LETTER FROM THE CATHEDRAL VESTRY
Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint John to close in Wilmington, Delaware
September 25, 2011
For several years the Cathedral has been having difficulty meeting the expenses of our beautiful buildings. Declining membership and an inability to attract new members and pledges in sufficient numbers has added to the financial uncertainty.
The Cathedral has been on the verge of closing several times over the last five years as it has used up its reserves. During that period, several committees and working groups from the Cathedral and Diocese have looked at options and ideas for bringing in additional funds. The Cathedral has also reduced expenses dramatically in an effort to balance its budget.
Last year a proposal was presented to the Bishop and Council requesting assistance for the next five years to give the Cathedral additional time to resolve its membership and financial issues. In June, Bishop Wayne Wright reported to leaders of the Cathedral, Cathedral Community Services, and Cathedral Choir School (CCS) that the Diocese had turned down the request and would not provide any funds because, in order to do so, it would have to cease funding other programs already in place within the Diocese. The Bishop offered to be in dialogue with us and asked for a response to his letter, which was shared with the congregation in June.
The Cathedral Choir School and Cathedral Community Services have been an integral part of the proposal and discussions about ways to share in the expenses of the Cathedral and their respective programs. While CCS may be able to contribute some funds going forward, the Choir School does not have sufficient funds to contribute toward expenses of the building.
The Vestry and leaders of CCS and the Choir School have met numerous times since receiving the Bishop's letter and, in August, the Bishop requested a meeting to determine the status of the Cathedral's next steps.
After discussion with the Bishop and a close examination of the resources for the Cathedral — pledges, reserves, CCS contribution — on September 20, 2011 the Vestry recommended that the Cathedral close its operation at the end of the Brandywine Village Day Camp session in July 2012. The Choir School board will be actively seeking a new location for continuation of its vital program of music training, mentoring and support for young people.
There will be a fall stewardship campaign where we will be asking each of you to pledge your support during the coming months. Our theme for this year's campaign will be Gratitude — gratitude that we've had several more years than anticipated, gratitude for our mission to young people, gratitude for the opportunity to have another year with one another.
While the Vestry has taken a close look at finances for the next several months, it is possible there will still be a gap between income and expenses. The Market Street building, which is owned by the Cathedral Community Services, is for sale and, if sold, some of the proceeds could potentially be used to assist with Cathedral expenses. Because the CCS is a separate nonprofit entity, it can continue to operate Di's Day Care, the Market Street building and the parking lot beyond July 2012.
The Bishop has indicated the Diocese will assist during the gap period to assure our continuation through the end of next summer's day camp program. There are numerous procedures to be followed as we prepare to close down the operations of the Cathedral. The Bishop will appoint a Diocesan trustee to oversee the closing steps and will also appoint a curator to assist with disposition of liturgical items, art and other tangible property.
The Garden of Praise can possibly be kept where it is, while allowing access for a period of time, even if the Cathedral property is sold. In the alternative, the entire Garden could be moved to a new location. Delaware law will provide direction as to the way that move would be handled.
We are grateful that we have the opportunity to be together for another program year, and we urge all parishioners to continue to be active members, to attend church and activities regularly, and to maintain pledges at current levels. Our mission to the Choir School children and to the community will continue to be paramount. Our role will be to support each other during the closing procedures, to support Dean Lane who has provided stability, wisdom and encouragement for the last five years — and who has graciously agreed to continue as our pastor through next summer — and to assist the Diocesan representatives in the closing procedures.
The closing of the Cathedral after so many years of service to its members, to young people and to the community will undoubtedly create many questions from community leaders and the media. We urge you to refer questions about the closing to Bishop Wright or to Tom Angell, senior warden. If you have questions about the process going forward or how you can be helpful, please feel free to contact a member of the Vestry. We expect to provide periodic updates for the congregation as we move forward.
We have fought long and hard and have done everything possible to continue our worshipping congregation here at St. John's, but reality says it is time to close. As sad as that is, we do still have time together and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, let's make the most of it. As Dean Lane said in the CALL, let us live as thankful people and stay engaged on the journey ahead.