By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
PROVIDENCE - Nearly 150 representatives from 23 churches across the Rhode Island Conference turned out for the 211th Autumnal Meeting on Nov. 4, where they heard from a Lancaster Theological School professor, experienced worship and communion in the stunning neo-Renaissance sanctuary of Central Congregational Church, networked with colleagues from other churches and organizations and heard reports on Conference ministry.
And although there was much joy in being together and reasons to celebrate (see article on disaster relief), there was also the sobering reality of the budgetary issues that the Conference faces. To balance the Conference's nearly $500,000 budget, the Board of Directors proposed a $54,000 draw from the Conference's endowment. This was down from last year's budgeted draw of $74,000, due to some budget cuts, including a $2,000 cut in support to Hispanic ministries. (Download the meeting packet for the complete budget.)
"We've been living somewhat beyond our means," said George Peters, immediate past president of the Conference, who presented the budget. Peters said several churches have reduced their contributions to Our Church's Wider Mission Basic Support significantly, which has meant the Conference must try to do more with less.
George Weavill, the Conference's Business Manager, made a motion that the delegates ask the Board of Directors to study whether the Conference should reduce the percentage, currently 35%, of OCWM that is passed on to the national setting.
"To get up and say this pains me very much," Weavill said. "I know the national setting is suffering. But we are the only Conference of our size that sends that amount of money to the national."
That motion passed, and the Board will look at the issue. The Board is also investigating whether money can be saved by moving the Conference office out of its current rental space in Pawtucket to a church setting.
Videos of the keynote address and sermon by Dr. Lee Barrett, of the Lancaster Theological Seminary. will be posted at a later time.
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