Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | APRIL/MAY 2018 17 which had supported the congrega- tion financially over the years. Out of this conversation emerged "a blue- print for how to proceed," Carr said. Carr praises Seigle Avenue members for their courage. "They recognized that they could change," he said. "They were not afraid to take a risk and step out on faith." Watkins says "the thing that stuck like glue" from the conference call was a piece of advice from Grier, who is vice president of Project Regeneration for the foundation. He said, "Don't make any permanent decisions for three years." Instead of taking steps to build or purchase real estate with proceeds from their property sale, Grier advised Seigle Avenue leaders to "spend the next three years building your congregation." Seigle Avenue's story of transi- tion is an increasingly common one in the PC(USA), Grier says. "We know that more than 3,000 of our congregations have memberships of 50 or fewer. So the whole issue of sustainability comes into question." Through Project Regeneration, the foundation has worked with more than 600 congregations and related ministries since 2012, helping them make faithful — but often difficult — decisions about stewardship of economic and property resources. Many churches with shrinking memberships own valuable real estate that they struggle to maintain. When Watkins came to Seigle Avenue as pastor in 2002, the church housed three flourishing outreach ministries: a preschool and day care center, a jobs ministry and an after- school program. The church bought additional property to accommodate these nonprofits, which paid rent for use of the space. By 2008, the non- profits had all moved out, and the congregation scrambled to find new renters. Another blow came when the heater in the sanctuary broke — and the estimated repair cost was $50,000. The sale of these buildings has enabled the congregation to be self-supporting. The session decided to invest a portion of the proceeds in the foundation's New Covenant Trust Company (NCTC). Brad Masters, vice president of NCTC, says the foundation worked with Seigle Avenue to develop an investment portfolio to fund both immediate expenses and long-term needs. Now that Seigle Avenue has money in the bank, Carr is working with church leaders on stewardship development. "We don't want the money to become a crutch to discour- age giving," he said. Eva Stimson is a freelance writer and member of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in Louisville.

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