In an exciting move toward accessibility, the Vestry authorized in February the construction of an elevator which will provide entry to multiple levels of our building. Located in the vestibule to the right of the stage and the parish hall, the elevator will enable individuals who have trouble navigating stairs to take part in programs in the Women’s Council Room, Baker Room, on the stage and more. Ironically, houses of worship are exempt from Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, but Redeemer leaders felt strongly the moral responsibility to welcome everyone to participate more fully in our ministries. Here’s how we came to the decision:
In a conversation about stewardship, I introduced the Greek word for household, oikos, which is the root of the words economy, ecology, and ecumenical. In this context, economics describes the action of arranging and managing what is necessary for the well-being of a system. Moving beyond numbers, we focused on the people within a system and what they need to function and thrive. I asked everyone to consider the various households they are part of—home, Redeemer, Baltimore—and to further embrace our ability to respond to the needs of each. “Responsibility,” I suggested, is not a burden, but an opportunity; it literally means “the ability to respond” which invites us to assess our capacities and act for the good of the whole. I asked us to consider Redeemer as a place of nourishment and healing for parishioners, community partners, and the city we love, and to think especially of folks who struggle for meaning and life-giving community. Our work, I suggested, is to make the functioning of these households better than we found them.
Clearly our ability to respond to these various “household needs” depends on the health of our finances, and Redeemer is in an extraordinary place, as I write to you. Our pledge goal for 2019 was $1.375 million, and to date 423 pledges have been received for a total of $1,412,000. The Heritage Fund, whose income is restricted to the care of buildings and grounds, is valued at $3.381 million. The endowment, which contributes a 4.7% draw to the operating budget (down from a 5% draw in 2015 and moving to a 4.5% draw by 2021) stands at $6.162 million. Moreover, attendance has grown steadily in the past four years, even as we have buried a number of our old friends. The Parish Day School again has waiting lists for many of its classes, and soon I will be able to announce the names of our new clergy associates. I believe our vitality is a reflection of our commitment to serve.
In a unanimous decision, the Vestry authorized utilizing up to $400,000 from the endowment to build an elevator which can accommodate a person in a wheelchair plus an attendant and a companion. They endorsed enthusiastically our capacity to respond to this pastoral need of the community. Yesterday, the Buildings and Grounds committee chose A.R. Marani, Inc. from five bidders, with a base bid of $325,000. Even with contingencies for unexpected surprises, the total cost will be well under the approved limit. When word leaked out that we were moving toward building an elevator, a financial gift appeared on my desk, with a note hoping others might also respond. If making our buildings accessible in this way moves you, too, I would welcome your help.
A poem I discovered this Lent ends this way: Blessed are those who carry, for they shall be lifted. Thank you for all you do to be the body of Christ in the world. I am glad to be building the household of God in Baltimore with you.