Fr. Walter Annual Address to the Parish

By: kcynar

02/28/16 02:45 PM
Category: General

Presented at the Annual Meeting Feb, 8, 2016

Annual Parish Meeting 2016

Rector’s Report


Dear Grace family,


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


Looking back on 2015 it was quite a year - a year with historical importance for the future generations of a people called Grace. Although each ministry handed in their own reports, allow me to review and summarize what actually happened last year and provide some insight about our future.



Ministries of Grace Episcopal Church Massapequa


Grace Day School

After offering many years of high-quality elementary and middle school education; in August 2015, the decision was made to eliminate grades 1 through 8. We struggled with this decision, and I personally had many, many sleepless nights. Not because there was ambiguity about this decision, but because of my pastoral heart empathizing with the feelings of the Grace community, especially our students. Some children would have graduated from eighth grade after having been enrolled at Grace since age two as young students in our two’s program. Nonetheless, the decision to eliminate Grades 1 through 8 had to be made based only on financial facts.


The financial issues the school created over the last ten years did not just disappear after the decision was made to eliminate elementary and middle school.


I’ve outlined some of the steps taken to bring order back to our financial situation:


1)     We included the Bishop and the Diocesan Finance Chair in our discussions and asked the diocese for financial support to help us with the financial impact of eliminating first through eighth grade which was approved by the bishop.

2) Once again, we evaluated our own internal costs. With the new Early Childhood Center model, we were able to further reduce our operating expenses;

a.    we centralized our Early Childhood Center operations and moved the two’s club, Nursery and Pre-K classes to the main building (apart from increased safety for our students, we saved on personnel and significantly reduced our energy costs)

b.    we began to shut down the vacant buildings to save energy

c. we eliminated the cleaning service contract - the job is now done through our own Facility Management

c.     We reduced our office staff to further save on salary expenses

d.    All cases of unpaid school tuition were handed on to our lawyer and then on to a collection agency to recuperate as much money as possible.


3) We began and are in the process to sort and price out surplus school furnishings and other related items. The idea is to sell what we no longer need and turn it into revenues to support our budget.


4) During the Bishop’s visit, he asked the Vestry if we would

be willing to sell the unused modular buildings. Our hope would be to contribute somewhere to a new ministry and still receive some money for the buildings.


The next step is to evaluate the merger our school’s financials into the church. The school is not a separate entity, but one of our ministries which belongs to Grace Church. We are aware that this is not an easy undertaking. Because of the difficult task ahead, we have reach out to a CPA company that will professionally assist and advise us in merging the two accounting systems.


We still have the occasional negative comment from a community member about the elimination of grades. We can live with that. What we could and would not be able to live with is to financially endanger any further the future of our beloved Grace Church and to risk its closing.


Our responsibility is the Church. One of the main reasons for a church to exist is to minister to the community. For example, with our school ministry, we combined our two early childhood centers into one. The result is an increased enrollment of more than 110 children from Massapequa and surrounding communities.


We are able to serve these families, hence the community, by educating and taking care of children, while their parents have to work to make a living. That is a true ministry.


The newly re-organized Grace School (Early Childhood Center) is expected to positively contribute to our yearly Church budget. Yes, that’s right. We actually will have a yearly positive contribution to our annual church budget of about $ 75,000 to $ 100,000.


We are happy to announce that in this year’s Vestry approved budget, the school tuition income is $ 459,000 and operating expenses including all faculty salaries are budgeted at $380,000 which provides the church budget with an additional income of $ 79,000 for the year 2016.


Thrifty Boutique

The decision to centralize our education in the main building offered the opportunity to move the Thrifty Boutique from the basement to the first floor of the Floyd Jones House. The women and all volunteers worked hard to re-open the store under the name Thrifty Boutique. Better accessibility and more visibility in the community will lead to growth and eventually to more revenues. The Thrifty Boutique ladies do an excellent job on the two days that the shop is open. The community has already expressed the wish of having the Boutique opened more than just two days. We are looking for someone that feels called to put a new team of at least three people together and to take on an additional opening day. Please speak to Sandy Wertz or Barbara Picken who will gladly introduce you to this ministry.



Worship Team

As most of you know, I called a new ministry into life that is called the Worship Team. This team has taken on a vital ministry, the feeding of our neighbors. After having met with town officials and heard that there are low-income senior citizens establishments close by that have a need for food, I brought this to the Worship Team. Since then, Grace already served a Thanksgiving and a Christmas meal to those less privileged living in our community. We also, handed out the packages of food that you donated to our Food Bank. In return we received many hugs, smiles, and even tears as a thank you. Those emotions were directed to all of you who have volunteered in this effort or donated food to the Food Bank.


Young at Heart

Ken Cynar, our Warden, had come to me a few times asking how we can better serve our aging community and implement more social activities. Then, Barbara Staib and Ellen Ritter brought the topic up during one of our Vestry meetings. We met later in my office to further discuss and develop ideas. The issue was no available space during the day. Now with the changed school ministry, our Parish Hall is available. We are better able to plan its use for our own needs. I am glad to see a ministry coming alive that joins individuals from our church, our community, and neighborhoods together to sit, dance, eat, and share their lives with each other.


Christmas Tree Lighting and Christkindl Market

When we first introduced the Christmas tree lighting three years ago, we did not know how far we would be able to go with this event. As always, it needed a vision and courage to begin something new. Seeing it unfold in a positive direction is the blessing we receive for having the courage and doing it. This past year, we had over 350 people attending our annual Christmas tree lighting. Last year, even though I knew all helping hands were tired from the fair, I asked our crafting ladies if we could offer a small Christkindl Market. What began last year took superb form this year. People loved it! The market was a great success. Some of you may ask -How does this fit into ministry and Fr. Walter’s long term ministry plan to better serve the community? Bringing people together, socializing, pulling them away from secular world entertainment and introducing them to the advent season and the Christmas spirit is a ministry in itself. Our Christmas tree lighting and Christkindl Market have become a community event where people come to share the joys of Christmas.


Church and Parish

During the preparation of prior Annual Meetings, I have asked myself what is Grace supposed to do? What is God calling us to do? During 2015, we had a Vestry retreat and discussed various topics. We began a process of developing a new vision for our Church. The Vestry has worked through various stages of development and has come up with the following new vision:


Grace seeks to be a visible sign of God’s love in this world


A vision is important for our church, so that we can all work in God’s vineyard…although in different ministries, but all as one body working to achieve the same goal. In our case, all our ministries must keep our vision as their objective as we think of mission statements. Hence, the work we do. Most of all, of how we work in God’s vineyard. For example, when we collect food, we do not just collect food. We help people because love is the thriving force to do so. You become the visible sign of God’s love in this world. That is what we need to keep in mind when we minister to people.


Beloved people of Grace, there is no other church than you. You are the church, and I thank you to be understanding, loving and kind. Leadership is not always that easy as it may seem, especially when not being involved in the consequences and politics, but just looking at the situation. Sometimes we know we need to change or adjust something. Yet the change may take place later in life because priorities need to be met first.


With God’s help and together as a people called Grace, we can do all things and we can overcome all things. During the year 2015, we have adjusted our direction. Grace has began to turn the focus from inside to the outside, hence, to our Parish of Massapequa and surrounding areas. We did so because that is what church is all about.


Do not misunderstand me. All ministries are vital to our beloved Grace Church. From the Altar Guild to Christian Education, from the Ushers and Greeters to the Lay Readers, all ministries are vital for the life of Grace. The differentiation is that we have Parish and Church Ministries. The Church Ministries make church and liturgy happen. These are ministries such as our beautiful choir music, the acolytes, and greeters.


The Parish Ministry on the other hand, includes all ministries that are focusing on our wider Parish in Massapequa and surrounding areas. Instead calling those ministries Parish Ministry, mostly to avoid confusion, I have named those ministries “Inspired by Grace” ...Ministries of Grace Episcopal Church in Massapequa. We will soon begin to promote the name with its ministries.


Reaching out into the community will help us in answering fundamental questions often asked by individuals looking for a new Church. “What is your church all about?” and “How is Grace significant in the community of Massapequa?” Also, it is expected that we will have more volunteers available from being more involved in the life of the larger community. The more lives we are able to touch, the more significant we become as a faith community and the more people we will be attracting to join in to do the work in God’s vineyard.


Before I close this year’s annual report, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all our volunteers and supporters. A big hug to all of you! Without your help we couldn’t do all those ministries.


Also, I would like to thank the outgoing Vestry members. I applaud you for your faithful services to Grace.


My thanks also goes to the Vestry and the Wardens. Thank you for making such a commitment and serving your church in representing Grace at the Vestry meetings, leading ministries, and actively participating in the life of the church. Bravo!


I am looking forward to another wonderful year trusting in our Lord that He will provide for us.


May God keep and bless you,

Walter +

The Rev. Dr. Walter V. Hillebrand

friend, family, humble servant of God