Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Building Holy Ascension

November 15, 2005

Will you help us build?
See the renderings at www.ocacharleston.org/building.html

Christ is in our midst! God grant us a blessed fast. This week’s newsletter is a summary of Sunday’s all-parish meeting. Please contact Fr. John Parker or Chuck Bates if you have questions, concerns, ideas, suggestions, or corrections. In order to keep it as brief as possible, it is written in a rather staccato fashion. Please forgive me!

Building Status: building permits expected end of November, 1st week in December. Mike Colarusso to be our contractor. To sign not-to-exceed contract of $950,000. We expect construction to be less with value-engineering and gifts-in-kind at construction. Bank willing to loan us $500,000. Present building fund: $197,000.

Goal: We are seeking to raise an additional $300,000 by the Nativity of our Lord, December 25. Our efforts coincide with our 40 day fast beginning today.

The Plan: Chuck Bates and others have proposed to have each ‘giving unit’ (as the bank calls a family or single individual. I don’t like the term, but we’ll use it for sake of ease.) who is of a willing heart (see Exodus 35) take responsibility for raising an additional $10,000. This is not a contract or requirement; it is a mutual request of all of us. Some may raise more, some less. Some will participate, some will not. We are asking for willing hearts. By Christmas, we hope that, with everyone taking responsibility for a piece, we can finish with the full amount needed to build. We are not asking one another to give this money from our own pockets, although some may choose to do so. Rather, we are asking the whole parish to dig deep, think hard, and participate together to this end. Several ideas will be attached to this report.

Some Notable Moments: At the request of one parishioner, we passed around papers to all who would make an educated guess at what each could raise by 12/25. With sixteen of eighteen or twenty ‘units’ reporting, $84,200 was ‘offered’. A number of parishioners and friends were unable to join us Sunday. We are confident that we all will be pleasantly surprised by the end results. Let’s remember the end of the Exodus 35 story: so many were generous of heart and interested in helping that Moses had to ask the people to stop because they had too much to complete the tabernacle! Imagine!

These questions were raised: If finances are a struggle at this level, is this the building to build? We believe, after much prayer and many, many months of diligent labor that this is the building to build. Many hours have been spent by numbers of parishioners to choose this design over others. For practical as well as architectural reasons, it is neither wise nor possible to build the parish hall first, and then the church later. We would have to redesign the present plans to do so, which would likely cost at least $20,000. In the end, we would have a parish hall not much bigger than our present storefront, and thus would have paid a lot of money out and be no further along than we are today.

Is now the time? We believe that the time is now for many reasons. For much of this year, we have averaged 40 on Sundays, with attendance as high as 61 at Pascha. 57 attended this past Sunday. Statistically, we cannot grow beyond this in this size space. One option is to move, but we chose I’On because this is where the church will ultimately be. And presently, we are spending $1700/month in rent. This would be better spent in a mortgage of our own. Additionally, the cost of construction will not decrease, and the price of money will likely not decrease either. Two years from now, the struggle would be the same, proportionately to today. But we need the space today!

A Time to remember our past and think about the future: Many, many of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were called to the same holy task: those who are generous and willing of heart, draw near to build the temples of God in this country. It was not easy then—dollars were hard to come by and materials were expensive. Our relatives toiled long hours in mines and mills. They made thousands of dollars by selling hand-made comestibles. They dedicated immeasurable amounts of their free time to lay brick, pour concrete, paint walls, install tile, paint icons, etc. They gave large sums of what little they had to the glory of God. The legacy of their labors of love are sprinkled about the northeast and in other parts of the USA. Many of us visit, worship, and serve in these churches still when we return to our hometowns.

We are now the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. We have come to a ‘new’ land—the South (new to Orthodoxy, not us!). We have before us the same holy task that faced our forebears: to build the most beautiful Orthodox possible, to the glory of God, in which to worship Him, and by which to help introduce our neighbors to the fullness of the Christian Gospel. It is not easy, like it was not easy then. For a number of us, dollars are sparse and materials are costly.

We have put forth and incredible effort which has produced much fruit thus far. Already our small parish has raised over a quarter of a million dollars, of which over $196,000 remains in our bank account (the other has been spent on costs like architectural and engineering work, rent, etc.). There remains before us still a significant amount of work, especially as we prepare to take the step of faith to build.

I ask us all to take this fast more seriously and soberly than ever. We prepare ourselves to welcome the King of Kings into the world. We anticipate the moment of “God with us”—the coming of Emmanuael, Jesus Christ our Lord. On Sunday, we heard the lawyer in the Gospel ask, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The central, communal way in which we love the Lord our God is by worshipping Him in the most beautiful place we can offer. The second is by serving Him through in the ‘least of these’—the poor, the suffering, the needy, the hopeless. The former we strive for in our building efforts and in our prayerful devotion in our present space. The latter is to be the fruit of the true fast. Let us not aim for one and neglect the other, but strive to Love God and Neighbor together!

God be bountiful to us and bless us, and let the light of His countenance shine upon us, and be merciful unto us!

Your servant in Christ,

Fr. John+

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