The total objective for the fundraising project has always been for $3 million. Along the way, smaller objectives within the total objective have been expressed in an attempt to help break the project down into manageable “chunks.”
Throughout most of 2012 and 2013, the major focus was on requesting gifts from individual members of Conference towards a goal of a “first million,” while at the same time soliciting a “second million” of matching gifts from external givers and those within our region with a history of large gifts. While we celebrate the response of just under $500,000, it is, unfortunately, not proving to be a significant enough response to attract matching gifts. Another approach is needed.
Maritime Conference (and our Presbyterian and Methodist predecessors) has had persistent support for maintaining, preserving and telling the story of the church in the region. A more detailed summary can be found on the Conference website at: https://ucceast.ca/254-building-project-summary/
The Conference Centre includes offices for Conference staff, meeting rooms for Conference programs and rental use, holding space for the Audio Visual Educational Library along with Archives. So while a significant portion of the project relates to Archives, it’s not all Archives.
General Council does have an Archive, and does contract with the 5 Ontario Conferences to keep their records. BC Conference, The Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, and Montreal and Ottawa Conference also maintain separate Archives.
The General Council Archive is not large enough to accept all of the holdings for the entire United Church. The Archive is in the process of changing location from the General Council Offices on Bloor Street to another facility established in partnership with Toronto Christian Resource Centre in Regent Park. While this new location will be slightly larger than the former location, General Council is anticipating the need to rent archives space from Maritime Conference to handle their “overflow.”
Digitization of archival records is an ongoing part of the work of Sarah Wallace, Conference Archivist, and are an excellent means of communicating and sharing archival information. Selections of this work are available on the Conference website at: https://ucceast.ca/out-stories/ However, digitization is not a replacement for Archival holdings. Archival societies and specialists continue to insist that hardcopy records offer the best longevity. Digitization is also expensive in terms of time and technology in the initial digitization as well as the ongoing costs of maintaining and upgrading technology.
Another way to look at it is this – humankind has thousands of years of experience in preserving and restoring paper records (Jeremiah 32:14) while anyone with data stored on a 5.25 inch floppy disk from 20 years ago may no longer be able to access it due to changes in technology.
A substantial review of Conference expenditures occurred during the last budget cycle. Committees substantially reduced their budget requests, a part time staff position was eliminated, the cost of holding the Conference Annual Meeting was reduced. Paid rental use of the Conference meeting room has increased to the point where the bookings calendar is almost full. There are presently two paid users of Archival storage space and there are others interested. Revenue generating program offerings are increasing. Unfortunately, at the same time, the operating grant that comes to Conference from General Council has been reduced. Efforts continue to look for efficiencies and savings. Several Conference Committees continue to look at significantly re-working their purpose and structure.
Two years ago, the fundraising effort was to try to pay the debt off in 5 years. Thus the effort remains to raise the remaining funds in the remaining 3 years. The timeline is a recommendation of the fundraising team and modifications to the timeline can be made, if necessary. The effort continues to focus on paying off the mortgage as quickly as possible, thus minimizing the amount needing to be paid out over time for interest.
It is important to remember that we are the United Church together. “Conference” may seem like a face-less, distant authority, but it is composed of elected lay people and the ministers from every congregation in the region. The decisions of “Conference” are decisions made by ordinary folk with deep roots in every congregation of the church.
The decision to proceed with the construction project was made consistent with previous priorities and actions of Conference. The decision to proceed with the $3 million fundraising project was made following a feasibility study that showed that there was sufficient support for the idea to anticipate success. It is on this basis that the fundraising project proceeds to continue to invite generous responses from individuals, groups and congregations.
In this present environment it may be challenging to remind ourselves that we are actually quite resource-full, and that the funds actually do exist among us to pay off this debt quickly. Certain individuals and certain congregations may not be at all wealthy; however, together we have access to significant funds.
If the fundraising effort does not accomplish the goal, then the longer term ongoing mortgage payments will simply become part of the Conference’s ongoing operating expenses. Conference does have the responsibility, mandate and authority to assign a portion of these expenses to each Presbytery (Manual 420.1). These are called assessments or allocations. Presbytery in turn has the responsibility, mandate and authority to assign a portion of their assessment to each Pastoral Charge (Manual 328).
In the present moment, congregations have been invited to generously contribute to the fundraising project and to indicate their intentions in time for the fall 2013 meeting of the Conference Executive. The Executive has been instructed to review the situation at that time and, if necessary, increase allocations for 2014. The focus remains on a successful fundraising effort and any plans for what an allocation increase would look like will need to wait until later in the fall when more concrete numbers are available. HOWEVER, if it is determined that allocations will need to increase, it is reasonable to expect that the Conference Executive would take into consideration any commitments that congregations have already made.
Please send additional questions to Maritime Conference at firstname.lastname@example.org.