Rector's Report Annual Parish Meeting 2020


01/28/20 10:36 PM
Category: General

" of our future goals must be to focus on our church and make the church sustainable again."


As the Head of School, I am proud to report that my vision of a real Ministry to this community is now in place.  Our current enrollment tops 175 children. Last year I was very excited when I reported that we already had over 40 children signed up in the month of December.  This year in December we had more than 90 children signed up and as some of the classes were already closed. As of today were have more than 100 students enrolled for next year.

Again, just as every other organization we are constantly working on optimizing our ministry and its procedures to lower operating costs. So far, the Early Childhood Center pays all of its direct costs including maintenance and operating for the buildings they utilize, energy and utility costs and their share of the Church insurance. Furthermore, they pay the shared cost of the salary of the bookkeeper and Facility manager, cleaning services, and the office staff.  


When listening to the school report, one thing that we all have to understand is that without the shared school income and for that reason without the Cemetery, the Church could not make it.  So, one of our future goals must be to focus on the church and make the church sustainable again.

At this point, I would like to thank all of you who are financially contributing to the church.  Even more so, I would like to thank each one of you who has increased their financial support to your church.  Thank you - thank you - thank you -- I want you to know that we desperately need and also very much appreciate your support to our beloved Grace Parish  

As you all must know, I am with you not only in talking, but actually partially paying the bills of our beloved Church through my family’s financial contributions.  My beloved Parish Family, we must continue to work together and rebuilt the Church of GOD.


One thing that I have pointed out in previous conversations is that we have to steer our energy and our resources towards the church.  What I mean by that is that our church is the building that is most important to us, and it will be the building that will survive another 175 and more years.  Your see, the projects we focused on over the previous few years were done to enrich our church life in our main building.  We added a restroom, we built our Grace Cafe, we installed some technology to enrich our services, we added a Godly Play room with all the tools needed and created a better environment for our children, parents, and teachers - and now we need to continue to work on enhancing our Church life.

Here is one of the projects that we are working on and hopefully we will be able to begin during this year.  I would like to install a church elevator to allow people to enter it from the parking lot level and then choose to exit at the church or the undercroft level.  This project will allow all of us to use the undercroft rooms without any issues and will generally provide us with a better use of the church building

You see, the church building is a wonderful space.  We just need to adjust it to the use of a new generation.  As many of you know, there is a lot of space in the undercroft that is unused or not optimized at all, hence, wasted space. 

I believe that we as a church are missing an opportunity with funeral services and bereavement in general.  Most people must to go to the Funeral Home to arrange a small prayer service or just to sit as a family.  As a Church we should be able to offer a comfortable seating area where bereaved families can gather.  We should be able to offer better services in a comfortable environment so the families can feel cared for.   

The idea is to partially re-arrange the undercroft and create a chapel space and a seating area for families to have a space available in an ambience that fits the occasion. It would also be a space still available for Christian Education on Sundays or during the week. With the new Cemetery which hopefully will be approved soon, we will need to accommodate an entirely new clientele.  The space in the undercroft must be optimized and made easily accessible for our parishioners and all that need to access it.

The entire church building is only used for 2-3 hours per week.  That’s just not good stewardship for all the costs that we are creating with it.  That is why I believe we need to work on optimizing our usage and focus on revamping the undercroft.

Some of you might already reject the thought of change.  Some of you might think about the costs.  I do not have all the answers yet, but I do now that these changes are necessary and I will work on finding ways and the resources to make this happen.


As you all know we have changed the Christian Education Program into something we feel is more attractive to our students and their families.  Now, as we use Godly Play and have adjusted our Christian Ed. hours to 9:45 am, we do have a wonderful crowd of children attending our programs.  I would like to thank Camille Olson for her good work of preparing the many activities and Paul Lento for his organizational and technological expertise.  Also, thank you for all the volunteers that help out and make Godly Play a memorable time for all our wonderful children.


Church Development, spiritually and physically, is an ongoing effort.  Our RenewalWorks Program focused more on the spiritual side of church life.  The Vestry received a lot of insights and has learned a few more things on which we need to work on.  In short, one answer that needs to be more attentively looked at is of fostering the application of Christian practices into our daily lives.  Education from the pulpit is one way to educate our congregation on the importance of applying personal spiritual practices.


Last year, I was able to enjoy my first sabbatical in my life.  It was a great opportunity to explore new ways and it challenged some of my more traditional perspectives and understandings of life.  I also worked on my spirituality re-introducing some practical approaches of our tradition. In addition, I took courses in meditation and in a 10 days silent retreat, I once again experienced the power of silence.  All in all it was a wonderful experience and I have learned a lot. Thank you for allowing me to gain such experiences.


The Thrifty Boutique is a great ministry offered at Grace.  Some people think only about selling used stuff to the community and making money out of it.  Do not misunderstand me, Grace needs the additional income from our hard working Thrifty Boutique ladies.   However, that is only one perspective and side of the ministry.  The contribution to the community is way bigger than that.  Through our Thrifty Boutique, we are a presence for people that need help; we are a place to go to where one can meet loving and kind souls to talk to; the Thrifty Boutique is a treasure chest for many that look for that special something; and most of all, it has become a ministry that fosters our relationships in Massapequa and surrounding areas.  I would like to thank the Thrifty Boutique for the commitment to Grace and the people living in our neighborhood. 


I would like to thank all of our volunteers for their hard work throughout the year.  We have so many ministries, some small and some very big ones, but no matter what ministry we always can rely on you to get God’s work done.  Know that every hand makes a difference.  So, once again I would like to express my sincere thank you for all you do in the name of Christ.

While many have volunteered for service, there are still many who sit on the sidelines.  As we enter a new decade, we ask those who do not participate to consider throwing your hat into the ring and contribute some of your time and talent to your beloved Church.

At this point, I would like to thank the outgoing Vestry members for their work and the time given to our beloved church.  Our Warden Barbara Picken also finishes her Vestry term today but already was appointed to the Vestry for an unexpired term.  Thank you Barbara for your help and to be open to continue your work on the Vestry.  As you all know Barbara saved us lots of money last year after the Storm damage on our roof.  Every time I walk towards our campus I look up at the roof and I am thankful to you for your expertise and help in this project.  A thank you also goes to our outgoing Treasurer Lincoln Page for his commitment and work for the church.   

And of course, I would like to welcome the newly elected Vestry members and Warden.  We are glad that you answered the call to represent your fellow parishioners at our meetings and to take a stand for your beloved Grace Church.

Additional thanks go out to our School faculty and staff as well as to our Early Childhood Director Annie Guido.  

I never have thought that time would pass by that fast and I have to face this; but here we go:  it is with a thankful heart and with sadness that I have to announce the retirement of our trusted and deeply loved long term employee Denise Gifford, our Office Manager and Parish Administrator.  We wish her a wonderful retirement and all the best for her future.  

Many hands are involved in our school success story working diligently to accomplish my vision of a great Ministry.  Thank you for all your good work in supporting this vision. 

Concluding my Annual Report I would like to express my deepest gratitude to ALL of you for all you do for the kingdom of God and of course, for our Parish.  GRACE Church is an awesome Church; you are awesome people.

Respectfully submitted,

 The Rev. Dr. Walter V. Hillebrand

Rector and Head of School