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Sometimes we scale back to live within our means.

It is not easy but it is necessary. 2017 will be different than 2016.

In 2016 we budgeted for and drew from $120,000 in undesignated memorial gifts and endowments. It got us through the year but we've decided not to continue along this path. In 2017 we will only draw $37,000 from the Morris bequest. Our goal is that in 2018, we will be able to balance the budget without a dependency on endowments.

What this means is that we are needing to scale back on our budget. Instead of continuing like nothing has changed, I want to inform the congregation about what these cuts will entail so we're all on the same page. Again, it's not easy, but given the pledges made and gifts we anticipate, this is what it will mean to faithfully live within our means as a congregation.

The Mission Committee met to decide how to manage their portion of the budget for 2017. The budget in 2016 was $42,000. For 2017 the budget will be $21,000. Their review and discussion regrettably resulted in seven of our Mission Partners receiving no support in 2017, three (Habitat, General Assembly, and Presbytery) being cut in half, and 17 others being cut 10 - 30%. All Mission Partners would be advised of the gifts they will receive for 2017. All Mission Teams will be asked to not request funds from the Congregation for projects and supplies. If funds are offered they will be accepted. It will be appropriate for projects to request food, clothing, and supplies for children. But the congregation will be asked to give primarily toward the Unified Budget supporting all the ministries of the church.

Personnel has had to reduce salary of every member of staff and eliminate some of our staffing positions.

Property Committee has put seven necessary projects on hold.

All other Session committees were asked to reduce their budget by 20% or more.

I have no doubt that God is good, that Christ remains the Head of the Church, and the Holy Spirit continues to mobilize the church for witness in the world. These are solid truths that keep us moving forward in joy and devotion.

I also have no doubt that we will grow stronger this year as a congregation. Sometimes when you simplify, you get back to the basics and re-group. You get focused and a bit more present for the challenge at hand. You stop waiting for a distant day or hoping someone else will rise to the occasion.

I believe we will become more bold and forthright as a congregation this year. Things need to change and I think we are ready for it.

We need healthier patterns of giving from members and friends of John Knox. Some are doing all they can and that's enough. Others need to start addressing their debt so that there's more margin in their world for generosity. Others will take a wise step and sign up for one of our Financial Peace classes. For others, this may be your first time to experience the joy of giving and the impact your gifts can make.

We need more people stepping forward to form groups for Bible study, service, music and the arts, support. We grow more when we share life together.

You see what's happening. Just when we start to scale back, we also begin opening up to what the Spirit has in store for our church in this time and place.

"Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer" (Romans 12:11-12).

Within our means and always in the vast care of God's steadfast love,

Tom