I write to you this day at the request of the Session of Darnestown Presbyterian Church with several matters facing us.
Session has begun discussing plans for my approaching retirement. We have learned that National Capital Presbytery advises long-term associate pastors to move before a new head of staff is called. I have spoken with Tamara about seeking a new position, and she has begun a search for her next call. She has been a true blessing to DPC over her 11 years here, and I could not have possibly served with a better associate. We wish her only the very best and trust the Lord will grant her discernment. Please note that neither my retirement, nor Tamara’s move, will occur in the immediate future, but there is change in the air for both of us.
With respect to our Building Expansion and Renovation (BEAR) Project, Session has good news and a word of challenge. The good news is that the Historical Preservation Commission of Montgomery County has granted us permission to move forward on the renovation/expansion of our buildings. This all has involved much time and effort, but we are close to moving forward! The challenging news is that the expense of the project has come in considerably higher than we hoped. Our preferred builder spent much time costing the project, and the BEAR Committee informs me that they have a high degree of confidence in his estimate, but in a nutshell, there is a $1.6 million gap between his estimate and the funds we have available to build. The Capital Campaign has raised about $2.5 million, and Session has decided to apply about $1.2 million from our building fund/endowment for the project. This totals $3.7 million – a healthy amount. But the building estimate we received is $5.3 million – hence the $1.6 million shortfall. Session has spent considerable time in recent weeks wrestling with this shortfall and has made no decision – other than to have me inform the Congregation of where we stand right now.
A mortgage has been discussed, with all Elders aware that one of our primary goals for this project was to do our work without a mortgage. Our Stewardship Committee has – after careful analysis – developed a financial model showing how we could manage the costs of the monthly mortgage payment if, after Tamara’s departure, we choose to not refill the associate pastor position – plus a short-term cut in mission giving and a cutback on the Building Manager position. But even with these cuts, the estimated $8700 dollar monthly mortgage payment for 25 years is daunting. This could necessitate a second Capital Campaign to reduce debt in about five years. Session also understands that DPC has been doing its ministry with two full-time pastors for quite some time, so moving to one would be challenging. But please be aware that it is not uncommon for a church of our size to have a quite effective ministry with one pastor.
Please note that Session has been united in support of the overall goals of the BEAR Project. On all previous matters concerning BEAR, Session actions have been unanimous. Regular informational meetings have been held to keep the Congregation up to date on the details of the expansion/renovation under consideration. We do need a gathering area for fellowship close to the sanctuary. Our current building is in definite need of renovation and if we are to grow in our ability to bless the community, this is one of those times (that have challenged DPC every 50 years or so) to renovate and expand. So most of us have a good idea of what is being considered, and now all are aware of the challenge facing us.
A more detailed description of all the above is being prepared and will be sent to the Congregation in the very near future. We will hold forums wherein questions/comments will be welcome. And if Session does eventually decide to recommend a mortgage and/or to not continue the associate pastor position, then both of these matters will have to come to the Congregation for final action at a properly called Congregational Meeting.
For now, could you all:
– Please hold this entire matter in your thoughts and prayers;
– Be in touch with Elders to give them your thoughts and input on the matter; and
– Understand that Session is openly seeking your input, so it might best discern the future.
Know that it has been my privilege to work with our Session throughout this entire process. They have been diligent in their attention to the matter, and all meetings have been conducted in a good spirit and proper order.
Thank you to all who have served on the BEAR Committee. They have put in hours of time and have worked hard to provide us with plans for renovation/building that will bless our ministry.
It is just now time to decide on how we will proceed, and your input is needed.
And may God bless our efforts!
Dave McNeilly Pastor | Darnestown Presbyterian Church | 15120 Turkey Foot Rd. | Darnestown, MD 20878 | Tel. +1 301.948.9127 | Cell: +1 301.356.4589 | Fax +1 301.948.9135 |email: firstname.lastname@example.org