Annual Parish Meeting, January 22

By: Fr. Walter

01/24/17 09:10 PM
Category: General

Vision: To seek to be a visible sign of God’s love in this world.

Annual Parish Meeting, January 22 
The Rev. Dr. Walter V. Hillebrand,
Rector’s Report 2017


Dear Grace Family,


The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


Let us Pray together the Parish Prayer as outlined in your Annual Parish Meeting booklet:


I thought that 2015 was an exceptional year, however here at Grace, every year seems to be exceptional!


Just like every year leaders of our many ministries were invited to hand in their own reports and this year most accepted our invitation.  I would like to mention some of the highlights for the year 2016.  As you all know I am your Rector, but I also serve as the Head of School.  Having said that, let me start off with the new Early Childhood Center.


Grace Early Childhood Center

First and foremost, let me say this, the children are a gift of God and as such I believe that we are privileged to be able to have them in our care.


With privilege also comes responsibility.  Over the past two years Grace went through an incredible transformation process.  What once was a Private Elementary and Middle School with an Early Childhood Center on the side has become “The” Early Childhood Center.  Our School, parking facility, gym, soccer field, play areas, academics, and, of course, our loving and nurturing faculty are the strength of our programs.  Grace continues the transformation process.  


To counteract the future program offerings of the school district, which will be free pre-K classes that will negatively impact our efforts, we need to expand and improve our Early Childhood programming. We will continue enhancing our ministry by offering the Grace Above&Beyond Day Care Program for even younger children to better serve the hard working parents in Massapequa and surrounding areas.  We recently began a major process to gain accreditation from the NY State Office of Children and Family Services.  Our new Director for the program is Lorraine Brucato who comes to us with many years of experience in the field.


Let me make sure we all are on the same page and understand clearly the path we are following with the Early Childhood Center:


1.   The Early Childhood Center is a Ministry of Grace Church and as such we provide help to the larger community - We help hardworking parents and offer not only a safe place for their children but our curriculum entails French, Spanish, Math, Physical Education, Music, American Sign Language,  Dramatic Play and much more.  We are currently serving 120 children in our programs.


2.   Grace Above&Beyond, our Day Care Center, will be adding to the current programs and efforts and help better serve the community.  The Day Care solution as earlier proposed and budgeted was for the building previously called the Humanity Center or Modular 5.  The old plan, having Day Care only in Modular 5,  would have been limiting especially in terms of generating new income.  My decision was to extend the Day Care to all classrooms so that we will be flexible and are able to cover all the needs not only today but also in the future.  All teachers and classrooms are interchangeable which makes it a win/win strategy.  If we need to add a classroom such as the library or other modules we will be able to do so after they have satisfied inspection requirements.


3.   Last year I proposed a significant number of revenues added to our Church income.  For the second year in a row our Early Childhood Center actually added revenues to our budget to help to pay for our Church expenses.  Our budget for next year shows about the same financial support even while we still are building the new ministry.

4.   Grace Day School still has left us with some negative spin - one of them is that we still try to collect unpaid tuition.  This is a long process and we do not know how much we will be able to collect.  Our lawyer is working with collection agencies to ensure that we will collect some of the outstanding money.


Church and Parish

Before I begin with our ministries, at this point I do want to say something about communication and transparency.  Last year, we promised you to be more transparent with our financial statements.  Because the school is a ministry of the Church, just like any other ministry, the goal was to unite the school with the church finances.  However, not having an immediate substitute for our outgoing treasurer we weren’t able to implement all our plans.  Here are some of the major problems that we faced.  


The school is working on an accrual basis whereas the Church is working on a cash basis.  In addition, the school runs from July 1st to June 30th whereas the Church runs from Jan. 1st through Dec. 31st.  Our old bookkeeping software did not allow us to eliminate accounts and adjust them to our new objectives.  We were required to start over and set up a new system.  


Here is what we did:  We called in an expert to help us to close out last year.  Then we began to use a new bookkeeping software called ACS from ACS Technology where we set up all needed accounts.  After that we began to unite school and church finances.  And from now on we will be using the new system for all our accounting.  This steps allow us now to regularly provide the required monthly statements and publish once again an overview in our monthly Grace Newsletter as we always did.  


So, I apologize for the lack of communication and transparency on our part.  Unfortunately, we are just like any other organization, things do not always work out as planned.  I myself struggled with not having the monthly printouts available and had to run everything by the Annual Parish Meeting approved budget.

As it turns out we did way better then budgeted.  In addition to that, and to further assure you that your Vestry is carrying out good stewardship for our beloved Grace family, I wanted to inform you that we have not used any investment funds at all.  


When I began here at Grace our pledges were at little above

$100,000.  Today we are happy to see that the pledges have grown and we are at more than $ 150,000.  Thank you for your trust.  Be assured that we will continue to be good stewards and use the income for our ministries.


Let us now look at our ministries.  We as a Parish definitely have changed our direction.  We have seriously began to put our energy towards -Inspired by Grace-.  As most of you know by now Grace has two ministry areas.  One takes place mostly inside  the Church and therefore is called Church Ministries.  The other area is focusing outside our building.  Outside ministries are the efforts that serve and impact the community directly.  These ministries run under the overarching name -Inspired by Grace- Ministries of Grace Episcopal Church Massapequa


Let us be clear on the two ministry areas - Both areas are equally important and without the one the other would be nonsense - For a faith community both ministry areas are necessary to be a true Church.  Also, in my report I am pointing out mostly the new ministries, not to take away from the other wonderful ministries, but rather to inform you how and what we are doing.


TOBAY Housing/Grace Food Pantry:

It is an incredible joy to see this for Grace a rather young ministry with good leadership.  This is one of the ministries that incarnates our new Vision: To seek to be a visible sign of God’s love in this world.  The events are consistently growing and we are about to embark to serve the second establishment with 175 units.  


Thrifty Boutique:

The Thrifty Boutique Ministry has grown in many ways.  One aspect is income which we are always happy to have.  But I would like to point out to you why I like this ministry even more.  For Grace, it is a channel to be present with the ones that are in need but also with the ones that are curious.  Some people come to see if they can find a hidden treasure.  And guess what, every once in awhile they do.  It is a way of touching people’s lives and getting involved in the community in an approach no other ministry allows us to do.  It is a great way to be the Church in midst of the 21st Century.


Young At Heart:

Young at Heart is a very successful -Inspired by Grace- Ministry.  We are able to offer a sacred space to a community to gather at the table and be one for a few hours.  Hearty discussions, laughter, and enjoyment are the center of this ministry.  To the leaders I can only say: Well done!



One more ministry that I would like to point out this year is the Cemetery.  As most people we also will need a place where our remains can rest in peace.  Grace Cemetery offers such a place.  This is a great ministry to many families and we as the Church must be thankful to the Cemetery Ministry.  

Good News:  The Vestry and Cemetery committee was able to get a survey done which revealed more sellable grave plots as expected.  This new opportunity already supported last year’s budget and will help us with next year’s as well.  Thank you to all who worked on this project. We now have about 40 more plots available for sale.  


Also, since we are looking to increase revenues for the Church we are looking into extending our Cemetery.  We find that the north side of our Church is an unused and empty space that could easily be used for cemetery space.  Lou Brancato, our attorney, was in contact with the New York State for permit reasons and found out that there is no need for such a permit.  The only permit we might have to extend would be the existing Cemetery permit.  If we would be able to go ahead with this project Grace would have a long term additional income source which will buy us time to increase our present revenue sources.  Also, it will provide some back up resources for future generations to come, hence, for the long term survival of the Church.   


The Pilgrim Place:

The Pilgrim Place is a new project which is geared to help us to attract new families.  Our science room that is no longer used for that purpose will be renovated/restructured and used as a kind of starbucks.  The space will be set up for multi purposes such as for meetings, Bible study, discussion forums, guest speakers, classes and much more.  There is no exclusive use of the room. However, the focus of this project is to attract new families.  The good news is that we applied for Grant money and received        $10,000 from the diocese for this project “The Pilgrim Place.”   


I would like to thank all our volunteers and supporters.  We could not do it without you!  


A big thank you goes to our outgoing Vestry Members for their services to Grace: Bill Brennan, Barbara Staib, and Lynn Savin.  


Welcome to our new Vestry members: Ernest Isip, Renee Erny, Barbara Des Rault.  Thank you for accepting the call to serve on the Vestry!


Also, I applaud our current Vestry Members and Wardens for their faithful ministry to our beloved Grace family.  Last but not least, I would like to thank you, our Parishioners, not only for trusting your leadership but for supporting us.


Thank you - Thank you - Thank you!


I look forwards to a new and exciting year serving with you under the guidance and protection of our Father the Almighty.

God’s Blessings be upon you,

Rev Walter V. Hillebrand
The Rev. Dr. Walter V. Hillebrand
friend, family, humble servant of God