Vestry minutes – 12/15/2015

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Vestry Members: Mike Cotter, Nancy Flowers, Eddie Grim, Helen Hankins, Sue Kelly, Mary Merrill, Michael Mittelstaedt, Donna Olendorf, John Strickler, Jeff Tibbits, Chuck Wolterink (Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present:  Peter Klapp, Connie Riopelle, Mark Stackable
Staff Present:  Ann Hackett
Clergy Present: Katheryn King

The minutes from the November 17, 2015 meeting were approved.
The minutes from the December 5, 2015 meeting were approved as amended.
The minutes from the December 6, 2015 meeting were approved
The agenda for the December 15 meeting was amended to included Pete Klapp and Connie Riopelle

Pete Klapp addressed the vestry with concerns regarding the future of the Saturday 5 p.m. service. Pete is a retired priest who, along with Katheryn King, has been leading the 5 p.m. Saturday service for nearly seven years. In that time, attendance has increased from 15 to 20, to between 40 and 60 on a weekly basis. He emphasized the importance of distinct services that speak to the needs and preferences of various members of the congregation and urged that the Saturday service be continued through and beyond the transition period. He urged the vestry to think strategically about addressing the needs and desires of various parts of the overall Grace community.

Connie Riopelle addressed the vestry regarding the Jubilee House plan for providing food for patrons while complying with health code regulations. Jubilee House has proposed using the Grace licensed kitchen to prepare soup or other dishes, and to transport the food, served by licensed personnel. A question was raised regarding the Jubilee House charter, whether, and to what degree, it incorporates food service, and whether the charter needs to be revised or expanded.

Motion by Jeff Tibbits, seconded by Eddie Grim, to approve the Kitchen/Food Plan as submitted by Jubilee House, with the understanding that the action entails no current general fund budget expenditure. The long-range plan referenced in the proposal is to be completed and submitted by December, 2017. Motion approved

Reports/Old Business:

Treasurer Report:    

Mark Stackable reported that to date, the number of pledges and total amount pledged for 20016 are down 18 percent from 2015 levels. Currently, the proposed budget for 2016 has been reduced a like amount.

Extensive discussion ensued regarding budget reductions, including staff salaries, benefits and the diocesan apportionment for the 2016 budget. The final budget will reflect reductions of salary and hours by 13 percent for the music and worship coordinator and the youth ministry coordinator. Salary for the parish administrator position will remain unchanged, with the anticipation that work hours will likely increase.

Total compensation budgeted for the interim rector is $107,446 annually, including housing allowance, insurance and pension.

The budget will reflect funds to provide counseling sessions for victims of sexual harassment in incidents that occurred during the previous rector transition eight years ago. The Diocese of Western Michigan and the Diocese of Michigan will be approached for sharing or assuming the full financial responsibility for this counseling.

Parish Administrator Report:         
Motion by John Strickler seconded by Mike Cotter that Evergreen Construction be paid $18,380 for work completed on the Jubilee House accessibility project using the St. John’s Midland grant funds plus $100 using GEC general funds expensed to line 7620 Property Repair and Maintenance. Motion approved.

On behalf of the Nominating Committee, Sue Kelly reported that we have six candidates for four three-year terms on the vestry. At its first meeting in 2016, the new vestry will appoint a person to fill an unexpired one-year term.

Senior Warden Report:       
Donna Olendorf led a discussion on steps for recovery addressing the needs of victims of sexual harassment by Rev. Bryant Dennison. These actions took place during Rev. Dennison’s tenure as interim rector of Grace during the last transition period approximately eight years ago. At the time, Rev. Dennison was a rector within the Diocese of Michigan, reporting to Bishop Wendell Gibbs Jr. Following a lengthy investigation, Bishop Gibbs directed Rev. Dennison to submit to a complete psychological profile and to enter a period of psychoanalysis. He also suspended Rev. Dennison from pastoral duties and privileges for a minimum of five years. In addition, Rev. Dennison was, and continues to be forbidden to have any contact with any member of Grace Church.

Following his five-year suspension, Rev. Dennison was recently restored as a priest in good standing within the Diocese of Michigan, which encompasses the Detroit metropolitan area. However, he is forbidden by Bishop Houghland from holding any position of authority or from presiding at Mass in the Diocese of Western Michigan.

Recently, Grace victims have come forward seeking counseling to help them recover from this incident. The vestry is in agreement that counseling should be offered and that the actions referenced above need to be shared with the congregation, beginning with a parish-wide letter, explaining what has occurred and what remains to be done. The letter will be followed by a meeting with the congregation, at which representatives from the Diocese of Western Michigan will attend.

The Master Planning Committee has undertaken responsibility for compiling a parish profile for the new rector search. A transition committee is also being formed to help both the interim rector and the permanent rector become familiar with Grace.

Junior Warden Report:       
Jeff Tibbits reported that through the first week of December, 136 GEC members had submitted pledges for 2016. Through the generosity of pledging members of time, talent and treasure, Grace hopes to be able to maintain and build our ministries and assistance to the needy.

Jeff reported that several members of the congregation have suggested that Grace publish a timeline of completed and pending tasks to be performed during our transition process. Suggested forums include the parish hall and the electronic Gracevine. Donna added that a timeline can now be found online of the Grace website.

Several parishioners have expressed interest in serving on our rector search committee and have asked about the selection process and timeline for appointments. Jeff has been appointed to write the application/questionnaire for those wishing to serve on the committee.

The St. Theodosius Amity Guild has agreed to raise funds to purchase automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) for Grace Church.

Follow-up & Follow-Through:

  • All vestry members are asked to send thank-you notes to Erika Shenk-Tessin thanking her for her years of dedicated service to Grace Episcopal Church.
  • Mary Merrill will send a note to John Walter thanking him for time donated consulting, drawing, and discussing the recently completed handicap accessibility ramp to Jubilee House
  • Sue Kelly will send a thank-you note to Denny and Connie Meyers and the Men’s Group for planning, preparing and cleaning up following community meals on the first Friday of every month.
  • On behalf of the vestry Donna will send a card of condolence to Steve Wade over the sudden death of Steve’s mother. Jeff Tibbits will send a sympathy card to Steve’s father Frank.
  • Donna will compose a draft letter to the congregation disclosing the sexual harassment that occurred eight years ago, and outlining steps going forward to help the victims heal from this tragic incident. The draft will be shared with vestry members, finalized and mailed to members of the congregation as soon as possible.
  • Donna, Jeff and Mark Stackable will compose a letter to the bishop in January advising the diocese, that, for budgeting purposes, the diocesan apportionment has been reduced.
  • John Strickler will act as Grace spokesperson in the event of news media inquiries regarding the sexual harassment incident from eight years ago. John will consult with Ward Kuhn regarding talking points and boundaries in the event of news media inquiries.

Katheryn led the vestry in Compline, followed by dismissal at 10:40 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

John Strickler
Vestry Clerk

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