Cracks in St. Peter's Governance
Eestlased Kanadas, EWR Online - 5 August 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.
The constitution states that “the organization shall be carried out without purpose or gain for its members”. It is wrong to suggest that the only way for “the church” to meet its original purpose for existence is to sell the building. It is wrong for the executive of the church to deliberately reduce and restrict membership to achieve this. Voting membership of the congregation was listed at 1466 members but was restricted to 134 to pass a resolution to close the columbarium so the church would be saleable to developers. Only after a legal challenge was the unlawfulness of this acknowledged. The final membership numbers are still in dispute. The executive claims that only 414 members remain on the membership roster. They named 140 members that have been deleted. The others have simply vanished.
This misguided focus on selling the church – on converting it into cash --has in fact alienated many in the congregation and is one of reasons that people are abandoning the church. How does this approach serve the community, much less how is it consistent with the objective of the church? The executive of the church seems to be obsessed with the millions of dollars offered for our church property by developers rather than finding a way to revitalize the church and our community.
The Friends of St. Peter’s have clearly stated their vision for the church that is totally consistent with the objectives of the constitution. Our objective is that the church 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.
Olev Maimets states that the council has been “warning” its members for over ten years that membership attendance and donations have been declining. Despite this, the numbers continue to “dwindle”.
The question that begs to be answered is “What constructive approaches has the church executive taken to address this problem? “The answer is regretfully …None.
Do they even realize what the problem is?
Statistics and warnings in and of themselves do not motivate our members to participate and to contribute their time and resources. Yet the executive seems to think that it is not their job to deal with the issues. They have no doubt been stressed to watch the church membership decline and not know how to counter the slide. The clock is ticking. It is time to reach out and seek alternatives.
Alternatives are available. It takes courage to listen. Some solutions have been previously proposed and summarily dismissed by the church executive. One small example was the proposal to establish an up-to-date church website. The executive council dismissed it as “too expensive” to be considered. The Friends of St’ Peter’s created their Web Site within two weeks for a grand outlay of $132.63. It promptly drew the support of over 1000 people.
Collectively we can revitalize the congregation. It requires a commitment to preserve the church on the part of the executive council and a willingness to confront all the issues, and to embrace the changes required. It means reaching out and being inclusive – not closing down to only 134 voices. It means working to make a community – not working to cash out for 15 to 20 million dollars.
We need to become a caring community, open and respectful of the opinions of all members. As a community we need to leave behind the autocratic management style of the past and be more in tune with today’s values. Developing financial sustainability can be accomplished provided we are open to change. With the help of input from all our members past and present we hope to finalize this plan in the near future.
We have said it before, and it bears saying again, this executive has abandoned the effort to save and restore St. Peter’s. If they are unwilling to undertake this challenge, then they should let those that are committed to the future of the institution take on this effort.
Our website www.friends-of-st-peters.com provides links that allow you to input your opinions and your hopes for the church and our community. It also has a link to our petition to save St. Peter’s Church. If you have not already done so, we welcome your support.