By Gisele McKnight
A larger variety of topics delivered in short time spans was the format for the newly revamped Parish Officers Day, formerly known as Wardens & Treasurers Day.
It was held May 6 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Fredericton. Despite the rainy weather, about 85 people attended from all over the diocese.
After Morning Prayer, Cheryl Jacobs gave an overview of the DIMS tool that keeps track of people and groups in the diocese.
“DIMS is an address book,” she said. “It helps us keep track of groups. We use it for statistics and financial reports too.”
Chancellor David Bell gave an interesting talk on the legalities of donations, bequeaths and fundraising.
When money is donated with no strings attached, “it doesn’t mean the parish corporation can do absolutely anything with the money,” he said. “The parish corporation is responsible to spend it for lawfully charitable purposes — the advancement of religion.”
When money is donated or bequeathed for a specific purpose, it must be spent for that purpose. The only way to change that is to go to court and have a judge decide.
Even so, the judge will keep the spirit of the original bequest in mind. For example, a judge might decide that money left for a Sunday School than now doesn’t exist could be repurposed for youth projects.
Parishes have a duty to invest money prudently and there are legal implications if a parish corporation violates the terms of a trust, a trust being money donated or bequeathed with strings attached.
When money is solicited for a specific purpose — for example, a mission trip — it must be spent on that trip, he said.
“It means you have to be careful when you solicit funds,” he said. “It’s best to build a certain flexibility into the solicitation.”
For example, organizers could devise a donor policy, making clear that if fundraising for the trip exceeds the need, the excess will be used for other mission projects.
Treasurer Irene Adams followed up the chancellor with information on restricted funds and donor policies.
She reiterated the chancellor’s advice about having a donor policy visible on fundraising materials to address the spending of any extra money raised beyond the need. She advised putting a donor policy in annual reports, on signs in the church, in meeting minutes, and on posters and pamphlets for any special fundraising events.
Irene also discussed the rules for writing charitable receipts.
“Donations can only be used by the charity,” she said, adding that contributions given for the benefit of a specific individual generally do not give rise to the issuance of a taxable donation receipt.
The rental of a hall is not tax-receiptable, she said, because the renter gets something of commercial value in return.
Many parishes have raised money for Syrian refugees, she said, adding it’s a good idea to remove the word “Syrian” since that limits who the money can go to. A “parish refugee funding program” is a better way to describe such efforts.
The Rev. Canon Ross Hebb spoke on creating a church history, suggesting the W5 questions — who, what, where, when and why — are a good guide in deciding the scope of any history a parish produces.
“Think beforehand what the project might be about. Who would you be creating a parish history for? What will it be about?” he said.
He noted that parishes aren’t restricted to writing a traditional book.
“Written is not the only way you can do a church history,” he said, adding it could be a blog on a parish website or a video interview with parishioners and others telling the story of the parish.
He also gave several good sources to search for material that may be beneficial to those interested in a project.
Safe Church officer Allan MacLean gave a quick overview of Safe Church and answered questions.
“Safe Church is about protecting those who cannot protect themselves and implementing acceptable standards,” he said.
Joanna Aiton Kerr gave a talk on parish record archiving. She works at the Public Archives of New Brunswick and is responsible for all non-governmental records, including the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, noting “the Anglican church records are an enormous collection.”
Much of the records are still in paper form, she said, though her dream is to digitize parish registers with the help of volunteers.
She gave a handy list of what parishes should send to the archives: vestry minutes; legal documents; property records; parish registers; architectural plans; photographs with identification of who, what, where, when, why; and programs from special services.
Irene presented helpful information on insurance and the importance of valuations — the appraisal of parish buildings and their contents.
“Valuations put a dollar value on your buildings,” she said. “Valuations identify gaps between coverage and value.”
The diocesan insurance company conducts them as part of the insurance package, she said.
Camp Medley director Maren McLean Persaud discussed parish sponsorship of campers and the camping ministry. She told several stories of camp’s impact on young people and how it has shaped and improved their lives, from helping them excel and gain confidence to completely turning their lives around.
“Camp is a ministry central to who the church claims to be,” she said. “I challenge you to find any place else where parents trust us with their children for six straight days to tell them about Jesus.”
She said while other camps have new attention-grabbing features like ziplines, diocesan camps focus on relationships.
She outlined online discount codes for parishes to use when registering campers they are sponsoring.
“And if parishes have money but no children to attach it to, I will match that money up with campers!”
Maren asked for help with the gap that comes when the season is over.
“At the end of the summer, our staff scatters,” she said. “We need to nurture our staff year-round. I have tons of ideas, simple ways parishes can get involved.”
She noted this year at Camp Brookwood, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, Inner City Youth Ministry in Saint John will send two groups of kids over two weeks, thereby doubling the number that will enjoy a week away from the city.
Camp Brookwood relies heavily on individual donations and the surrounding parishes to sponsor children. Last year, 70 of 121 campers were sponsored.
Maren reminded everyone of the fundraising kitchen party at Camp Medley planned for June 10. And finally, she taught all present a camp song to take home called God is Holding Your Life.
Irene ended the day with a thank you and a reminder that this year, Stewardship Day will be early — on Sept. 9 — with the theme Sharing In Mission.
“There is a connection between our resources and the delivery of outreach missions,” she said.
Feedback from evaluation forms indicates that the new format was valuable and welcome. In particular, people noted the usefulness of presentations on trusts, funds, insurance and charitable donations.