A TIMELESS MESSAGE FOR THE AGM SEASON

February 18, 2018

AS PARISHES ARE HOLDING THEIR ANNUAL MEETINGS… AN OBSERVATION FROM YESTERYEAR

It is that time of year when many parishes will be holding their annual parish general meeting. It is this time when the parish looks over reports about the previous year. Many reports are about pastoral and social activities. Some are about financial matters. Usually the Parish Pastoral Council is now elected for the coming year, as well as various sub-committees. The AGM can be a time of new hope, but occasionally it can seem like the "same old, same old" outcome that is okay, but doesn't necessarily inspire everyone to boldly move forward into a new year. Well, whatever the case, one of the inevitable concerns is how will the parish meet the financial needs to not only "keep the lights on", but perhaps finally implement long-desired new pastoral and spiritual programs.

A vigilant parishioner brought forward a clipping from the Archeparchy's greatly missed "Postup-Progress" weekly newspaper. It was written by then auxiliary bishop - Most. Rev. Stefan Soroka. It touches upon concerns that are just as relevant to our day as then. Our parishes face similar challenges today and this column may provide some advice and encouragement…

Pity the Parish Committee Members! Pray for Them!*

by Bishop Stefan

Every visit with parish committees in Winnipeg and throughout the province, reaffirms my profound respect and surprise with the dedication of elected parish committee members of our parishes. It is amazing how so few can literally make miracles when trying to meet the various demands of parishioners and the increasing financial needs of the parishes. Almost every parish committee meets monthly and struggles to balance the financial books. Increased utility costs, salary needs, and chancery taxes all compete for dwindling financial resources. Some are fortunate to have savings to dip into, while others barely scrape by. Yet, their dedication and love for the parish continues to inspire them to meet the demands. It amazes me that many of them continue to let their names stand for re-election at annual meetings. In places, there are no candidates prepared to replace them. It makes me wonder why it is so. And what it will be like in a few short years when some of our older generation will be unable to continue due to health problems?

It strikes me that the work of parish committee members could be so much easier - if parishioners would practice more common sense! Prices of everything have gone up so dramatically and we pay the price, though reluctantly and begrudgingly. We accept the reality of the need for increased wages and the continued price increases all around us. But when it comes to the matter of church - we remain childlike. For many of us, our donations for our church have remained at a shameful level. I have personally reviewed the financial records of many parishes in the city and rural areas, and am surprised at how many parishioners still donate only two dollars per service. Only two dollars when a more fair donation would be ten dollars. Perhaps we have spoiled ourselves. Our parishes necessarily were built from the proceeds of hard working fundraisers - bingos, teas, suppers, draws, etc. Parishioners generously donated time, goods and energy to raise funds. These were generous donations in themselves, especially in poorer times. But today, many of our parishes no longer have fundraisers due to the shortage of able manpower. Many have sold their parish halls.

We have to use our common sense and dig deeper into our pockets - if - if we still value our church. Many other faiths demand or expect donations of about ten percent of your annual salary. Perhaps, each of us could consider the equivalent of one hour of salary per week for the needs of your Church and God's holy temple. One hour out of forty does not seem too much. But when combined with the generosity of others in your parish, your parish committee will be able to meet the parish financial needs and work to help meet your spiritual needs within your parish community.

Many of our rural parishes suffer from low membership fees that cannot cover the costs, yet are kept low for the benefit of those parishioners living in Winnipeg. These parishioners belong to a city parish and yet continue to support their "home" parish by paying the annual membership fee. In some cases this entitles them to a free cemetery plot. While the support helps the rural parish to some degree, it also has the effect of keeping the annual fee artificially low. The parish committees are reluctant to raise the annual fee for fear of losing the support of their city dwellers. Common sense and understanding would suggest greater financial support for the rural "home" parish by those who have moved to the city, if they desire to see their rural "home" parish continue to survive.

The vocation of serving on a parish committee is a special one of love and dedication to God and to His Church. it is a very demanding vocation of service for which we must all be very thankful - and much more supportive with common sense! Let each one of us privately examine our own level of financial support for the needs of our parish. And if we find ourselves not giving what would be fairly expected of us, then let's begin to donate more generously - before being asked! And let us do it with a grateful heart! Thank you for your understanding.

[*Source: Поступ-Progress (21 February 1999) No. 4/1922, p. 3]


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