Parsonage Meeting

Sent to members on February 26, 2016

Dear Members of University United Methodist Church,

You are invited to a congregational presentation and discussion on Sunday, March 13, after worship. This meeting will explore the role of owning a church parsonage within the context of University UMC’s Mission/Vision statement.

This forum is open to all members. Time will be provided for dialogue concerning the financial, mission, and vision implications for our congregation concerning owning a parsonage versus providing a housing allowance for the pastor. We, the trustees, will answer questions and provide more details as requested. There will be no action, vote, or official proposal at this meeting.

The Trustees will facilitate this discussion. The Administrative Team, which includes the trustees, recommends that the congregation engage in an open process throughout our discernment. The rest of this letter provides background information to help you prepare for the presentation and open discussion.

As you most likely know, United Methodist churches are obligated to provide housing for their pastor by owning a parsonage or providing a housing allowance. Throughout University United Methodist Church’s history we have owned and provided a parsonage for our pastor.  This includes payment of all parsonage utilities, maintenance, and repairs.

The question we propose, which will be explored at the congregational meeting, is: “Within our community of faith, with our best visioning, should we provide a parsonage or a housing allowance for our pastor?”

1)    First, let us review the Mission, Vision and Values statements we, UUMC, adopted, after careful consideration, a few years ago .

Our Mission: We are an inviting Christian community that nurtures ever-stronger relationships with God, one another and our global family through passionate worship, loving fellowship, purposeful spiritual growth and willing service.

Our Vision: We will grow as a church where people of all cultures, all nations, and all ages can come together to love and serve God and neighbor.

Our Values: Love all people and honor the image of God in every person. Create community that mirrors Christ’s ministry. Listen, learn and worship with an open spirit. Work for justice and practice peace in this community, throughout the world, and for all creation. Give generously of ourselves.

What do you see as the role the parsonage has played, does play, and may play in the future in helping us accomplish Christ’s calling in the world?

2)    Second, here is a review of the resources of time, talents, gifts and money needed to maintain the residence at 7928 Teasdale Avenue.

A.    Time:  A recent professional home inspection of the property cited numerous concerns.  Over 200 volunteer hours have been spent working at the parsonage in December and January to correct electrical, wall, plumbing, painting and other indoor deficiencies.  The citings for outdoor work will be addressed when the weather gets warmer.  In 2014 there was a two week blitz to patch, paint, remove carpeting, etc., before a new pastor moved into the parsonage.

B.    Talent:  The number of members with construction and maintenance skills, and the time to contribute has diminished.  For example, in past years the youth Appalachia Service Project (ASP) mission team has dug a drainage ditch, installed a landscaping wall, and dug for electric extension for yard lights. 

C.    Financial resources: In the early 1990s when an attractive offer for buying the parsonage was received, an anonymous donor gave $75,000 to ensure we kept the present parsonage.  Extensive remodeling and updating were done but the work did not require the entire gift, so it became a fund for repairs.  The fund was exhausted in 2013, so an item needed to be added in the annual budget for parsonage repairs. This budgeted amount is a modest $1500.  Currently, we have a bid for some necessary outdoor electrical repairs for $1800. 

There is a Trustees Emergency Fund, which is presently built by depositing one-half of building usage income, excluding the preschool’s contribution. This deposit is usually $4,000-$5,000 annually.  When the heating and air conditioning units at the parsonage had to be replaced in 2013 and there was a major plumbing repair, an $11,000 payment was authorized from this Fund.  In 2016 we have encountered roof and bell tower problems at the church for which the Administrative Team has authorized payments totaling $10,928 from this Fund.  The remaining balance in the Emergency Fund will be $29,248.

D.    Projection of future major financial needs: The roof of the parsonage is about twenty years old and nearing the end of its life.  A bid for a new roof is $9,599.  If removal of one or two diseased trees is required, the projected cost is $2000-$3000.  The kitchen cabinets and flooring at the parsonage need updating, no cost projection.  The water heater is beyond its projected life.  Unless members step up with the time and talent to do the smaller repairs, these repairs, too, will have to be contracted out.

3)    Third, let us review of implications of owning a parsonage vs. transitioning to a housing allowance.

A.    Present annual cost of owning a parsonage:  Utilities--$6000 per year, repairs--$1500 in budget, insurance--$800 per year, subdivision assessment--$200.  Total $8500, plus emergency repairs.

B.    Projections of financial possibilities of selling the parsonage:  The houses next door to the parsonage have both sold in the past two years for over $500,000, but they have updated kitchens.  Selling expenses would include a broker’s fee of 5%-7% and probably the cost of a new roof. 

Additional costs are to be expected but unknown until determined by inspection requirements.  All proceeds from the sale of the parsonage must be deposited in accordance with United Methodist Church requirements with income being available for the pastor’s housing allowance.  For example, a conservative estimate of $400,000 from the sale of the parsonage at 3% annual interest would provide $12,000 annually toward a housing allowance.

C.    Projection of housing allowance: Following guidelines of the Methodist Church, surveys of neighboring churches, and surveying local rental costs, a projected allowance of $18,000 - $20,000 per year seems reasonable for rent and utilities.  No amount has been presented to or approved by the District Superintendent and appropriate committee.

D.    Cost comparison: Realizing $12,000 yearly interest on proceeds from sale of parsonage plus the $8500 presently in the budget for maintenance of the parsonage could cover a $20,500 housing allowance and eliminate the need for increasing the budget for parsonage repairs and/or using the Trustee’s Emergency Fund for large unspecified repairs.

E.     Other concerns:  How and when could a transition be made without undue stress on the pastor and family?  How could we protect ourselves from owning a residence and paying a housing allowance?

Please reflect on these questions and the information in this letter. We invite and encourage you to become a part of the congregational dialogue as we work and pray together for a common understanding. If you have questions and/or input and are unable to attend the March 13th presentation and discussion, please contact one of the trustees listed below.

Thank you,

Brad Hershey, hersheystl@sbcglobal.net, or 314-324-1173

Alice Mohr, amohr123@sbcglobal.net, or 314-567-3398

Ann Wymore, richwymore@hotmail.com, or 314-535-2151.