Message from BEAR Chairperson, Kathy Kurkjian, following the 2/18/18 Congregational Meeting
After 5-6 years of working this project, we are “this close.” Documents on this effort go back to May, 2012! We started with a feasibility study, focus groups and several surveys. The need established then was not different from that decided by the committee that went before us even seven years prior to that! From the beginning we always said we needed to get work done with the historic commission, ensure that we would actually have septic system capacity and capability, and raise the money. A daunting set of hurdles to overcome. With two big hurdles down with the historic commission and the septic system design, the donation this fall of $900,000 makes a massive impact in that remaining challenge.
Two years ago, the Congregation expressed several concerns. We backed up to take some time to work those out. Today we are about to do a $6M project with a mortgage under $750,000. I’m telling you that is unheard of in Church construction projects. But, it was important to you to reduce that loan exposure. We heard concerns about long term staffing. Session is now working from two ten year models that give us the flexibility to return to two full time Pastors if we decided that is the best approach for our ministries. We’ve also settled in with our new interim Pastor and Terrie in her new role, and are achieving a level of stability in staff that will permit us to focus on this big project.
Let me bring you up to speed in detail and share what will be going on in the coming few months. As you heard earlier, we launched today, under Dale and Terri’s direction, one final push to bring this project off the drawing board and into the ground. We’ll be working on raising a little more money, but more importantly looking to bring everyone together to pitch in working together to make this happen. This drive will take place over the coming six weeks. My greatest joy will be in seeing that go on – everyone taking on some aspect of the task before us, and enjoying that fellowship and time of anticipation.
As to the list of other things underway. We are working hard on signing a five year lease with Georgetown Hill. This is important in the short run financials, but not so much so in the long run plan. The hardest part of this has been finding them a way to continue to operate during construction. If they can’t continue to operate at a profitable level during that year, the long term lease does not make much sense to them. They can’t afford to lose families because it takes some years to make up for that.
In March and April, we will be renovating the Parlor to a classroom and renovating the manse in order to add one more large classroom. This is necessary because we are moving the Parlor functions closer to the sanctuary where they should be and, as a result, are losing three classrooms in the process.
We have received the legal permission from the state’s attorney’s office to move 44 gravesites impacted by the construction. This will take place at the end of March over spring break. Our cemetery committee is doing great work to plan and prepare for this. The entire process will be respectful and under the watchful eye of a funeral director. Once we are done, the cemetery will be re-dedicated at a ceremony to be planned for May.
Final bids for the project will be sought and negotiated in March and April. We can’t do that sooner than 90 days ahead of breaking ground in order to ensure reliability of the numbers.
Using the numbers in the ten year plans, we are working on the package that will go to the Presbytery and the Presbyterian loan program to cover the construction loan and the longer term mortgage. We have already met with them and reviewed the numbers and they are very pleased with what they are seeing and encouraged us to go ahead and submit even before we have final costs.
All along the way, the dedicated Transition Commission is doing the detailed legwork to ensure we have a plan for our operations during construction, and to prepare us to move in following the completion of construction.
Once all these efforts are complete by late April, Session will step back and assess where we are. The main question will be, did project costs and final giving come in consistent with the assumptions in the ten year plans? Did we complete a lease with Georgetown Hill that supports the plan? Are we ready in all other respects? If comfortable with everything, Session with then vote to send the loan package to the Congregation for a vote. I have said all along, Session will never approve a package and plan that doesn’t feel is achievable and also address the major concerns raised by the Congregation. Yes, there are a lot of things that still have to happen, but the decision was made that, with that significant donation, we can proceed to work on conquering those final hurdles.
The target date for a Congregational vote is early May. If that is positive, then construction would begin in early June, and take about one year. June is the ideal start time with the school schedules but also for getting under roof before bad weather sets in. That’s a big reason why we have put ourselves under a bit of pressure to make this all work – the June timing.
So, that’s the landscape. In taking on all this hard work, we’re buoyed by the recent survey results that show really strong support for the building program. You can feel the energy building to push us to the final line – I hope you will find a way to be a part of that energy, and be a part of this truly once in a lifetime, exciting time in the life of our little country church on the hill.
Dear Darnestown Presbyterian Church Friends,
It is hard to believe it has been more than five months since I began serving as your Interim Pastor. The time has flown by for Nancy and me. It has been joyful, meaningful, and a whole lot of fun to begin this interim.
As New Year begins, I want to share with you my sense of what comes next in our life together. It appears to me that I may be serving here for two years or more, as we have a lot of work to do that I would describe as transitional ministry. Much of that work, or laying the groundwork for what remains to be done, will happen over the next six months.
Please pardon the length of this letter, but I don’t want to leave out anything important. I hope you can find the time to read it thoroughly so you will be well-informed as together we discern God’s mission and our place within it in the coming year. I hope you will join me and Session members during the education time Sunday, January 21, 2018, when we will address questions regarding all of the interim period activities listed below.
First, I want you to know of my highest priority during this interim time — maintaining an effective worship experience for the Congregation every Sunday. Engaging with God together through Word and Sacrament holds a congregation together in the unity of Christ, so I plan to continue spending much of my time and energy preparing for worship and engaging others in that preparation.
I plan to be continually engaged in pastoral care with the Deacons. There may be a church somewhere that has a board of deacons as strong as DPC’s, but I have never seen nor heard of it. Together, we will continue to provide the care and nurture of the Congregation, especially during difficult personal struggles.
I am committed to continuing my involvement in the education program, rotating through different age groups at different times of the year, from children’s music during Sunday School to a Confirmation class, some Junior and Senior High activities, an adult new member class, leadership training for officers and potential officers, and Bible study for worship planning groups.
As a first step in handling the current work load, as well as further defining staffing needs, the Session has authorized the hiring of a part-time program manager to take care of many non-pastoral needs of the church. Terrie May has graciously accepted this position on a one-year contract.
With the assistance of an occasional supply pastor to preach in my absence, along with Carole, Eric, Terrie, Farid, Tim, and the strong lay leadership of this Congregation, I believe we can continue to function at a high level of ministry during the interim period.
In my work with the Session, we will carry out the Church Assessment Tool (look for this in your email this week) and a mission study designed to dig down into the most important issues to address. Out of that study, I expect us to glean the information the Personnel Committee will need as it discerns a long-term staffing model to recommend to the Session.
The big issue we need to resolve over the next few months, of course, is the building expansion and renovation plan. Over the last few months, I have listened carefully to people who are in favor of the project and those who are not. The people on both sides of this issue are people of sincere faith and integrity, so I continue to believe that we can resolve it while maintaining the unity to which Christ calls us. I will not lie to you: it will be challenging over the next few months. You, however, are a strong and resilient Congregation with a history of weathering difficult times and resolving problems faithfully, so I have every reason to believe that we will come through this with our relationships intact, made stronger by the challenges we will face together.
Let me briefly share with you why I have come to believe that the BEAR project is worth the financial costs and the practical challenges we will meet.
I have encountered many of the problems BEAR seeks to fix. I can envision a fellowship area where the Congregation naturally meets each other and newcomers before and after worship; fellowship, education, music, and meeting space that supports the needs of each type of gathering and promotes growth. I can envision a sanctuary that will accommodate a growing congregation and a chancel in which mobility-impaired members can participate in the choirs and/or as worship leaders and access the sanctuary without depending on an aging and fickle elevator.
I recognize that this involves a significant financial commitment, and we can all imagine different ways to use several million dollars. The counter-intuitive truth is that a building project and expanded mission are not mutually exclusive. Historically, the opposite is almost always the case. I encourage everyone to continue to imagine the ministry and mission possible with increased financial support—I am convinced that those resources will be easier to raise, and the ministry of DPC will be more likely to increase, after the building issues are successfully resolved.
Will BEAR make the Congregation grow in numbers? Not by itself. It will, however, address one of several factors that limit the numerical growth of this Congregation. I have every reason to believe that the other factors, including a more highly developed small group ministry, focused mission interpretation, a staff model designed for growth, and intentional relationship-building with community members who regularly use the building, can be successfully addressed. Many of these issues are already being addressed by the Membership and Outreach Committee, and I am eager to provide pastoral leadership to any who wish to help address those issues in the coming year.
There are yet contingencies to be met before BEAR can proceed. While a second phase of the capital campaign will be necessary, a very generous additional pledge to the capital campaign ($900,000) has put the BEAR project within reach. Therefore, the Session has taken steps to make it possible to proceed as each contingency is met.
The Session has assembled a Transition Commission to deal with the practical challenges we will face, such as worship space, office space, and space for outside groups who rent or use the building (Georgetown Hill, AA, Scouts, etc.) The difference between a commission and a committee is that a commission is given more agility to act within certain parameters without having to wait for the next Session meeting.
While groundwork is already underway for the second part of the capital campaign, we can expect the campaign to run from late February to mid-March. We do not plan to hire a campaign consultant for this second campaign. One of the things I have learned from listening to you over these past five months is that the advice of the campaign consultant, while sound from a statistical standpoint, did not fit very well with this Congregation’s needs. I plan to be part of the leadership team of a campaign that focuses on the theological importance of this project and the significance of every giver and every single gift of any size. Beyond the number of dollars raised, the importance of this campaign as I see it is in the unity that emerges from clarifying the ministry this Congregation will do with the finished building as a tool for mission and service to God. Who will be served in the name of Christ whom we have not yet reached? Who will be included in our fellowship who is now excluded? Who are the strangers who will become our friends? How will our service to others and worship of God be strengthened?
Along with a successful capital campaign, we will need approval of a manageable mortgage from both the Congregation and National Capital Presbytery. Our best estimate now is that it will be between $500,000 and $750,000 that can be paid off in ten years with a pastor and a part-time associate pastor and a little more time with two full-time ordained pastors. In order to make an informed decision, the Congregation and the Presbytery will need to see firm bids on the project rather than rough estimates. Those bids require a decision within ninety days of submission, so the timetable between firm bids (March) and a congregational vote (the end of May) will be necessarily tight.
Before the project can proceed, two preliminary projects must be completed. The Transition Commission will secure a long-term lease with Georgetown Hill that takes into account the disruption to their operations during construction, and the loss of several classrooms due to the construction plans. To that end, the former manse will very soon be undergoing a remodel to add one additional large classroom on the first floor. After completion in May, the former manse will provide Jr. and Sr. High youth space, GH classroom space, and possibly transitional office space during BEAR construction.
The Cemetery Committee is working hard to plan the moves of gravesites that will be impacted by the construction. This includes moving entire family groupings even if only part of the family grouping would be impacted. If it could have been avoided, we would not have chosen to have to do this work. The requirements of the Historic Preservation Commission left no other choice. While this work is being done, we will take time to honor the memory of those families, celebrate the contributions they made to establishing Presbyterian ministry in Darnestown so many years ago, and celebrate the future ministry they have made possible. We anticipate this project will take about a week, and begin this Spring, pending Session approval.
When I commenced my search for a new ministry position last Spring, Nancy and I prayed for a challenging adventure. God came through. Never could we have imagined how much love and joy we would also find in you, through God’s providence.
Neill S. Morgan
At its planning meeting in September, Session set a target date for commencement of the campus construction of June 1, 2018. The church received an additional pledge that puts the project within reach, but important and difficult work remains to be completed. The permit process for the construction is nearly complete. The BEAR Team met with the builder and architect last week, and talked through remaining details. The builder will seek firm bids from subcontractors about April 1, in order to ensure reliable bids for a June 1 start. Market uncertainties make it almost impossible to obtain reliable bids more than 60 days out from a construction start.
Meanwhile, the BEAR team and Session have set forth a list of tasks to be completed and are working on assigning responsibility and oversight. These include, among others, securing a long term lease with Georgetown Hill and planning for the accomplishment of our mission and ministries during the time of construction. In addition, the Stewardship Committee and Session are working on a new ten year financial projection that will be the basis for further discussions with the Congregation and the Presbytery regarding financing the project. Session is planning a second capital campaign for after the first of the year, and is also planning a process to clarify our mission and ministry priorities which you will learn more about in the coming weeks. The results of this work will further inform both the ten year financial plan, and the use of our new, flexible space.
Over the summer, the BEAR architects completed two new artistic renderings of the space which you can view below and on the BEAR bulletin board outside the bathrooms in the Andrew Small Building. One view is inside the sanctuary and the other is outside looking toward the new gathering area. We are excited about these views because it can be hard to understand construction simply through floor plans.
Session and the BEAR team will be working together to bring more details to the Congregation on all of the above in the coming weeks. We understand that this project has taken a long time, and that many details have been forgotten. As the project is so much closer to reality now, we want to take more time to bring everyone back up to speed and get all questions answered. You will hear more about this very soon. Thank you for your continued support, encouragement and prayers as we work hard to lay this exciting new foundation for mission and ministry for many generations to come at DPC.
Members of DPC,
Our building expansion and renovation project has progressed steadily now for more than five years. Session voted in May 2016 that it is committed to the project presented by the BEAR committee which focuses on expansion of the sanctuary and chancel areas, the addition of a narthex-gathering area, as well as numerous other long-overlooked upgrades and improvements aimed at improving the basic safety, accessibility and “welcomeness” of our campus. The project has overcome major hurdles with the Montgomery County Historic Commission, and in finding a solution for an expanded septic system. The remaining significant challenge relates to finding a solution to fund the project’s budget gap. In order to make sure we understand the complete project cost, Session authorized the completion of the construction documents, as well as the work to be done to file for a construction permit and obtain bids. The construction documents have been completed, and the permit application was filed in early June. Over the next few months, we will receive and respond to questions from the County and should be in a position to seek bids by this coming September.
The BEAR team and the Stewardship Committee are currently exploring several options to close the funding gap, taking into account feedback from the Congregation last year. To date, the project has spent $732,000 over five years including the costs of hiring the capital campaign consultant. The current estimate for construction and all related costs for the project going forward is $5.4M. This includes a construction contingency as well as costs for septic and HVAC systems which we believe will be reduced. Pledges from the Capital Campaign total $2.3M with an additional $34,000 given but not pledged. Internal funds available for possible use or internal loan include the investment fund of $1.2M and the Knighten fund of $504,000 (although no decisions have been made about the use of these funds). We might be able to seek loans from members, and might also consider a second capital campaign. These ideas and groundwork will be presented to our interim pastor and further considered by Session in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Session has authorized work in several areas that will help prepare us for possible BEAR construction. The BEAR project is focused on the west end of campus and the sanctuary (Phase One of the Master Plan). We can now make investments in the east end and the Manse because we know it will likely be 15 years or even more before we would be able to implement Phase Two of the Master Plan in those areas. To this end, we are working on some upgrades to the Manse that will result in two “nice-sized” classrooms, and have already been working on upgrades to Fellowship Hall. We are in the process of negotiating a new long-term lease with the school which will cover the cost of the Manse project. The school will need these Manse classrooms during any BEAR construction, and upgrades to Fellowship Hall are not only long-overdue, but would make that space feel more appropriate for worship during construction as well.
The work to be done in the cemetery must be completed in advance of BEAR construction. Unfortunately, this is a prerequisite to create room for any expansion of the sanctuary or chancel, now or in the future, because the Historic Commission would not approve any other proposed alternative impacting the historic sanctuary. The Cemetery Committee has completed the research for this project and is putting together a project plan to complete the relocation of 44 graves. The project plan will include time spent working to locate and notify relatives of the deceased impacted by the planned moves.
Session continues to work hard to lay the groundwork for continued ministry in our community for many years to come, and very much needs your continued, active involvement and support. We ask for your continued prayers, patience and feedback as each and all of us continue to consider and plan for the future of our church.
May God continue to richly bless Darnestown Presbyterian Church,
Members and Friends of DPC,
A number of you have inquired recently about the status of the capital campaign and the need to fulfill campaign pledges. We write to ask that all donors continue to fulfill their pledges – for both the campaign as well as 2016 annual pledges.
While we held off from voting on the funding of the building expansion project in May of this year, this did not mean that we decided not to pursue the project. We simply elected to take additional time to complete the architectural drawings and finalize a detailed cost estimate so that we could have greater certainty of the total cost and financing that would be needed for the project. The BEAR committee is making progress in this endeavor and is preparing to share their findings with all of us in the early part of next year.
In the meantime, our aging facilities continue to have serious needs that we will have to address. So rest assured, your donations will be put to good use to address these needs. So please continue to fulfill your pledges to the campaign as well as for 2016 annual pledges. For those that have additional means, please consider making a pledge or increasing your existing pledge by contacting email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Session of Darnestown Presbyterian Church
Fellow Members of Darnestown Presbyterian,
For the past couple of months, Session and the Congregation have been engaged in discussing and praying about upcoming changes to our staffing and the need for a mortgage to supplement funding of the BEAR project. This has been a lot for everyone to process, and Session is grateful to the Congregation for its thoughtful engagement and consideration of our future. The anxiety level over these issues has been significant. In respect of this input, Session has decided not to ask the Congregation to vote on a mortgage at this time. Session wants time to work with the issues raised by the Congregation in order to ensure a broader level of support and Congregational unity with respect to these decisions about our future.
Session is going to go back to the drawing board on the five year financial plan and map out a revised combination of proposed changes to both the expense and income sides of our annual budget. The goal will be to reach a point in the very near future when our expenses can be covered by our annual giving, and the Georgetown Hill School income can help assist in financing the building project. Once Session has confidence that the revised plan is sound and achievable, the plan will be brought to the Congregation. Session expects that these modifications will address many of the concerns and issues brought forth by the Congregation, and will give the Congregation comfort regarding the potential assumption of debt in the future.
At the same time, Session remains committed to accomplishing the proposed building project outlined for our campus, including focusing on the expansion of the chancel and sanctuary, connection to the Andrew Small Building, and the new narthex. Session believes that these upgrades are critical to establishing a firm foundation for the church’s future generations both in terms of the buildings themselves, but more critically to ensure that our ministry in Darnestown not only survives, but thrives, for many years to come. Work will proceed over the coming six months to complete the construction documents and the filings required by the county. Completed construction documents are necessary in order to prepare a final loan package, and to establish firm project costs. We believe this will help with concerns raised that the building cost might continue to go up.
Over the past two years, Session started explaining to the Congregation the reality that our annual giving was not paying for our expenses, and that our giving is significantly lower than similarly-sized churches in our area. After Session began this conversation with the Congregation, giving increased by 6.9% in 2014 and 6.1% in 2015. In dialogue with the Congregation over the past months, it seems as though this message is resonating even further. The revised five year plan will most certainly rely on this positive trend continuing, and the Congregation can expect to hear more about this during the 2017 pledge campaign which will take place in late 2016. In addition, Session will consider seeking additional giving for the building fund (as has been suggested by several as a way to reduce the required loan amount).
In summary, Session heard you. Even though it will be very difficult to achieve 100% agreement in all areas, we want to do more work to address as many concerns raised as possible. Thank you once again for your input and engagement, and please feel free to discuss these matters with any member of Session, the BEAR team, or the Stewardship Committee. In addition, Session will be hosting an open forum on June 5 during the education hour to take questions and continue to discuss these decisions. May God continue to bless DPC and our continued ministry.
2016 DPC Session
Cheryl Amick, Kelvin Choi, Frank Cornelius, Ben Daughtry, Rick Dottermusch, Dave Durham, Roland Frenck, Meade Gelston, Sue Gordon, K. Henry, Jim Hoffman, Neil Jenkins, Kathy Kurkjian, Jess Neri, Jan Summers
On Sunday April 10 and Sunday April 17, Session led meetings with the Congregation to obtain feedback and discuss recent developments related to BEAR. The sessions generally focused on the two most recent developments impacting the project – the need to secure a load to complete the financing of the project, and the loss of the associate pastor position. Attached you can review the presentation materials that were covered. In addition, comments, questions and answers from the first gathering on April 10 have been compiled here.