By Ann Lin

Messenger President’s Report for March 2024

The Stewardship Campaign is winding down, so if you have not yet made your financial commitment to Piedmont Community Church, please send your commitment card to the church office.  In the past two years, we have come a long way in increasing enthusiasm for our church’s programs, and have witnessed growth in both the children’s programs, and in worship service attendance in the pews and our online services.  Annual commitments are what enables us to continue sustained growth in our programming.

Here is the President’s report for the Board of Trustees meeting held March 11, 2024:

Finance Committee is working with consultant Julie Sept and Toni to re-organize and simplify financial reporting, setting aside the “in-out” accounts from the true operating line items.  The in-out categories are ones that generate equal expenses to revenues such as the Mexico Mission Trip or the Christmas Concert.  This new presentation of our financials will make it much easier to see the true costs to run our church.

Stewardship reports that as of March 5, we reached $875,000 in commitments and 73% of our Stewardship goal.  There is still time remaining to receive more commitments, but we estimate finishing the campaign closer to $1,000,000 rather than our $1,200,000 goal.  There are fewer commitments this same time last year.  We want to see 100% participation.  It is good news that the average commitment increased 31% to $5,614.  Among people who have joined our church in the last three years, $130,000 is committed with at least ten new giving families that are part of NextGen.  Unfortunately, we lost many givers during the pandemic.  Although we did not ask for transitional, or one-time gifts, we received one transitional gift.  Steve will let people know transitional gifts are welcomed.  Going forward, we want to build a culture of generosity for which we do not set a particular dollar amount or percentage increase expectations but one in which everyone contributes.  We also want to encourage giving how, when, and where it is convenient, whether online, by check, by credit card, one-time or periodic.  To complete our Stewardship Campaign, we will send reminder letters in March to make financial commitments.  There is a cultural shift in our annual Stewardship Campaign.  It is only five weeks now compared to 4-5 months when it would run in the past. Planning for next year’s Stewardship Campaign is already starting with its timing and theme.

Personnel reports the second trimester staff reviews are underway as is staff budgeting for the coming fiscal year.  Staff is working on the Vision 2030 effort to evaluate programming.  Senior minister evaluation by the three boards is starting with surveys due mid-March.  Administrative task needs, particularly around accounting controls as required by auditors, are being reviewed with an eye to seeing how they might be distributed.  This topic will be further discussed at the April Personnel meeting.  All staff-prepared budgets are due March 30 for consideration by the Finance Committee and will be discussed in their April 4 meeting.  The Personnel Manual update is a secondary priority, so work on it will resume when the budget process is complete.

Buildings & Grounds is happy to welcome Paul Schroeder to their committee to serve the rest of Bob Wright’s term, which ends in 2025.  They appreciate his willingness to pitch in.  Buildings & Grounds is working hard to fix and improve things throughout the campus.  They met with a lighting designer at the end of February and hope to have a proposal soon for exterior lighting.  New windows are ordered for the caretaker’s cottage and will be installed in 2-3 months.  A new exterior door for the cottage will be installed in the next few weeks as well.  Emerald Paving will repair and seal the parking area.  A contract is signed for repair of the roof area over the accounting office above Guild Hall. The Sanctuary doors will have exploratory demolition to better understand the damage and work needed.  Upgrades to the Sanctuary sound system are under review by Steve Main and Michael Barber.  Work is required before installing electrical and IT components of the sound system.  Pricing is pending.  Reviewing the options to replace or reglaze the CE Building windows continues.  New use contracts have been drafted for the two preschools.  Negotiations are scheduled for March 25 with Linda Beach Preschool; no date is set for Highlands Preschool.  There is a work day scheduled for volunteers on Saturday May 4 to address various issues around the campus.  Discussions are underway to develop and install a prayer garden in the area along the handicap access from Highland Avenue at the Chapel entry.  This will be a Girl Scout Gold Project, similar to a Boy Scout Eagle Project.

Deacons reports they are brainstorming ways to make Communion go smoother, including reducing the number of stations down to three.  All Deacons will participate in Planning Center training in the Services module aimed at manning and coordinating both Sunday worship and special services.  The next New Member class will be conducted after Easter.  Approaches on helping with grief or suffering is under discussion by a small group of Deacons.  A new grief group open to anyone who has experienced a death of a loved one will be led bi-weekly by Alison Fletcher and starts in March.  There is a goal to plan by summer and implement by next winter a grief/care/visitation squad and to expand visitation to shut-ins.  The Game Night Fellowship event was so popular another one is planned for April.  Church dinners are planned for Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday.  The decision to hold Father’s Day and a Pizza Night in 2024 will be made at our next meeting.  Four church dinner events are planned for the 2024-25 fiscal year and expenses will be requested as part of the Deacons budget:  Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, October Fest, and Christmas.  Ann Lister will plan, shop for, and supervise meal preparation for those meals.  Life Groups restarted in February.  With the Mission Board, Deacons will plan a City Team graduation event that could be held on September 14.  Sign ups to fill Easter Baskets for Harbor House children sign ups started February 11 and the baskets will be put together with volunteers after the March 17 worship service.

Mission Board reports monthly service events are confirmed or proposed through July:  Harbor House Easter Baskets with Deacons, Project Peace Turning Point House, PIPH Treasures Sale, Alameda County Food Bank, and Harbor House summer camp lunches.  It is proposed to have a Treasures Sale after Easter with Primera Iglesia Prebyterian Hispana (PIPH).  Piedmont Church will solicit item donations and the sale event manpower and location will be provided by PIPH.  George Mark House and Grateful Gatherings have applied for Better World Fund grants.  These applications are being reviewed and recommendations are pending.  The Mission Board will now oversee the Refugee Task Force (RTF), which previously did not align to any Piedmont Church board.  This will be similar to the relationship Altar Guild has to Deacons.  The RTF is evolving and rethinking how we can continue to help refugees because the U.S. Resettlement Partners Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Service who directly receive refugees, and assigned families to our RTF, no longer settle families in Oakland due to high housing costs.  Scott Willis remains leader of the RTF and will engage the congregation in a workshop to help redefine how we can continue to support refugees.  We have learned a lot on how to help refugees to succeed in the Bay Area and hope to leverage that knowledge to aid refugees and legal immigrants that are already in the Bay Area and known to any of our Mission Partners.

NextGen reported February was a full month despite families being away for the schools’ Ski Week.  Valentine’s Day parties with crafts and goodies were held for Piedmont Church Kids (44), MS (6), and HS (10).  The Student Leadership Team is helping to plan monthly events they believe their peers will attend with the hope that they will attend our regular NextGen programming.  There is an upcoming Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt on March 23 to bring attention to our Easter Services.  There will be three egg hunts broken out by age groups up to MS.  Beginning March 10, we are asking for candy donations to be made for the hunts with the plan to stuff 2000 plastic eggs with goodies.  For the HS group, a virtual event at Sandbox VR in Emeryville is scheduled for March 15.  To date,there are 11 kids registered for our first Kid’s Summer Camp.  Two new families, totaling five children, have registered – and our Snow Day event open to the community was their introduction to Piedmont Church.  Toward increasing community engagement, Mariana and Kerry held two Deacon training sessions on the Services module of Planning Center.  This will help Deacons organize volunteers.  Mariana and Kerry have also created a library of videos and documents on using Planning Center.  Text messaging software Clearstream is now integrated into our Planning Center account to enable us to text the entire church congregation, specific lists, or individuals.  Texts, images, and even videos can be sent via Clearstream.

Student Ministries – Scott reported MS and HS attendance was down for the month due to Ski Week school vacation.  The Escape Room event was well attended and enjoyed.  The monthly activity for MS is a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt March 24 and HS will have a virtual reality experience on March 15.  The HS Leadership Team continues to meet and is being asked to step up their engagement and invite other students to attend NextGen activities.  The MS and HS parents’ Fellowship  dinners had a hiatus in February but will be meeting in March.  The MS students and several HS Mexico teams collected items and assembled over 300 hygiene packs for CityTeam to distribute.  The remaining Mexico teams will hold local community service projects this month for teambuilding.  Two adult leaders dropped out of the Mexico Mission Trip for reasons of personal safety, however two replacements have stepped up.  A total of 198 student and adult attendees who will go on the Mexico Mission Trip.