May 26, 2015

Dear Members of Grace,

I am excited to announce that the Call Committee has submitted its recommendation for a new Senior Pastor for Grace. Consequently, the Church Council has called a special meeting of the congregation for June 14 (immediately following the late service) to consider the recommendation. More information about the special meeting and an update on the call process are included later in this letter. First, I am providing information for our regular congregational meeting, which is scheduled for June 7.

Regular Congregational Meeting on June 7:
A regular meeting of the congregation will be held on June 7 following the 11 o’clock service. Nursery care and a light lunch will be provided. According to the church bylaws, the proposed budget will be considered at the regular meeting of the congregation in June. The agenda for the June 7 meeting is here.

Budget for 2015-2016:
As required by the bylaws, we will review and approve the proposed budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. This budget, which reflects and represents Grace’s ministry plan, is the result of careful consideration by the Budget Committee and was unanimously approved by the Church Council. A summary of the budget can be found here. You may obtain a copy of the detailed proposed budget from Karen Christopher, Church Administrative Assistant (708-366-6900, ext. 207; kchristopher@graceriverforest.org).

The proposed budget includes revenue and expenses of $3,330,592. This is very close to the revenue received in 2012-13 and slightly higher than the revenue received in 2013-14. The budgeted expenses are lower than 2012-13 and 2013-14 and slightly higher than the expenses projected for the current fiscal year (2014-15). In short, the budget reflects consistency and stability over the last few years.

The budget includes approved step increases for teaching staff and a modest salary increase for the remaining staff. I want to highlight two new features of this budget: (a) the “Operating Offerings” line of this budget was not the final amount plugged in at the end just to complete a balanced budget; this amount was based on a thorough analysis of trends, pledges, and giving history and represents the likely amount of actual contributions; and (b) the budget includes a withdrawal from the general endowment fund of up to $46,690, if needed. The Church Council unanimously approved this potential withdrawal, which is akin to a withdrawal from a savings account in order to meet certain contingency expenses during this year of pastoral transitions, some of which will be one-time expenses.

Legacy of Grace Proposal:
The Legacy of Grace Endowment Committee has proposed two significant changes to the Legacy of Grace Endowment fund of Grace. After much discussion, the Council unanimously approved these changes and will submit them to the congregation for consideration and approval on June 7. A full copy of the proposed revisions to the guidelines is here, with the following two changes underlined.

First, the proposal recommends that undesignated bequests to Grace not be automatically directed to the Legacy of Grace Endowment Fund. This fund has a current balance of almost $2.4 million, which provides nearly $100,000 in annual distributions. We have not spent all the annual distributions in recent years. The Legacy Committee and the Council believe that the current balance will continue to provide substantial annual distributions to further the original purposes designated by the Endowment: educational excellence, new ministries, congregational growth, and music ministry. Under the proposal, the use of undesignated bequests will be determined by the Church Council, either on a case by case basis or pursuant to a policy that the Church Council adopts.

Second, the Legacy Committee and the Council propose greater transparency regarding the number of years that this fund will support new staff positions and new ministries. The maximum number of years that a new staff position or new ministry would be funded will be established at the time the funding is approved. This would be communicated to all interested parties to ensure that no reliance is placed on the staff position or ministry program continuing beyond such time.

Special Congregational Meeting on June 14:
A special meeting of the congregation will be held on June 14 in the sanctuary immediately following the 11 o’clock service. Nursery care will be provided. This special meeting is for the sole purpose of considering the recommendation to call a new Senior Pastor. An agenda for the meeting is here.

On Saturday June 13 at 7:00 pm, there will be a special evening vespers service at Grace, during which the pastor recommended for the call will lead us in worship and preach the homily. After the service there will be a reception and an opportunity to meet the pastor and his family.

Because the pastor is currently serving a congregation, it is important for us not to publicize the pastor’s name at this time. I am sure you are eager to learn more about the pastor. Please be assured that the Call Committee will provide detailed information about the pastor on or shortly before June 13. He was recommended highly by the pastor at the church that he served in Wisconsin and by many that we have spoken with. He was one of the first pastors to submit an application to Grace in January. The Call Committee and the Church Council both unanimously support this call. I strongly believe that the Spirit has led this pastor to Grace, and that he will be instrumental in helping us to bring in, build up, and send out disciples for Jesus Christ in the years to come.

The Call Committee has conducted a thorough and Spirit-filled process, holding many interviews over Skype and recently, three separate all-day, in-person visits with three candidates at the church. In the course of these all-day interviews, each candidate met with members of the Call Committee, the Council, and the Board of Elders, selected staff members, and a number of youth. I sincerely appreciate the hard work of the Call Committee, including Dick Martens, chair, along with Amy Claud, Andy Massmann, Ellie Anderson, Jill Baumgaertner, Marcus Johnson, Paulette Reddel, and Reggie Moore, in arriving at this recommendation, and I greatly enjoyed my participation with the Committee.

I look forward to both our meetings on June 7 and June 14, and I hope to see you there.

In Christ,
Jeff Wood
President