The Friends of St. Peter's is a growing group of resolute individuals who care and believe in the future of our church. We are proud to be part of the effort to save St. Peter’s. We are not exclusive to our church or the congregation membership. We welcome all like-minded people to join with us in the project of ensuring the secure future of St. Peter's, located at 817 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto.
We believe that with a proper Management Plan and committed leadership, St. Peter’s can be a part of our lives and the lives of future generations for years to come. We believe that St. Peter’s facilities can once again become an accessible hub for both Estonian and local community activities in Toronto.
We are confident that the St. Peter’s community, once given an opportunity to assess all the issues, will show that it shares this vision of St. Peter’s future and will participate in it actively.
Let us begin the transformation process together. We will use your input to help define our vision and our objective.
Open letter to the Congregational Council of St. Peter’s Church
Re: Letter dated March 10, 2023, “Invitation to a Special Meeting” of St. Peter’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Our most active members and supporters are seniors. In today’s news, seniors were again cautioned to be aware of people who want to take advantage of them. The standard practice is to develop in you an apprehension that something bad will happen to you if you do not immediately react and transfer your money to their account.
“If you do not pay these taxes owed to the CRA immediately the police will be at your door and take you off to jail”. The pattern is the same… Extreme urgency, you need to react immediately, no time to consult with anybody, do it right away or bad things will happen to you.
We assume that the leaders of a Christian congregation, which you are, would never do this to their members. And yet here we are…
You have pre-emptively called a special meeting to seek approval to sell our church without full disclosure in advance, nor given the congregation the opportunity to understand the rationale and examine the financial implications.
You have said “your vote is required. If this is not achieved the property cannot be sold and we will become insolvent in the near future”. You know that this is not true. We established that with our business plan presentation in November of 2022. The positive picture we presented is further enhanced by the extension of the Salvation Army lease till February 2024.
Your assumptions regarding the closing of the columbarium are presumptive and premature. The general public and the interment rights holders have 45 days from February 25 to raise their objections with the registrar. To date your process has been deficient. You have not communicated with all the interment rights holders, as you are required to do by law.
Why have you not been forthright with the closure application? You know that the application requires you to detail your rationale. Why have you not shared this with the congregation? Why are you seeking the closure? What alternatives to the closure were considered? What would happen if the closure application is unsuccessful? What impact is there on the community if the columbarium is closed? Does the columbarium have historical and cultural significance? How will the negative impacts on the community be managed?
In your letter for the special meeting you have made it clear that the closing of the columbarium is a prerequisite to selling the church as a development property. You have not acknowledged that the petition to “save St. Peter’s Church” has close to 1500 signatures. Nor have you acknowledged the architectural merits of the church and how it is a community resource.
Your letter to the interment rights holder is deceptive. You state that “the congregation voted to sell the church property on September 2020”. For the special meeting, however, you state “in Sept. 2020 the congregation voted to seek purchasers of our property”. There is a big difference between testing the market and an agreement to sell the property.
In your invitation letter you state “the cost of closing the columbarium is approximately $700,000 not to mention the cost of re-interment”. Yet we have established that the cost of closing the columbarium and re-interment will exceed $3.0 million. This is a debt obligation that encumbers our future and makes us beholden to whoever choses to underwrite this for us.
You have stated that three developers have expressed interest in the property and will make presentations at the meeting. You will recommend one of them. If you already have the proposals, why would you not share them in advance with the membership?
You have undertaken a “pressure sales technique” which is totally reprehensible. You chose not to leave it at that but undertake further pressure on the congregation by saying “if the proposal is rejected we will not have enough time to go through the process again.” You then proceed with the additional threat, “If the congregation does not go along with your recommendation, council will have no other option but to resign.”
Many of us no longer view this as a threat. Your leadership, or lack thereof, has seen our membership dwindle from an audited total of 1466 members in 2020 to 439. Some executive members have been on the council for 14 years.
To restore some faith in the integrity of the current executive council, it might be best to cancel the Special Meeting and withdraw the application to close the columbarium.
Friends of St. Peter’s Church
March 17, 2023
Please attend the Special General Assembly Meeting on
Saturday, March 25th, 2023 at 1 pm
This meeting is to vote on the sale of the church property!
If you or your loved ones were confirmed at Peetri Kirik but have not been active in the last few years (and so did not receive the invitation to the meeting from the Church Executive), please be encouraged to immediately:
send a donation to the church via e-transfer; and
send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org advising them of the donation and their request to be added to the membership list.
What happens to our church should reflect the collective will of all our members. Everyone should have an opportunity to be heard and counted.
St. Peter's Church - Proposed Business Plan
The Friends of St. Peter's Church are pleased that the Executive of St. Peter's has acknowledged our 16-page Business Plan proposal that was presented to them.
They have asked that we present it for discussion at the special meeting of the congregation (Täiskogu koosolek) called for November 12, 2022, beginning at 1:00 pm. We believe this proposal should be available for everyone for review in advance of the meeting. We have sent a copy to all members whose contact information was provided to us. The plan is available here for review your review.
This Draft Proposed Business Plan takes into account your responses to a recent survey that we distributed. It is not meant to be a final draft, nor a formal proposal, but rather a document with which to begin collaboration with the current church Executive.
We need your help to encourage that collaboration!
St. Peter's Church - A New Focus - Part I
Eestlased Kanadas, EWR Online - 02 September 2022
We have a plan to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of St. Peter’s Church. We have divided our plan into three parts:
1. Value analysis and cost savings
2. Revenue potential of excess capacity
3. Events, member support, and donations
We look forward to community feedback in order to prioritize and establish a timeline to achieve financial sustainability.
PART 1 - Value Analysis and Cost Savings
We would like our church is to be a living and caring part of our community, whose members celebrate the Christian values that define us, and who nurture a culture of inclusiveness which embraces the whole family. As such St. Peter’s must have a purpose which is community focused, with a spiritual growth that is relevant to our times. We are currently facing two problems, a decline in our congregation, and impending financial shortfalls. The issues are inter-related. For several years, we have endeavoured to reverse the decline. We cannot, however, continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
Whether it be business or sports, if things are not going well, a dramatic change is required. Regardless of past loyalties and achievements, we need a cultural change. This requires a reassessment of our management, services, and our role in the community. It seems that the traditional services we have been pursuing are less relevant to today’s congregants. In business when you no longer fulfill the expectations of your customers they vote with their feet and move on. We are faced with the same issue.
Our opinion survey points out potential directions for the church to pursue. The church is dependent on the product as defined by the minister, management as defined by the council and the facility as its identity. Management has the primary responsibility for ensuring the financial sustainability of the church. Effective management requires far more than filling a role and reciting annual statistics. Effective management requires a commitment and a passion for the job and a strategic perspective and managerial skills that can deliver results. Good management does not hide from reality. Our priority is financial sustainability and how to achieve it.
The financial highlights for St. Peter’s Church - from the audited financial statements Dec 31/ 2021
The church has capital assets valued at $1,669,923
The church has short term investments totalling $649,429
The church has a columbarium trust fund of $79,088
The church has dividend income/unrealized gains equal to $54,277.
The church has a lease with the Salvation army $8,000/month till Feb 28, 2023.
Donations for which tax receipts were issued $78,393
Current account revenues $270,986
Church upkeep $77,832
Music – Organist /performers $18, 918
Office expenses excluding staff $11,531
Total employee compensation $138,185
Depreciation expense $36,151
Total expenses $264, 989
Excess of revenue over expenses before depreciation expense $5,996
Note 1. The church is a registered charity and as such, it does not pay taxes. Depreciation is an accounting entry, which is useful in a for profit business. For our church, it does not contribute to an operating loss.
Note 2. All registered charities file their detailed financial information based on their audited financial statements on form T3010 with the CRA. This information is public knowledge and available to everyone on line.
MANAGEMENT ACTIONS TO ACHIEVE FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY
We currently have a positive current account balance. This is primarily the result of a fortuitous happenstance of leasing the church to the Salvation Army at an above market rate of $96,000 per year paid for by Metrolinx. This lease expires in February 2023. This situation has led us to avoid analyzing our cost structure and considering ways and means to manage the congregation once this revenue stream no longer exists.
Value analysis and potential Cost Savings
The largest expenditure reported to the CRA on form T3010 Registered Charity Information Return is a summary of compensation paid to all employees of St. Peter’s Church. This includes the compensation paid to admin staff, cleaning staff and the minister. This is reported as $138,185.00
The executive council has proposed a budget approaching $80,000 for the pastor’s compensation.
Church attendance is averaging 10 people per Sunday. For our congregation if the pastor conducts 45 services, it will cost us close to $1,800 per service. On the first Sunday in August, there were only 6 people in church, including the pastor. Our church attendance does not justify the expense of a full-time pastor. Our impending financial shortfall makes it imperative to seek alternative solutions to carry on the congregation.
Consideration has to be given to other options until such time as the attendance justifies a full-time person. One option is to consider a part-time ministry. We could seek out another congregation that is willing to share their pastor. This option is common practice with orchestra conductors. Another option is to use visiting pastors, both Estonian speaking and English speaking, for a year. This has the potential to provide a new perspective and create renewed interest on the part of our congregation. These visiting pastors would be paid a stipend up to $500.00 per service. In the first year we would budget $26,000 for this service. This arrangement would also allow us to tailor our services to the needs of the congregation, by reducing services in the summer vacation period. This practice is in effect now when the pastor is on extended vacation in Estonia. A contractual arrangement, however, pays for only services rendered. This would amount to a savings of up to $50,000 per year. The church would continue to have an office administrator who acts on behalf of the church council to schedule these visiting pastors.
The church currently provides accommodation to the pastor in the form of a 3-bedroom apartment in the church manse. Our financial statements do not reflect it as a benefit to the pastor. If this apartment was not required for the pastor, it would be a potential rental income for the church. This is a modern renovated apartment. Prior to renovation it was a four-bedroom apartment. This apartment is steps away from a Major Transit Hub at Eglinton and Mount Pleasant. At current market rates along with a parking spot it could be rented for approximately $3,500. per month. This would amount to an annual income of $42,000 per year.
We have an impending shortfall of $96,000 in 2023. If we are willing to consider servicing our congregational needs with either a part time ministry, or on a contractual basis, we would be able to match this shortfall with accrued savings and possible rental income.
This is a very difficult course of action which we are all reluctant to pursue. However, financial circumstances dictate the prudent course of action. It merits our serious consideration.
Read the Part I article at the Estonian World Review
PART 2 - Revenue Potential of Excess Capacity
Utilization of Excess Capacity
St. Peter’s church is a registered charity under the Income Tax Act. This does not preclude the church from engaging in related business activities provided that they are linked to the charitable purpose and subordinate to that purpose.
Even at the best of times the church as a single purpose facility is underutilized. With our current services, it amounts to less than 1.5 hours every Sunday for less than 10 people. The historical size of our congregation allowed us to become complacent. Although some rentals of the premises have occurred, the church has not aggressively pursued initiatives to market the excess capacity of our church property. This is no longer an option.
Once we lose the income that we presently receive from renting the church to the Salvation Army, we have to find a way to replace this income. It is clear that it is not possible to achieve this within our own congregation. We no longer have the donation income to absorb the cost of an underutilized facility.
We have been centred on the way things have been done in the past, rather than acknowledging our current predicament. Our rental to the Salvation Army has shown that the church can be used by others. We can share our facility. It does not have to be dedicated to our congregation alone.
In fact, it is essential to take advantage of the excess capacity of our facility to help us pay for its ongoing costs and the programming that we need to undertake to revitalize the congregation.
Primary consideration has to be given to finding a congregation(s) that is/are willing to rent/lease our premises. With the proposed development of the Agricola Church location there may be congregations that currently lease that facility that would consider an arrangement with St. Peter’s church. We cannot expect the same revenue that we currently enjoy with the Salvation Army. However, we could anticipate a realistic rental revenue of $2,600 per month or an annual lease revenue of $31,200 per year per congregation.
We have 8 parking spots on the south side of the Sanctuary that are not used during the week. These are prime parking spots, in a high traffic area, that will be subject to major condo construction. These spaces will be marketable to the construction company that will be building the condos on the Roehampton Hotel site. Consider $20.00 per spot per day. Or $160.00 per day for 8 spots. $800 per week from the parking lot (weekdays only). Estimate that yearly rental could be $40,000. Note: The Executive’s concerns about the current homeless shelter will soon be nonexistent.
On the ground floor we have a room designated as a room for the “Women’s Auxiliary” space. It is used as a staging area for choirs and miscellaneous events such as weddings and funerals. It is, however, empty most of the time. We should consider a long-term lease for this space. Ideally it would be to a charitable organization in need of space such as the Estonian Foundation. We understand that they will need temporary accommodation beginning October 2022. Alternatively, it could become the administrative office of another congregation that we partner with. Approximate rental could be $1,000 per month for the space including a parking spot on the north side of the lot. Total income could be $12,000 per year.
With the increased condominium construction in the area, the area needs educational space for children. There is a need for schools such as the Montessori School, Spirit of Math, or Government sponsored day care. Our basement facility can be rented out weekdays for any of these purposes. Daily rental for this space could be $230. A negotiated monthly lease could be $2,600 per month or $31,200 per year.
The basement and youth room are ideal for activities such as the Estonian Saturday morning pre-school or scouts/guides. With the Estonian House closing effective October 01, 2022, this would be an ideal transitional opportunity. Our rental charge would be no more than what they are currently paying Estonian House. This space would be compatible with the proposed utilization of the space by the Montessori School or day care.
The church sanctuary is a single use facility. Its pews sit empty for 6 days of the week. Even on Sundays our attendance is at times less than 10. It is time to acknowledge this and develop a business plan to utilize this excess space when it is not used for church services. This does require removing the church pews to establish a flex space. If we make it available for programs that are government subsidized, we will not only generate income for our congregation but also provide a community service. Consideration should be given to community programs such as a drop-in centre, health clinic, exercise for seniors, yoga classes, and fitness classes. During weekdays, the daily rental could be up to $600.
Rental revenues have been estimated based on comparable prices currently available. Market conditions and time constraints may result in negotiated adjustments.
We cannot afford to be complacent. Some of these initiatives require immediate action to take advantage of opportunities that currently exist.
The Estonian House is closing its door to all Estonian activities at the end of October.
With Covid restrictions lifted, childcare facilities, and specialty day schools are looking for accommodation this fall.
Our own timeline must recognize that our agreement with the Salvation Army terminates in February of 2023 (unless once again extended).
There are some activities that have a longer realization date, such as finding a congregation(s) that would share our facility. The process requires a long lead time and it needs to be initiated as soon as possible. We need to find a prospective client or partner by the middle of 2023 and have them in place before the year end.
We look forward to community feedback in order to prioritize the activities to be undertaken and input with respect to the timeline to implement the initiatives.
Read the Part 2 article online at Estonian World Review.
PART 3 - Event Revenue
Our proposed plan for the long-term financial sustainability for St. Peter’s church is divided into 3 parts.
In Part I, we identified that the level of financial support provided by our congregation at $78,393 per year will not cover the variable cost of our annual employee compensation of $138,185. It prompts us to examine the merits of maintaining a full-time minister.
In Part II, we recognized that we have a wonderful facility which was purpose-built for our large congregation. We already have the precedent for sharing it with the Salvation Army. We identified the many areas where we have excess capacity within our facility that can be leased to make up our budget’s expected shortfall. We must look at multiple options, from leasing our parking spots, our auxiliary rooms, and basement, to sharing the sanctuary.
Our final Part III, however, is the most important part of our plan since it involves making our church relevant to our community once again. We must reach out to the community at large and offer an inclusive and engaging environment where organizations can find support for their activities and their events. Where we see a need to help the community, we must reach out and offer our facility. This will benefit our community and help defray the cost to maintain our church.
Imagine if we rented the sanctuary out for “cultural events”, concerts, and film festivals in the evenings and on Saturdays, say twenty times a year. Revenue could be $1,500 per event. This would net us up to $30,000 per year.
To facilitate a vibrant events program, the church could establish a “Culture Fund” which will be used to support various cultural events such as choral and orchestra concerts. The fund would be seeded with targeted donation monies with an initial target capitalization of $50,000. This financial support/seed capital would make running events at our church comfortable for event organizers.
Marketing the building as an Architectural Gem
The church sanctuary is architecturally beautiful and for many couples it would be desirable for their wedding ceremony. It can be rented on Saturdays at market rates that are up to $2,500 for the day. With proper marketing, and promotion by an event planner, it could be rented out at least 10 times per year for a rental revenue of $25,000.
The pews in the sanctuary are in good shape and could be removed and auctioned off. Their estimated sale could realize up to $10,000. The pews could be replaced by removable quality seating that can be re-arranged according to the facility use and accessibility requirements.
By sponsoring events and activities we provide both the opportunity for our community to participate and connect with others to help organize worthwhile events. Furthering the interests of our community and the community at large can revitalize a sense of purpose in our members and broaden our membership. Inspiring a newfound sense of purpose and growth in our community is essential if we are to reach out to the membership for the financial support which is within their means. Consideration should be given to recognizing that support is dependent on “stage of life” categories such as:
a. Family membership – in town
b. Family membership – out of town
c. Working singles – in town
d. Working singles – out of town
e. Youth – single
f. Seniors over 65
Growing the membership
To make our church more inclusive we should consider re-instating English language services. Church activities need to acknowledge the changing demographic that includes many non-Estonian speaking family members. The church becomes relevant to families if it provides programming for children which is enlightening, fun, and appealing. Our new Sunday school program should be based on the current educational principles of childhood education.
With the active support of our members and friends we can once again enable the church to be the centre of our community and an anchor for our culture and values. The church can become a legacy to their involvement with the church and our community. Moreover, it is possible to recognize individual major financial donations through multiple programs such as naming rights. For our church it would be appropriate to consider a program called “Leave a Legacy” which would allow a member to bequeath to the church a part of their estate for permanent recognition on our memorial tree.
Government funding is available to repair/renovate our church facility with matching donations from the membership. These grants need only to be applied for to replace the church cross, the bell tower, and to repair the roof. It may be helpful to know that these programs were successfully used at the Estonian House to get funds to repair the roof, upgrade the kitchen, etc. Even more funding may be available if the church is recognized as a Heritage Site.
The columbarium currently has 311 spots. The Mount Peasant cemetery markets burial sites for cremated remains at $11,000 per niche. We have a comparable location, in town, with our columbarium. Instead of closing the columbarium, we could seek approval to expand it by an additional 100 spots, with an estimated price of $5,000 per niche (which is half price) for a total of $500,000. As required by law, the net proceeds after costs, are kept separate in a trust fund which finances the upkeep and maintenance of the columbarium.
Community Activities and Volunteering
Actively partner with other community organizations for events and worthwhile fund raisers and benefits.
ACTION PLAN: How you can help save the church and grow our community
1. Support the revitalization of our church.
2. Speak out and object to the proposed sale of our church.
3. Participate in activities that take place at the church.
4. Volunteer to help out in planned activities.
Support us as we try to work with the church council to develop a realistic multi-year budget that incorporates the projected cost savings and the income from our proposed initiatives.
Read the Part 3 article online at Estonian World Review.
Community Voices Concerning Future of St. Peter's Church
August 11, 2022
In order to hear from members of St. Peter's and the community, an ongoing survey is being conducted to ascertain the concerns, ideas, and suggestions regarding the future of the church. If you have not yet completed the survey, you can still share your thoughts through our website at : friends-of-st-peters.com. The survey is ongoing with results coming in on a daily basis. We look forward to hearing what our community wants for St. Peter's in the future.
We thank those who have already taken the survey, and would like to share with you the trends that are emerging. You Spoke - We listened
Cracks in St. Peter's Governance
August 5, 2022
There is a perception that the church is dealing with a financial crisis that will inevitably lead to insolvency. But in reality, this is a manufactured crisis. The crisis is precipitated by the executive’s preoccupation of monetizing the value of the church property rather than revitalizing the congregation.
The walls are not crumbling, rather they are in danger of being pulled down by the efforts to convert our heritage into cash.
Saving the Church
- Integrity and
June 16, 2022
Our mission began with the simple objective of preventing a misguided church executive from acting on a resolution wrongfully passed to close our columbarium, as a prequel to selling out church. By applying criteria which had no basis in our constitution this executive arbitrarily reduced the voting membership list down to 134 members from a membership roster which the auditors established as 1466 and the pastor himself had reported as 1466. Over a thousand members were not invited to that meeting, all were misled about who had the right to vote, and some who came to cast their vote were improperly refused a ballot.
St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Toronto
Are we facing imminent bankruptcy?
June 10, 2022
No, clearly we are not. The most recent financial statements do not support the assertion that the church is facing imminent bankruptcy. The assertion is wrong on two counts: Bankruptcy would occur only if the church were no longer able to cover its accounts payable. Secondly it presupposes that no management action can or will be taken to rectify financial issues which the financial statements highlight.
There is a reluctance to think of the church as a business corporation. By legal definition it is in fact a not-for-profit corporation and should be managed as such.
But can one simply apply business variables like efficient use of resources and consolidation of assets and cost benefit analysis when examining the viability of a church? Is a cost benefit that which determines the worthiness of maintaining and preserving places of worship? Much as we would like to assume that maintaining a place of worship should be a matter of faith alone this is not the case. Continue reading...
A vision for the Future
of St. Peter’s Church.
June 3, 2022
The Friends of St. Peter’s believe that with a proper Management Plan and committed leadership, St. Peter’s can be a part of our lives and the lives of future generations for years to come. We believe that St. Peter’s facilities can once again become an accessible hub for both Estonian and local community activities in Toronto.
We are confident that the St. Peter’s community, once given an opportunity to assess all the issues, will show that it shares this vision of St. Peter’s future and will participate in it actively. We are heartened by the fact that over 676 people have to date signed our on-line petition to save the church. We encourage everyone who has not yet done so to show their support by signing the petition whether they belong to our church or not at: https://www.change.org/p/vote-no-if-you-are-against-the-relocation-of-the-columbarium-and-sale-of-the-church-save-st-peter-s-estonian-lutheran-church-of-toronto-canada.
A Sacred Trust:
Who decides the future of the columbarium of St. Peter’s Church?
May 27, 2022
The Congregational Council of St. Peter’s Church has acknowledged as null and void a resolution passed at the March 13, 2022 meeting of the congregation, which authorized the Council to apply to close the St. Peter’s columbarium. The Council has confirmed that another meeting must be held to properly seek that permission from all the members of the Church.
On Feb 28, 2022, a formal invitation for members to attend the general assembly of St. Peter’s Church was issued by the Congregational Council. That invitation informed members that the purpose of this meeting was to consider a resolution by which the members would give the Congregational Council permission to apply to provincial authorities to close the St. Peter’s Columbarium, as closure of the columbarium and re-location of the 311 urns of our ancestors which were lodged there, was a legal prerequisite for the Church to sell its property. Continue reading....