Rev. Forrest, we believe we can take a more strategic and thoughtful approach to our communications, both to members and also importantly to the broader community in which we live and work. For example, we need to be equipped to provide our members with enhanced avenues to experience Kenilworth Union Church, in addition to participating in the services on Sundays in the pews through live stream media via computer and replayed on YouTube.
Building and Grounds
Last year we began a multi-year process of renovating the Church with some basic updates to the Culbertson Room, 1st floor bathrooms, and the Centennial meeting room. Last fall, your building and grounds committee conducted a critical assessment of the overall Church facility for both necessary and desired improvements over the near and long term. What we discovered through this process is that there was some immediate deferred maintenance that needed to be addressed. The scope of the effort was a bit overwhelming, but our prayers were answered through the amazing talent, effort, and expertise of Church Member Ann Carey. Ann, who has had a long and distinguished career in professional construction management took over the entire process and martialed outside resources—professionals—to remediate necessary areas of the Church—notably the roof, the HVAC system,s and the retaining wall at the back of the Church.
There is more to be done. Coming out of interviews with the ministers and staff plus over 80 church members from all committees, we have determined that we need to refurbish the Manse on Warwick that is in poor condition and thoughtfully repurpose or add space for the ongoing programming for adults, children and youth, and our robust preschool program. If children, youth, and families are our future, we need to assess how to best position our infrastructure to maximize this opportunity. Costs and funding will be critical, so more will be shared in the time ahead as this comes into greater focus.
Board of Trustees
The first year of my term as President has been filled with abundant support. It is with humility and gratitude that I thank our ministers, Bruce Linger, the immediate past president, a list of other past presidents too long to name, the staff, the board of Trustees, and the executive committee for their dedication, help, and bountiful talent. I also want to thank Carol Ducommun for her effort as Vice President of the Board and Meg Gibson Revord, our new VP, and Scott Fowkes, our new secretary. They join our General Counsel Kelly Kenney and incoming Treasurer David Crossgrove who will take over from the dedicated and talented Jon Van Gorp to round out the Executive Committee.
I would also like to thank two trustees who are retiring from the board as their terms are expiring: Carrie Hoza, who has served on the board in various capacities for 11 years; and Eric Groff. Your wisdom and passion will be greatly missed.
Additionally, I want to thank Ann Faurot, who resigned from Children’s Ministry after 10 years of service to pursue new interests. We owe her gratitude as a key contributor to Children’s Ministry’s development over the past decade.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to Bev Lang, the church’s business manager for the past eight years who retired on August 30. For all that know Bev, she is a superhuman administrator, lover of the church, leader of the staff, friend, and cherished colleague. She will be missed and we wish her all success in her retirement. We also welcome church member and newly appointed Kenilworth Union Church Business Manager John Sharp, who has stepped into Bev’s role. John brings a wealth of experience to this position and we look forward to his leadership on the Executive Staff.