Friday, October 20 2023
Dear Ones of St. John’s,
I am sure I am not the only one among us who has been watching news from Israel and Palestine in dismay and horror. I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land when I was a transitional deacon, and it breaks my heart to think of the destruction taking place there now. This particular land, the birthplace of three world religions, is so very special. It is hard to watch it become, once again, the site of violence and war.
Since the conflict began a couple of weeks ago and the lines between Hamas and the Israeli military have been drawn, I have also noticed lines of conflict being drawn between many groups of people, in both conversation and on social media. It seems that many of us here, in the USA, also feel the need to pick a side, often in ways that attack or dehumanize those who disagree. All of this has me thinking about how difficult it seems to be for us to hold on to complexity. Our culture is one that constantly pushes us into binary thinking – that people are good or bad, right or wrong, friend or enemy. And yet, the reality of human life on earth is so much more complicated than that, is it not?
It is possible for both sides of a conflict to have legitimate grievances and commit moral and ethical harm. It is possible for people to be neither good or bad, but something in between. We know this because every single human who takes breath on this earth is both made in the image of God and destined to make choices that are not faithful to that image. Every one of us is vastly more than a binary. No person, and no conflict between persons, is ever that clean or easy.
I’m thinking about this because as we work through the important decisions, discussions, and issues that face St. John’s during this transition time, we will not be immune from this impulse toward binary thinking. There will be times when we want to categorize other people in the community or who used to be in the community as “good” or “bad.” We will want to find and make the “right” choices instead of the “wrong” ones. But friends, there are more than just two possible roads ahead of St. John’s. And remember, we worship a God who refused to be in a binary relationship with us. Our God chose to be both God and human, inviting us into relationships, choices, and possibilities that are so much bigger and so much more complicated than the duality offered to us by false binaries.
It is my hope that we can work together to build the skills we need as a community to hold complexity. I think it can begin by noticing when we are tempted to categorize ourselves or other people in simple this-or-that terms. Our world is full of complexity. Our God made it that way and called all of it good. Let’s work to reserve judgement and activate our curiosity instead, about what options we have for loving, living, and following Jesus when the binaries are collapsed.
I can’t wait to see you Sunday.
With care and gratitude,
Friday, October 13 2023
Dear Ones of St. John’s,
As the mother of teen and tween age children, I have been learning a lot about emotional regulation. More specifically, as I walk beside my daughters (ages 12 and 14) through a big time of social and emotional growth, I’ve been learning with them how human bodies respond to stress and specific skills and strategies to help myself and others when moments of dysregulation occur. I have learned that one of the best ways I can help myself, my kids, or anyone else in moments of panic or distress is simply to stop and take one deep breath. I like to count to five or six while I breathe in, then hold the air in my lungs for a similar amount of time, and then breathe out completely. It is so simple, and it works. A couple of these deep breaths can return me to myself. My kids tell me it works for them, too. We’ve even been able to use this breathing skill in the midst of conflict with each other, to help all parties return to our bodies and remember ourselves.
I am so pleased to be with you for the months ahead. Transition of any kind can produce anxiety, and sudden or unexpected change is an emotional trigger for many people as individuals. It is certainly rough on communities of people. I hope you can experience our time together as a deep breath, a chance to breath in and out slowly and regularly as we navigate what’s next for St. John’s together. In the coming weeks we will establish patterns of worship and explore how to return St. John’s to the staffing and Sunday morning programming that a church of your size needs. I will be working from St. John’s most Tuesdays, so if you’d like a moment with me or to grab a cup of coffee on a Tuesday in the coming weeks please let me know. I remain an employee of the Bishop’s Office, on assignment to be your priest and cheerleader as we work out what the future looks like. You can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a couple other tidbits about me, for the curious. I’ve been married to my spouse, Andrew, for over 18 years. We have two daughters, Jubilee and Salome. The four of us attend an evening church service in Seattle most Sunday nights. I am a big animal lover, and you may have a chance to meet our dog, Wanda, on one of my Tuesdays in the office. She may be coming in with me from time to time. In addition to Wanda, we have five hens who we adore for their sparkling personalities and delicious eggs. I live in Des Moines, which is 45-50 min drive north of Olympia.
And – I can’t wait to see you this coming Sunday.
With care and gratitude,
Wednesday, July 28 2021
JUNIOR WARDEN’S REPORT
This informational report provides updates on the renovation, other building projects, and one recently-identified building security issue.
Updated FORMA Bid
Today we received the corrected breakout of FORMA’s $1.835 million bid.
Figures exclude sales tax.
The seismic bid is only 4% higher than estimated, but the roof and electrical bid combined is 126% higher, making the total bid 83% higher than estimated. While we could accept the seismic bid now – a plan that received broad support at the June 24 parish budget meeting – it seems prudent to wait for commodity prices to fall further from recent peaks before asking FORMA to rebid the roof and electrical. Keep in mind, however, that commodity prices may remain elevated for some time as the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the global economy. We may not see a return to pre-COVID “normal” any time soon, if ever. (Remember when gas cost $2 a gallon? Yeah, me neither.)
Diocesan Guidance & Loan Approval
The Executive Committee met with Marc Malone, our diocesan “mentor” for the loan request process, on July 14 to review project information and parish financials. The Board of Directors heard Marc’s initial presentation on July 15 and asked him several questions, to which we are now drafting a response. Vicki Setzer, a Board member, will be in Olympia for a tour of our building next Monday, July 26, and to meet with us about parish finances on Tuesday or Wednesday. We expect to provide Marc and the Board with a completed loan request application by early August, in time for the Board’s August 19 meeting, contingent on Vestry approval of a resolution to do so.
No action on this yet, as we remain in dialogue with the diocesan Board of Directors for guidance and approval of a loan request so we can accept the seismic bid from FORMA.
Other Renovation Actions
While we remain in a holding pattern on the main renovation work, we are advancing a few smaller projects that are prerequisite to the renovation. These projects can be done independently using contractors, or where appropriate, volunteer labor. Completion of these projects will help clear the way for the seismic upgrades to begin.
OTHER BUILDING PROJECTS
Parish Hall Cooling
While not part of the Sanctuary renovation, Tim Tayne is contacting vendors for a cost-effective method to provide cooling to the office spaces and Parish Hall, which become unbearably hot for our staff and volunteers during the summer months. Possibilities include adding AC to the existing forced-air heating system, or mounting ductless cooling units on the interior walls of these rooms. While we may not be able to proceed with this work for a while – money’s tight! – we hope to find a way to make these spaces more comfortable for folks to work in.
Solar Panel Array
The Solar Working Group – Tom Loranger, Dennis Cooper, George and Karen Bray, Bill Van Hook, Anne Hall – received one quote from South Sound Solar for a solar panel array on the new Sanctuary roof. The system would cost $103,637 to install, provide a guaranteed 52% energy offset (producing 42,000 kWh of our 80,000- kWh annual consumption), and save $275,000 over 40 years. Further action is on hold pending a new timeline for replacing the roof. More information on this, or other solar proposals received, will be shared in a future report.
BUILDING SECURITY ISSUE
Sexton Dan Kapsner reported a recurring problem with garbage, used syringes, and worse accumulating in the exterior stairwell leading from the handicapped parking area by the Parish Hall doors down to the basement boiler room. This area, which we use for ladder storage, is unlit and out of sight, making it an attractive place for dumping or certain activities that we don’t really want happening on church property.
Our plan is to install a chain link fence gate across the top of this stairwell. While not impregnable, it should make stairwell access difficult enough to serve as an effective deterrent. Estimated cost of materials and labor will not exceed $500, which we’ll fund from somewhere in the budget.
Kudos to Dan for seeing this need and pursuing a cost-effective solution. He also just completed building repairs caused by the failure of the old water heater that serves the kitchen, and installed a new water heater that passed inspection with flying colors. Dan is an absolute blessing to have on staff!
Please let me know if you have any questions about this information. As always, thank you for your patience, support, and sound leadership!
Lou MacMillan, Junior Warden
Wednesday, July 28 2021
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Treasurer’s Report to the Vestry
July 22, 2021
The regular monthly meeting of the Finance Committee was held on July 20th. Joining me were members Andrew Bird, Fawn Hacker, R.C. Laird, and Lou McMillan. Also, Bob LeRoy joined the meeting as a guest. We reviewed our current financial condition and plans to address our operating deficit and generate additional revenue. The Budget Report and Statement of Financial Position for June 2021 accompany this report.
Cash Balance at the Beginning of June
The total cash balance in the checking and savings account at the beginning of June 2021 was $323,823.48 of which only $82,936.19 is in the operating fund.
June’s individual contributions were below budget year-to-date by $3,580.29 (-2.9%), including income from pledges being under budget by -$9,709 (48.6%) and loose plate offerings below budget by -$152.67 (-13.1%). Total income for June was -$9,798 (46.9%) of the budget at $11,085.40. This brings the year-to-date total income to $128,911.34.
June’s expenses were -$14,877.40 below the Budget of $37,853.22 due to various causes. One of the main causes is a billing error with the Church Pension Group which was resolved in July.
Net Other Income
The PPP Round 2 conversion from loan to income posted in June in the amount of $63,367.50.
Cash Balance at the End of June
The total cash balance in the checking and saving accounts at the end of June 2021 was $309,934.08 of which only $38,496.79 is in the operating fund.
Troy L. Atwell, MBA, Treasurer
Wednesday, July 28 2021
Greetings, St. John’s | San Juan Family! Happy Summer!
The Vestry had a great meeting on Thursday, July 22, and others from that meeting will be reporting on what’s happening with the renovation and finances. I cannot add to their reports, other to say that everyone is doing a great job. I do want to report, however, on the happenings with the July Jumble!
We began our work on Monday, July 24, by accepting donations from those who have been waiting for this opportunity to move possessions along for over a year – I’m sure being quarantined spurred folks to go through their “stuff!” Thank You! to everyone who saved and donated items to the Jumble! There were so very many donations – truck after car after van, they just kept coming! Someone commented on Monday that more donations were made on this Monday than were made on any previous Monday of Jumble week. Certainly a preview of what the week was going to be like, and we weren’t disappointed!
Once items were received, we unpacked and sorted through them to decide onto which table these treasures needed to be displayed. There were many tables! As many as the Parish Hall could hold! There were at least five tables filled with only books, more tables with kitchen & dining wares, housewares, toys and games and children’s items, all kinds of craft items, and things for our pets. Finally, we had tables full of items more suitable for men, like sporting goods and car things. Since the Jumble was usually held in June, there was always a table for Father’s Day items, and we continued the tradition albeit too late for Father’s Day 2021.
Our work continued throughout the week as new volunteers came and went depending on when they were available to help. I decided early on that I would just work every day, all day, and so I did. Wow, did I get my steps in every day without even trying! I was tired and sore each evening since I am not used to standing all day, but I was also very invigorated by getting to know other women (mostly) from St. John’s | San Juan, and that feeling of camaraderie while working together just can’t be beat. Looking back, it hardly seemed like work at all, because we felt useful and helpful and enjoyed just being together and focused on a goal!
Adele Roberts (a Vestry member) and Lin Hampton (Busy Bees chair), who jointly directed this Jumble, are the most amazing women! They’re dedication to our community and their willingness to do this, is evidence of their love of St. John’s | San Juan. They had decided that only those items that seemed truly special would be priced, while all other merchandise could be purchased by donation – the buyer would decide what they wanted to pay. The plan worked brilliantly!
Saturday arrived, and the doors officially opened at 9:00 a.m. Except for the first group through the door, there was never a line of folks waiting to get inside. Most who entered were very willing to wear a mask – there were only a handful of folks who chose not to be masked. Buyers were very generous with their donations. We earned over $2,000 in this Jumble and still had an amazing amount of stuff to “get rid of.”
On Sunday, after those who attended church in person “shopped,” the Jumble crew started packing up and organizing for the next place all our “extras” were to go. We only worked for a little while on Sunday, but were back at it again on Monday morning! Adele was in contact with City Gates, an organization that helps people move into a first place after being homeless. They took all the basic home items – dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, glasses, sheets, blankets, pillows, and since St. John’s | San Juan wasn’t doing clothing, anything we received, Adele took for them. The books that remained were packed up and put into a parishioner’s garage to await their final delivery to a used book store in Tacoma that will purchase them! The bulk of the remaining rummage was packed up and delivered to Value Village – we did two van-loads and two SUV-loads. Since it was a Monday, Value Village was hopping! Thank you very much to the men who packed my van (Michael Clifthorne and George Knotts), they certainly knew what they were doing! My “Lady Garnet” was loaded to the gunwales and I could only see out my side mirrors. These guys made sure that when I stopped or started, nothing moved, since everything was packed so tightly!!
As we were packing up, we kept looking for boxes to fill. When everything was finally done and we were gathering together all that remained, there were more boxes. Kathy mentioned that like the story of the loaves and fishes in the feeding of the 5,000, we also had leftovers. The Lord had provided for everything and there were still extra boxes to use!
I even learned something I didn’t know before about the Parish Hall! Did you know that outside the Children’s Library there is an old “dumb waiter” that currently stores card tables? I didn’t know that! I also discovered that the kitchen and the storage room across the hall are full of “stuff” that needs to be evaluated about whether or not they will ever be used again so choices can be made about their fate. So many extra decisions since the arrival of Covid! During the slack times between donations, Adele was trying to organize the kitchen cabinets – a massive undertaking! If anyone has a desire to help clean up the kitchen, please let Adele know.
Today, Tuesday, Adele and Lin are hosting a thank you lunch for everyone who worked at the July Jumble. We will talk and laugh and reminisce about what a wonderful time we all had! Being a community is so important, especially in these crazy times. Thank you to everyone who helped make this July Jumble a success, and especially to Adele and Lin and Mark and Nancy and Mary Jane and Nicki and Dan and Meredith and Kathy and Lucy and Mary and Sandy and Mary and Michael and Terri and Sue and Jenny and Jessica and Sherry and George and many more whose names have fallen out of my brain.
I am so glad to have been able to help with this event and to get to know each of you just a little bit better. Please, if you are in need of anything, let me know. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or by cell phone (360) 259-5933. Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful August!
Wednesday, July 28 2021
It’s been a very full month at St. John’s | San Juan. July saw our 2021 Jumble, which was pushed to July to give us time to organize and prepare for a garage sale in a pandemic. The event was a terrific success, with over $2,000 being raised, to be split between the Busy Bees, a longtime organization of St. John’s which supports education and advocacy for women and girls, and the building fund at St. John’s, as we prepare for the seismic retrofitting that will precede replacing our roof.
The Executive Committee has worked tirelessly this month meeting with folks from the Board of Directors of the Diocese of Olympia (the governing body which oversees the Diocesan Building Fund), and members of the Standing Committee (who are canonically charged with signing off whenever a parish takes out a loan). This is leading toward our application being reviewed first by the Joint Finance Panel (JFP), who make recommendations to the Board of Directors, with whom we will meet on August 19. After that meeting, we’ll know a lot more about the timeline for our project, and what to expect going forward.
One thing we do know at this point is that we will have to move the Möller organ out of the organ loft before the seismic work can begin. The Möller, which was the first organ installed in our church, will have to be removed pipe by pipe, first through the hatch in the Sacristy ceiling, and then once we get to the bigger items, down scaffolding that will have to be erected in the chancel. We haven’t been able to find a taker for the organ (though we’ve offered it to just about everyone we can think of, and free of charge at that), so we’re looking at what other options there are for a new life for it. Möller was prolific; they built over 12,000 instruments in over a century of building. Most of these instruments, like ours, need considerable work to be refurbished every few generations. Even if we gave our organ to another congregation, it would still require more than $50,000 of work to be restored and fully usable again. Sadly, there isn’t any demand for an organ like ours, so we’re looking at creative options for its use going forward.
We were sad to say good-bye to Tieran Sweeny-Bender this month, as he prepares to finish his undergraduate degree in the fall. We sent him back to school with the gift of Accordance, the premier Bible study software suite, so he can focus on his thesis, which will be on the Revelation to John. And we have welcomed Alessandra Portaro as our new administrator, who is quickly learning the ropes and getting settled in, including editing this month’s edition of The Chronicle.
I had hoped that we would be able to start sharing the common cup at Communion again in August, but unfortunately the newest guidelines from the CDC, which were sent out on Tuesday, will likely slow us down in doing so. It’s hard to see how we can both keep our masks on, and also stand right in front of someone to drink from a cup that they hand to us. It is my fondest hope that the transmission rates in Thurston County decline, and we will be able to return to using the common cup again soon.
In the meantime, blessings to you and yours, and I look forward to seeing you at church!
Wednesday, July 28 2021
St. John’s | San Juan Episcopal Church
Stewardship Report for The Chronicle
As the first step in developing a comprehensive program for stewardship and community and financial development for St. John’s | San Juan, the initial meeting of our new Stewardship Committee was held on July 8, 2021. Members of the Committee include Judy Bartels, Caitlin Bird, Sarah Clifthorne, Anne Hall, Bob Le Roy, Pat Le Roy, and Andre Unicume. The Committee discussed and began planning for the following activities:
Bob Le Roy, Stewardship Chair
Tuesday, June 22 2021
This month’s edition of The Chronicle is the final one that our parish administrator Tieran Sweeny-Bender will be editing for us, and we offer our deepest thanks to him for all of his hard work during the last seven months! Tieran joined us in December, working remotely from his home in Seattle since the pandemic forced the closure of the church office. He has truly been an asset to St. John’s | San Juan in the time he’s been with us, and we wish him all the best in his last year of college and whatever the future holds beyond that!
The last month has been a whirlwind for us at St. John’s | San Juan. We completed a successful capital campaign, and have been working through the details on moving forward with our building project. The outrageous spike in the cost of building materials has given us pause (making the bid for the project from our general contractor almost three times as much as the estimate was at the end of last year), and we are regrouping, getting input from the governing bodies of the Diocese, as well as figuring out what is possible with FORMA and our architects at KMB.
At the same time, we are continuing to resume in-person ministries, having resumed the Sunday Eucharist in both English and Spanish both in-person and online, and now having re-opened the Wednesday Eucharist for in-person worship as well (though space is limited, since there’s no ventilation in the Chapel). Once Thurston County moves to Phase 4 of the Healthy Washington plan, we will evaluate the guidance from offices of both the Governor and our Bishop, and make plans for resuming more of our in-person ministries. In the meantime, the in-person ministries we have already resumed will continue, and we look forward to resuming more of them in the near future.
Thank you for your patience as we work through all these details. We definitely have glimpses of what life will be like when the pandemic is fully behind us, and I’m as eager as anyone for us to just be there already. But we have further yet to travel, even as the end is in sight. Thank you for being part of this journey with us, and I look forward to seeing you again soon at church.
Tuesday, June 22 2021
Welcome to the first week of Summer! If the temperatures predicted for this weekend are any indication of how my summer will go, I should be completely melted by July 4!
If you were not in church or did not live stream the service on June 20th, what I say may be new to you. My apologies for repeating what those who were at church or who did stream the service heard. Here’s most of what I said:
I am here to tell you that we have finally received the actual bid for replacing the roof. To say that we were (and continue to be) flabbergasted is totally accurate! You know that feeling when you wait and wait for something, and then you actually find out what it is, you are so stunned that you cannot wrap your mind around what’s happened? Well, that’s what those of us on the Vestry executive team felt on Saturday when Lou shared the actual bid for replacing the roof.
WOW! Please make sure you’re sitting down and take a deep breath before reading on…
The bid is almost double the figure that the Vestry and the Capital Campaign have been using for the past year. We are now looking at $1,825,000 for just Phase I of our renovation (versus the figure of $1.2 million we had been using). The amount covers the roof, the seismic upgrades and basic electrical work. With sales tax, the total exceeds $2 million. Much of the increase is because of supply issues created by the Covid pandemic. Steel, wood and insulation product costs have skyrocketed! For instance, one sheet of ½” plywood now sells for over $80, and you know, there’s a lot of wood in our roof!
Oh, and if that’s not enough, this bid does not include anything for the Phase II renovation of the worship space.
I know this is a lot to grasp. It’s taken Vestry leadership a few days to work through the ramifications of this news through emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings, and finally to brainstorming options. And, at the Vestry meeting on June 17, the Vestry itself came to the same conclusions as the leadership team and supports the next moves.
Holy moly, we need to talk! And I’m here to say that the best place to get totally informed will be at the Congregational Meeting scheduled for this Thursday evening, June 24, at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom. This second meeting, originally planned to talk about our budget and shortfalls therein, has been appropriated by the matter of the roof. Please, your presence at this meeting is vital to understanding the path the Vestry is considering and to be informed on where we hope to go from here. I’m sure others in this Chronicle edition will also be talking about these issues. Registration options are many: through the Realm App; in the recent Messenger newsletters; and also by clicking here.
Your prayers for St. John’s | San Juan, for our Capital Campaign committee, and for guidance for the Vestry are very welcome. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday evening!
Blessings & peace!
Tuesday, June 22 2021
Junior Warden’s Report – June 2021 Chronicle
“The building needs work. You gotta get a new roof, and all sorts of infrastructure. While those things may not sound important to some, they are the house that help
For you, the roof, and all that it represents in terms of the building, can help to make the difference…”
– Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Discernment & Decision
Part I Bid
* The original estimate did not break out electrical separately, it was assumed in the roof estimate.
Why so much higher? How could we have been so far off?
Some context may help here. Material shortages due to the COVID economy, plus pent-up construction demand, have caused prices for building commodities to sky-rocket. Lumber, steel, and rigid insulation are up 300-500%. For example, half- inch plywood now sells for over $80 a sheet at your local big box store.
In addition, wait times for delivery of some materials exceed three months. Ongoing delays and price volatility have contractors passing on any significant (greater than 10%) commodity price increases to the client, meaning prices could go higher even after the bid is accepted and the contract signed.
Obviously, $2M is a staggering sum, almost double the total of our capital campaign pledges. Because it’s well beyond our actual or projected resources, this bid compels us to review and revise our strategy for the renovation.
As the Treasurer’s June report notes, of the $1.1 million received in pledges, $315,000 applies to project costs and fees already incurred. That leaves only $791,000 available to pay either future project expenses or debt service on a loan.
And remember, the Part II remodel we estimated at $600,000 has yet to be fully designed, then priced. KMB’s initial design fee proposal, which as is we cannot accept, tops $200,000. We’re not sure yet what that implies for construction cost.
Yet, it’s conceivable under current market conditions that the total cost of full renovation – Parts I and II combined – could approach $3 million. So, even with our $1.1 million in pledges, plus that much again from a loan, we may still face a daunting funding shortfall.
Options Being Considered
It’s possible market conditions reverse themselves enough over time that prices fall back to more customary and affordable levels. Of course, this is speculation, and whatever reductions happen may not change our predicament substantially.
While waiting does buy us time, not proceeding with any construction this year means forfeiture of our $13,000 building permit, plus additional costs for seismic upgrades that must comply with a stricter building code adopted earlier this year.
And it may oblige us to offer to return capital pledges to donors who want them back. While the right thing to do, returning pledges effectively undoes much of our recent fund raising success. Eventually, we may decide to conduct another capital campaign in a post-pandemic market place and economy that may, or may not, yield much better pricing.
This options offers two immediate benefits:
o Stabilizes the structure against catastrophic damage in an earthquake
By adding $213,000 to the already considerable amount invested to-date on the renovation, this option has potential risk too. If we eventually find
Aside from what each option would do or not do, think of them as tactical retreats to mitigate the risk of current market extremes, and to buy time to seek further guidance and possible help from the diocese.
Aside from diocesan financial support, assuming it has capacity and willingness to supplement our congregation’s sacrificial giving, we may qualify for other grants or loans from national organizations. The National Fund for Sacred Places makes construction grants to eligible houses of worship nationwide, and the Episcopal Church Building Fund offers construction loans nationally. There may be other programs as well. Having the luxury of extra time allows us to discern whether any of these programs offer benefits sufficient to warrant the time and effort of application.
We Need to Hear from You!
Please plan to attend and contribute to the Parish Budget Meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 24, at 7PM on Zoom. The agenda will focus on the renovation bid and finance options. Besides informing you, your input is vital to understanding how to discern the best path forward.