Faith or Fear?

I find myself recently traversing the fine line between faith and foolishness.  When is a decision a bold act of faith and when is it a big mistake?

The Parish House Task Force has offered a proposal to renovate the church house to be used  for a ministry of spiritual development  under the leadership of Pastor  Dale Selover.  Spiritual development is a growing movement within the church that seeks to draws people into a closer relationship with God through spiritual direction, contemplative practices, and spiritual renewal.

The Church Council supports the ministry.  Not only will it serve the people of Prince of Peace, but a ministry of spiritual development will be an outreach to our immediate community.  It will also allow Prince of Peace to be a resource to our New Jersey Synod and to our ecumenical partners in our community.  This ministry also offers a new model of how to be the church in a changing landscape.  The church house can make all of this happen.

But, as we know, there is a cost.  And this is where I ask if the decision to go ahead is foolish or faithful.

I answer the question reminding myself that the church is in the faith business, not the fear business.  I’m convinced the church has been in decline through the years because we’ve been afraid to step out in faith.  Whenever the church seeks to hunker down and hold on to what it has, the church has made the decision not to respond to opportunities God has placed before her; and that is never a good, or faithful, place for the church to be.

Is this the right time to renovate the church house for a spiritual development ministry?  Are we making financial choices that could jeopardize an already fragile financial picture?  Or is God inviting us to take a step into new life?

I appreciate the financial concerns that come with this decision.  But I know that mission never follows money.  Money follows mission.  In other words, when the church lives by faith and responds to opportunities that God places before us, people want to support the church’s ministry, and the money follows.

On May 31, before worship, Pastor Selover will be leading a session on her ministry of spiritual development , how the church house can benefit that work, and how Prince of Peace can partner in this ministry.   Following worship we encourage the congregation to walk over to the house for a tour and to share your questions and concerns with the task force.  The congregational meeting is scheduled for June 7th following worship.

 

7 thoughts on “Faith or Fear?”

  1. I appreciate Melody’s explanation of the situation, as well as others remarks. I strongly support the concept of using the house for a meaningful new mission in central Jersey.

    I have been blessed with the access to spiritual direction, in the past from a pastor working on an advanced degree at Princeton Seminary, and now working with Dale. I would be happy to discuss my experience with anyone who wishes to understand the personal experience. I have also attended retreats led by Dale and others at Crossroads. The two hour drive there presents a significant challenge to me, and I’ve been hoping there would be some nearer events.

    To my thinking, there is no significant downside to upgrading the house now, using it with our tenant Melody, and seeing where the new mission can go for a few years. At that time, we would have a habitable property if we chose to sell, or an ongoing mission asset to keep and use.

    I am distressed that I will not be in town this weekend, and thus not able to vote on this issue at the 6/7 meeting. I hope others will appreciate the value of our asset, and act in faith.

    1. Thank you Ellie. I would encourage everyone not being able to attend Sunday’s meeting to express your thoughts on the blog or personally with me or our Council President Lois Case. This is a big decision for the congregation and it is important that we hear from you, even if you are unable to be at the meeting.

  2. We also want to voice our support for the new ministry and the renovations of the church house. The spiritual development ministry seems well-suited for the changing times and the communities we serve. And the lack of up-front costs, the low long-term risk, and the generous donation all make this a wonderful opportunity.

    We do think we should acknowledge the potential near-term challenges associated with the renovations. While the church’s financial situation has been relatively stable this year, due in large part to difficult choices we made in January, the current fund did begin the year with a large deficit. If we adhere to the 2015 spending plan, which by-and-large we seem to be doing so far, that deficit will grow even a bit larger by year’s end. And any continued decline in worship attendance of the sort we’ve experienced the past 8-10 years could put further pressure on our finances just as we’d be taking potential proceeds from the sale of the church house and property off the table for at least the next two years.

    All that said, there are also risks involved in NOT moving forward. There is energy behind both Pastor Dale’s ministry and the house renovations, and it would be a real loss not to tap into that. And while selling the property would boost our cash position, it would be at the expense of this new and much-needed ministry. So we do support both the ministry and renovation proposals. At the same time, however, we also believe it is very important that we energize other efforts in the areas of evangelism and stewardship.

  3. I support the proposed renovation of the church house so that it can be used for a spiritual development ministry. But I know the “price tag” seems high, involving an increase in both our debt and the term of the mortgage.

    I’d like to restate a point Melody made in her comment: the money we borrow will go towards capital improvements in the house. A large fraction of this could be recovered if we decided to sell the house. If in two years (or five years, or ten years) the congregation feels that the mortgage payments and upkeep of the house is too great a financial burden, we can sell the house and use the proceeds for other purposes.

    Viewed in this light, the financial risk we would take is not very great. Selling a useable house in five years time is not that much different financially from selling a “tear-down” property now.

    …dave case

  4. Dear POP members,

    I’m writing today to explain a little bit more about Pastor’s article in the tidings titled Faith, Foolishness, Money, and Mission. To explain a little more about what the Parish House Task force has been up to over the past few months and why this opportunity has come at this time.

    Let’s start with a little history of the Parish house. The Parish house was bought in the early to mid 1990’s with the intention of tearing it down to create more parking area for POP. That was never done and the house was used periodically as housing for a variety of different families and also as classroom space for confirmation and adult small groups. And as extra storage for POP. All the while, minimal maintenance was done to the house. The house was never torn down as originally planned. Then with Pastor Lutz we created a master plan that again called for the house to be torn down and well….we all know that didn’t happen either. So house 2, POP 0.

    At the congregational meeting in January when we were discussing our operating budget deficit for the year ahead, the house came up again. As I sat at that meeting I felt like someone was looking over my shoulder and whispering in my ear….Hey Melody, you need a place to live next year, you could live in the house and use money you would pay as rent somewhere else to help benefit POP. At the time I didn’t know that another opportunity was going to be given to POP in the form of a brand new mission of the synod. God was working in two different ways at Prince of Peace.

    Sometime around late February, a Parish house task force was formed to look at the house and figure out how this valuable asset of ours could best be utilized. At that time, Dale and I talked about using the church house as shared space. The upstairs could be my private space and we could share the downstairs when she needs it for ministry. I would furnish the house so it has a homey feel and in essence be the caretaker. Dale’s vision for her ministry was a house. A homey environment for holding daylong retreats and one on one counseling sessions. She would like somewhere that was “lived in” and welcoming. But was the house worth fixing up? That was the job of the Parish house task force. To determine what the best course of action might be for the house.

    The task force has been hard at work since March creating a plan of action for what needs to be done to the house to make it safe and habitable and to do this in the most economical way possible. Bob and Arlene Webb head the task force and have extensive experience with renovating older properties. Nancy Reyes has worked a lot with building projects, Brandi Hebert and Martha Winder have a good eye to what is best for POP and understand the need to use what assets we have and Lois and Dave Case have been excellent at pulling it all together and focusing on the financial side.

    So what are our options for the church house? We paid about $140,000 for it in the mid-90’s.

    Option 1: In its current shape – no maintenance over the years means the house now needs a furnace/air conditioning system, water heater, new plumbing, electrical……all infrastructure that is needed to make it safe and habitable – we could really only sell it for the price of the land. We estimate that would be maybe $220,000. That is if someone wants a plot of land on a busy road next to a church with no inhabitable house on it.

    Option 2: The old stand by option of “tear it down” would cost POP around $20,000. But then what?

    Option 3: Leave it as it is and wait. We really can’t do that because we have already run into problems with the roof of the garage deteriorating and have had warnings from the insurance company that something needs to be done about that.

    Option 4: Fix up the house so it is safe and habitable and use it for this brand new spiritual direction ministry of the synod and as housing for a current POP member. This option preserves our asset but as you can imagine needs funding to make it happen.

    Now if you wanted to make an improvement to your house and you didn’t have the money you would probably refinance your home loan. That is what we are proposing to finance the improvements needed to the church house. Thrivent has a refinance program that will only allow the money taken out to be used for capital improvements and the church house would be one of those. By refinancing, we would not change our monthly costs – the mortgage payment would remain the same – but we would extend the life of the loan. Certainly it will now cost us more in the long run to pay off the church mortgage but I don’t think paying off the church mortgage is the goal of POP. I think the goal is to bring more people to the faith and share God in as many ways as possible. And we have an opportunity here to do that by using the Parish house.

    In his Tidings article Pastor asks…”is this the right time to renovate the church house for a spiritual development ministry? Are we making financial choices that could jeopardize an already fragile financial picture? Or is God inviting us to take a step into new life?” What he didn’t say was the part about having an active church member live in the house and share the space with the ministry and that on a monthly basis there would be no increase in Parish house costs because I would cover utilities. I need to decide on where I will live by the end of the summer and my monetary contribution to the house is only possible if I know I will have the house to live in by the end of September. Pastor Dale will be called soon to this new ministry and she needs to get started making plans for her outreach to the community and needs to know which church she will be affiliated with. So there is an urgency to making this decision about the church house at the June 7th meeting.

    The task force is asking for a refinance of $95,000 to be used for the house. We have a detailed plan for what that entails and as with any project, some contingency built in for those hidden surprises that will pop up. We are making the house safe and habitable. Comfortable for ministry. I would contribute a donation to POP upfront for 2 years of living in the house and at the end of 2 years we would look at how the ministry is doing and reevaluate what we want to do with the house at that time. Based on comps in the area we estimate that by adding $100,000 to the house we could possibly sell it for $360,000 at that time if that was the best thing to do for POP.

    The Parish house task force started with….is this house worth saving? Bob had structural engineers come in and everyone agreed that the house has good bones and is well worth saving. We invite you to come see the lovely wood work and floors and explore the church house on Sunday May 31st after the service and see it for yourself. The house was built sometime in the early 1900’s and is one of the oldest in the area. The problems that need fixing are more infrastructure than cosmetic in terms of making it habitable.

    To me this is an exciting time at POP. I like the idea of going to one service in the fall because that brings us all together as we enter a new phase in our church’s history. A chance to get to work together towards the future. Pastor Dale’s spiritual development ministry is an opportunity that will be snapped up by some other church if we don’t offer her space. I want to see POP grow and I would love to help that happen by taking care of the house and easing some of the budget concerns about keeping it. Dale and I have talked extensively about how this space sharing might look and we are on the same page about everything. Even including my cat! I asked my kids what they thought and they said “if you lived in the church house we might come visit you☺”. They too remember the house fondly from all those years of confirmation class. It certainly is a step out in faith to take on a project like this at this time but then that’s what the church should be about. We are taking a step in faith by going to one service in the fall and changing something so basic about our church as worship times. We continue to support the ministry of the Cherry Tree Club and now we have a huge Peace Garden that is drawing a lot of community support and attention. POP is moving in the right direction and has yet another opportunity to step out in faith. But that opportunity needs your input and vote on June 7th at the congregational meeting.

    So please come this Sunday May 31st at 8:30 to hear Pastor Dale explain her ministry, stay to tour the church house after worship and come on June 7th for the congregational meeting immediately following the service at 9:30. If you have any questions feel free to email me at melb4cm@comcast.net. If I can’t answer your question, I will pass it on to someone that can.

    Back to the title of Pastor’s article…..This is a rare opportunity for Prince of Peace and I think it’s more about Faith and Mission than money and foolishness. I hope you do too.

    Melody Bromberg

    1. We are excited that the house may actually be used for 2 opportunities. Thank you for your great explanation Melody.

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