Annual Reports for 2020

The following Annual Report for 2020 were delivered at the Advocate’s Annual Meeting on Zoom, January 31, 2021

The Vicar’s Annual Report
The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck

What a difference a year makes. How often have the annual reports of the Advocate included this phrase.
What a difference a year makes!
Whether it was the year we were brought into union with the Convention of the Diocese of North Carolina, thereby becoming official,
And also realized we had outgrown our first worship space, the Unity Center of Peace and moved to the Kehillah synagogue (2004).
What a difference a year makes!

Like the year we started renting a real office in downtown Carrboro and actually had a sign out front, (2007)
Or the year we engaged fully with the people of Club Nova,
Providing programs, breaking bread together, forming friendships. (2008)
What a difference a year makes!

Oh, there was the year we signed a contract to buy the land and started dreaming of what might be, (2010)
Or the year we closed on the land, having raised over $1 million to pay for it,
and we put up the swings and started being on location (2012)
Or the year we moved and restored the Chapel (2013),
also known as the year of the mud.

2014 was the year of transplant,
2015 was a year to recover and rest,
And 2016 was the year of renaissance,
2017, was a year of finding our groove,
so that 2018 was the year of flourishing.
2019 was our Sweet sixteen and we welcomed the Pee Wee Homes.
What a difference a year makes!

Then there was 2020.
2020, the year of…. Well, 2020…
Looking at the annual report from a year ago,
Reviewing our liturgies and activities and calendar 
from January and February 2020,
Is like looking into a time capsule.
The assumptions we had that we would just keep going,
That the liturgies and lunches and house dinners and Teachable Moments and kids Christian ed would all keep thrumming along

While we started to grapple with the joyful challenges of growth
and to envision what God might be calling us to develop north of the pond.
In February, we had a presentation about prison ministry and started considering how we might get involved with people in prison again, but in a new way.
We had a presentation about the Poor Peoples Campaign and started preparing to go as a group to the march on Washington in June, maybe sharing bus rentals with our neighbors on Roger Road.
We were in conversations with the organizers of the Rogers Road Community Center about hosting the kids of their summer camp for a fishing day and maybe a campfire and campout, too.

Ash Wednesday, First Sunday in Lent,
I was taking a writing sabbatical for the month of March
And Nathan was in charge here at the Advocate,
When …. Whomp.

Shut down.

Driving home from Connecticut I heard that the ACC men’s basketball tournament had been cancelled because of COVID-19.
That’s when I knew this was serious.

Given the Advocate’s particular emphasis 
on expression and formation of the body in liturgy, 
there was no question which platform we would use for our Sunday worship during the pandemic. 
Zoom allowed us to be live, engaging, and participatory. 
With everyone on Zoom, we could see one another, 
hear one another pray, proclaim, speak, and sing. 
Unable to celebrate the Eucharist online together, 
we followed the liturgy of Morning Prayer, 
then later, the Liturgy of the Word, concluding with the Peace.

It took some weeks to work out the challenges. 
Previously shunned, PowerPoint was suddenly the means we needed. 
Nathan created a slide show that all could read looking at their screens while facing the camera, too.                   

At first, we were painfully aware of what we were missing—
the Eucharist, singing together, and seeing each other in person. 
Over time, though, as we moved from Lent to Holy Week to Eastertide, 
we found that the Prayers of the People were just as meaningful as they had always been, 
whether they offered aloud or in the chat box. 

And we quickly realized what we were gaining. 

Here was a way for us to be together when we weren’t able to leave our homes. And every week, people from The Advocate diaspora— those who had moved to other parts of the country or world— were able to join us. 
It was like a homecoming. 
The previously distinct 9:00 am and 11:00 am congregations worshiped together, connecting anew. 
Such excitement in those minutes before the liturgy started, 
as each new face appeared in the gallery onscreen.
Households with small children or others with physical limitations
could go to church without the stress of having everyone dressed, fed, and into the car. 
Participation remained consistent and strong – with 65-80 screens on the Zoom each week, and more than 100 people worshipping together.
There were no “low Sundays” and no summer travels, taking people away.

It took a while to sort out how we could sing together. 
Everyone singing unmuted wouldn’t work on the Zoom platform. 
And then along came Grace Camblos with skills and willingness and joy to organize and produce videos of virtual choirs to lead us. 
(PowerPoint and choirs, at the Advocate???)

I’ll always remember that first virtual choir song — All Who Hunger Gather Gladly – 
When Covidtime was still new, and we were feeling such loss,
Not to be able to gather together for Maundy Thursday….
Oh, what a gift!

In time, the Pondside Band cheered us.
Others recorded solo singing while playing guitar or piano. 
Cantors sang a cappella.
These diverse offerings engaged more people in our liturgical leadership, 
and helped to keep the liturgy fresh and expressive.
While we could not hear the entire congregation singing together, 
we could see each other singing. 
Robust singing in homes and on screened porches and decks across the region. 

Gradually we realized there was no longer anything “virtual” about our worship. 
It was real.

But there are some who haven’t been on the Zoom. 
Some who are unable or unwilling to worship digitally,
Others are on Zoom so much for work or school,
that when Sunday comes, they just can’t do more of it.
Clergy and lay leadership committed to finding ways to hold us all together, 

Early on, we created “virtual villages” and encouraged folks to meet for “virtual coffee,” a one-to-one online. 
The vestry sent personal postcards out to everyone, 
and there were phone calls and emails and safe distance visits
to check in with folks.

Grace Camblos and I created weekly videos for The Vicarage, Season One, The Women of the Cloud to share the stories usually told at mid-week Eucharists.

A desire for deeper connection led to the creation of “Advo-groups,” 
small groups meeting online or in person for prayer and mutual support and conversation around a shared need or interest: Cooking Together, Anglican Poets of the 17th and 20th Centuries, Connections With Nature, Creating a Regular Home Practice, Engaging in Social Change, Transforming Our Narrative About Race.
What a fabulous array!

The weekly house dinners went online, too,
And become “House Dinner Without the Dinner”
Still with deep fellowship and sharing of life stories.

Elizabeth Brewington kept the kids going on Zoom every Sunday morning, 
Even in the summer.
Who can forget The Prodigal Chicken!

The addition of Compline on Wednesday nights was initially 
simply to provide a way to gather and pray in the middle of the week, 
between the Sundays. 
Very soon it became clear that this online Compline was more than that. 
It provided a welcome, needed way to end the evening in peace 
and in the company of others. 
Within six weeks, Wednesday Compline became nightly Compline,
each night it is led by a different lay person. 
The regulars come from four different counties. 
After several attempts to pray the daily office as people of the Advocate,
Covid and Zoom gave us both the inclination and the means to do it.

The Advocate on Zoom included the emergence of the Screenside Chat.
Similar to the Teachable Moment of in-person Sundays,
The Screenside Chat gave us the opportunity learn and talk about matters at hand,
From hospitality to the homeless to racism in America,
George Floyd’s murder to how it felt to be in Covidtimes.

Antiracism claimed our attention in the summer and fall,
As we read and discussed White Fragility and Caste,
And hosted an evening with the local chapter of the NAACP to talk about race and the elections ahead.
We breathed deep and sang songs of inspiration through the election.
Then turned our hearts to Advent and thirst for things gone by and things to come,
Expressed in our Liturgy of Longing.
As diocesan and government restrictions eased, 
we held small, safe-distanced outdoor Eucharists on Sunday afternoons, 
but remained clear that the Sunday morning “Advocate on Zoom” 
was the primary gathering of the body.

In the thick of all this, Alice Graham Grant came among us as a “parttime lay Curate”.
Preaching, teaching, providing pastoral care,
Connecting us further with the Rogers Road community 
And sharing administrative responsibilities.
Her arrival and presence six months into Covidtime,
Was a gift of the Spirit and of the Bishop, (and of our own budget)
For which I am grateful.

Also in the thick of all this, households that had only just begun to attend the Advocate last winter, stayed on.
And new people came our way, bringing their beauty and life-living with them.
Thank you, Holy Spirit!

As diocesan and government restrictions eased, 
we held small, safe-distanced outdoor Eucharists on Sunday afternoons, 
but remained clear that the Sunday morning “Advocate on Zoom” 
was the primary gathering of the Body.

Christmas became the 4th principal Feast of the Church year celebrated on Zoom – Easter, Pentecost, All Saints and Christmas….
Bittersweet, each and every one,
Missing what we could not have, grateful for what we have….
Like… how about that video Christmas Pageant!!!

—————————-

2020 wound to a close with hope in the air.
What will 2021 be? 
The year of transition.
While vaccinations have started, 
we need to continue to exercise care and prayer for health and wellbeing.

We will likely continue with the Advocate on Zoom through Easter, even Pentecost.
But then we will start to transition from predominantly online worship to, 
we pray, 
predominantly in-person worship.

This will be exciting and challenging.
Will we all want to worship in person?
Or will some still feel safer at home?
What about the people of the Advocate Diaspora,
and others who have joined us one Sunday or another.
Will we develop a hybrid in-person and online liturgy?
What about church meetings and classes and conversations?


With people of the Advocate coming from across six counties,
Meeting online can allow for greater participation during the week.
As we transition back to the campus and Chapel,
The matters of growth and size will return.
Remember that we were filling the chapel for the 11 AM on Sundays before Covid hit.
It can only hold 100 vaccinated people safely.
And we were having parking troubles.
How many Eucharistic liturgies can we have on a Sunday?
What will those liturgies be?
Do we need to begin to plan to build a somewhat larger indoor worship space so more of us can worship together?


And what about our community engagement?
We’ve got the Pee Wee Homes and the Pond.
How will we transition to a more robust sharing of our resources with a wider community in need?
Some Advocates are beginning to explore the possibility of constructing a community woodfired oven for bread and pizza baking.
That could certainly be a draw.
And the Pondside Band is ready to develop a community venue on site.

Racism is a real and raw as ever in our world. 
And within us all.
How will we continue to work against it, unravel it?
In Lent we will integrate land and native people awareness into our liturgy and formation.
And if there is interest, Advo-Groups in Eastertide might carry our anti-racism further.
And maybe this will be the year for us to host the kids from Rogers Road and others for more fishing in our pond.

In 2021 we will also be transitioning to a new Vicar.
I am thankful that the Bishop will be working with us
To provide a process that honors the Advocate,
And is as smooth and life-giving as possible for us.
This process will provide us all with good opportunity to reflect on who we are and who we are called by God to be.
It’ll start with an online survey of the congregation, to be announced shortly.

Please take note, 
and take the time to fill that survey out this week!

————————

One thing we learned in the year of 2020
Is that we can never know what a year will bring
nor what difference it will make in our lives together.
But another thing we learned
is that The Advocate is good and beautiful community,
Even the Body of Christ,
Loving one another,
Given for the world.

So let’s say:
Glory to God
Whose power working in us
Can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God, from generation to generation in the church
And in Christ Jesus, forevermore.

The Senior Warden’s Annual Report
Prepared by Sara Paukovich, Senior Warden

One year ago, as a vestry, we were thanking Paul Marvin, our out-going senior warden, and Lacey Hudspeth for their service and welcoming both Donya Rose and Andrew Hammond as our newest members. I stepped up into the role of senior warden, alongside John Gillespie, our junior warden, Erin Dangler, our secretary, and Amanda Godwin. And we, as a church and a society, were in a completely different world than we now find ourselves. 

It wasn’t a perfect world by any means. It was a year we started with major concerns as our Vicar had just announced her cancer diagnosis and we all awaited anxiously to know how she was doing with treatment. At that point, the feeling in the church was this would be the big hurdle we would face as a community in 2020. However, as Lisa finished treatment and appeared to be doing extremely well and excited to go on sabbatical and finish her upcoming book the energy shifted in the church to an air of relief and Nathan Kirkpatrick took the reins for the month Lisa would be gone. 

In early March, Nathan and I sat down to plan out the vestry meeting agenda for that month. It may be hard to believe now, but we were face to face, in-person, maskless, and without fear and completely unaware how drastically the world was about to turn. Our plans at that time for 2020 were to continue with the visioning process that had been started the year before, but to use Nathan’s expertise to help take the process deeper.

Knowing Lisa was planning on retiring from parish ministry sometime in the not too distant (but still yet undefined) future we felt it prudent to get a sense of what the hopes of the congregation were moving forward. 

Nathan and I planned out the vestry meeting and then we happily parted ways with no comprehension of what the next few days would bring. Over those days the world flipped on a dime and we were in lockdown. We quickly realized visioning may be a moot point for the vestry for the foreseeable future. We had no idea what church was going to look like that Sunday, much less 1 month, 6 months or 1 year in the future. We needed to switch gears from the visioning process to maintaining our church community in the time of COVID-19. No small topic. And I say that because it has remained on the vestry agenda in one way or another for every meeting since and I would hazard a guess on Lisa’s daily agenda the entire year.

In that moment, the vestry focused on the immediate safety of the members of our congregation. So we teamed up with members of the AdvoCare team and other church members able to help and started contacting all the households in the congregation. 

We found from our discussions with church members the most imminent need in the short-term was more opportunity for social contact. So the vestry started the work of putting together weekly Virtual Village meetings for anyone interested in these fellowship opportunities.

After Lisa came off of her sabbatical early to start rebuilding the church from the ground up online, the vestry frequently functioned as a sounding board for her as the Zoom liturgy we experience today took shape. In addition, the vestry and its members have engaged in the following business often navigating many unknowns due to the pandemic:

Community Outreach-

  • At the vestry retreat, a robust discussion on dismantling racism was the main focus with ideas generated for our covid era and others put forth for once we are able to be in-person in the future.
  • Since the chapel was empty throughout the pandemic, the vestry agreed to allow it to be used on occasion for an individual to have a safe place to sleep and keep their belongings while waiting for permanent housing through local organizations. 

Position Changes-

  • The vestry bid farewell to Brian McGivern, our treasurer of nearly 3 years. We have much to thank Brian for in the organization of the finances of the church. One outstanding result of Brian’s time as treasurer was allowing the church to save a few thousand dollars a year by doing a self- audit. He put in many countless hours of work to form a structure so future treasurers would  more easily be able to perform the yearly self-audit to the standards of the Diocese and we are so grateful for all of his selfless work. 
  • As Brian stepped down Nancy Usher Williams stepped up into the role of treasurer. Nancy has a lot of experience with filling this position at other churches. Her knowledge of accounting and budgeting is deep and in just the 4 months she has been treasurer I have called on her many times. Since she’s seen so much in this arena before, she knows how to confidently navigate the waters of budgeting when relying on pledges. Her expertise in the role of treasurer is truly hard to overstate and she will be a fantastic anchor for the church during this transitional year ahead

Business-

  • The vestry updated our insurance policy by reviewing and adding a Child/Youth Protection Policy in September, slighting increasing our premium, but putting written standards in place to ensure the ECOTA youth are protected during official church activities.
  • We started transferring vestry documents to Google Docs, so important records can be kept in one place. This will be easier to share and access for vestry members going forward and will allow all important documents to be kept safely for the long term. Google Forms were also used for all surveys of the church this year at the suggestion of Donya Rose and for the pledge drive in place of pledge cards. These changes seemed to streamline the process for all involved.

Fellowship-

  • In addition to the Virtual Villages mentioned above, weekly dinner spear-headed by Debbie Wuliger and nightly Compline, Day Smith Pritchard and vestry member Amanda Godwin lead the way for the development of Advo-Groups. The planning committee also included myself, Donya Rose, Damon Williams and Daniel LaVenture. Although this was not a vestry project, it was “heavy” with vestry members and the progress was discussed at many meetings. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Day and Amanda for taking on the task of getting these groups off the ground and we all look forward its next evolution proposed for Eastertide. 

Financial Matters– Nancy Usher Williams will discuss finances in more detail in a minute

  • Over April & May, we debated the merits of applying for the Payroll Protection Plan Loan offered by the government. We had no idea what the pandemic may bring, so to protect the church financially and with the guidance of Nancy Usher Williams we applied and obtained the loan, so those funds would be there for us in the event of financial need later in the year.
  • During October and November, the vestry headed the pledge campaign. Again the unknowns of the pandemic were present, so we set two goals. The first was to at least achieve last year’s pledges of $215,000 and hold a steady course for the church, but additionally we set an aspirational goal of a 12% increase. Well, the people of the Advocate responded to these goals overwhelmingly. I would like to thank all those who pledged for your generosity in uncertain times and the vestry who explained the need for pledging in testimonials  that were equal parts heart and logic after the liturgy each week, as well as their time spent on e-mail outreach. We actually continued to have pledges coming in long after the pledge drive had officially ended. So by our January meeting a few weeks ago we had increased our pledges over last year by 22% with $261,000 from both members and Friends of the Advocate. This included a total of 90 households pledging, which is an increase of 10 over the previous year. 
  • One of the last acts of the 2020 vestry was to vote to raise Lisa’s salary. This decision was made to bring her on par with the median male senior/solo clergy salary, since Lisa is both a senior clergy and a solo clergy we averaged the salaries between those two categories. And you did hear me correctly, the vestry wanted to put her on par with the median male salary. As per the 2016 Church Compensation Report for the Episcopal parishes female clergy still make significantly less than their male counterparts. And thanks to the generosity the whole congregation showed during the pledge drive, the vestry was able to stand on our church’s principals of gender equality and do our small part here at The Advocate to help bridge that gender gap, as well as, give Lisa the compensation she truly deserves on par with her peers.

As the year progressed, it became increasingly clear to me that maybe we had not had to completely abandon the visioning process after all. Perhaps we were still, unwittingly, taking part in a visioning of sorts brought on by the pandemic. With Lisa leading, and the vestry and parishioners giving input, it was a continual process of deciding what was most important to us in our worship. And we have chosen to design our liturgical experience unlike any other Episcopal church in the area. 

This is not to make a judgement of any church’s choices, as those churches all have their own unique needs, but instead to make the point that how The Advocate has chosen to do church during COVIDtimes is a massive statement of who we are and what is central to our congregation. The fact we remained participatory, face to face (even if at a distance), comfortable in the discomfort of the learning process and with a focus on social justice all fall right in line with our church mission, but I think the pandemic has served to reinforce it. We do not just stick to these principles when everything is easy, but more importantly, we maintained these qualities when everything seemed to be falling apart and our future uncertain. 

This year may not have been the time to answer how we want to use the area North of the pond or any of the other creative ideas visioning may have birthed from the minds of our fellow Advocates, but the appropriate time to answer those questions will come. And if, as a church, through our collective answers to the upcoming survey going out today, we find a new vicar who understands all we have declared ourselves to be throughout this year they will be on board for whatever direction the future visioning process takes us. 

I would like to end by giving thanks to all those I had the privilege of serving on the vestry with over the past 3 years. For me, the time has been a joyful, open and collaborative experience with everyone bringing their own unique gifts to the table. One person who has been a huge part of that joy and collaboration has been Erin Dangler. Due to an unexpected, but exciting new move to Atlanta, she will be rotating off the vestry a year early. And I want to give a huge thank you to Erin for her skills as secretary and all the ways her joyful spirit and  unique talents have positively impacted the group. In her place, the vestry is happy to welcome Nate Bradford who will be taking over for Erin’s final year. 

And lastly, if the proposed timeline holds true, this will be Lisa’s last Annual Meeting, so I would be remiss if I did not say before signing off, it is not often you get to watch a master at work, but after 3 years that is the best way I can describe Lisa’s relationship with her calling to help plant and grow The Advocate. It was an honor to watch her thoughtful contemplation on all church matters down to the smallest detail while still allowing new ideas to flow in from all those present on the vestry and from the wider congregation. Her gift for immediately seeing the talents in others, acknowledging it, and putting it to use in creative ways is a major part of what has built this church. And I have to say when talking to past senior wardens last year, when I was contemplating taking this position, they all individually stated that being able to watch Lisa’s  mind up close, in action, was one of their favorite parts of the job and I would have to whole-heartedly agree. She has helped to set this church up incredibly well over her years of leadership. That fact, combined with the innumerable strengths of the incoming vestry and treasurer, I have complete confidence 2021 will be a year of reimagining what this church may be going forward while still holding on to the heart of who we have always been. And that attentive, caring, loving heart that I believe will always remain, will be a big part of our founding Vicar, Lisa’s, legacy as the Body continues to form around it on into the future.

The Treasurer’s Annual Report
Nancy Usher Williams

Hello, Everyone! I’m Nancy Usher Williams, the new Advocate Treasurer. I took over from Brian McGivern in August, and I really appreciate the help he gave me as I got started. All of you have made me very welcome this year. I love Zoom church if we can’t be together in person. I could talk more about that, but I suppose I should do the Treasurer’s Report.

In 2020 we had Revenues of about $256,000 (108% of Budget) and

                          Expenses of about $224,000 (94% of Budget).

This resulted in a surplus of about   $ 32,000.

We collected only 89% of our pledges, and this is not a surprise given the rapidly changing circumstances of a worldwide pandemic. Let this serve as a reminder that you can change the amount of your pledge upward or downward if your circumstances change during the year. When you know that things will be different, it would be really helpful for you to let me know that. My contact info is on the web page and in the directory, and Lisa and Alice both know where to find me.

The good news is the contributions in the POTA and FOTA accounts were $33,000 each while the budget for both was $15,000 total. We received a $2,500 grant to help with the expenses of having Alice with us for a year plus another $3,500 grant payable over 9 months beginning in October 2020. We got one-third of the $3,500 in 2020 and the remaining two-thirds will come in 2021. 

With the pandemic’s closings came a steep decline in our chapel use income to only $200 for 2020. However, overall 2020 was an amazing year, especially so since we were all dealing with the pandemic. The Vestry is using some of the 2020 surplus to fund some of the extra 2021 expenses that we’ll have because the outgoing and incoming Vicars will have a three-month overlap with us. We will be applying for the forgiveness of the Payroll Protection Plan loan and expect that forgiveness will be forthcoming. I’m waiting to see what legislation will make this process easier.

I’m still working on my review of the 2020 financial statements to eliminate classification errors. Once they have been finalized, they will certainly be available to anyone who’d like to see them.

Our 2021 pledge drive leads me to believe 2021 will be just as awesome as 2020. We had 89 pledges, which is 9 more than in 2020. They total $261,762, an astounding 22% increase from 2020’s total. That’s an almost $50,000 increase! 

The median pledge is $1,440. For those of you who don’t speak Statistics, the median pledge is the one in the middle. In other words, if yours is the median, then half the pledges are lower than yours and half the pledges are higher than yours. 

A note on paying your pledges: As a church we love automatic monthly payments. If you set this up through your bank’s bill pay app there is no cost to The Advocate and probably no cost to you as well. If that’s not an option, you can use our website to set up automatic payments. This does cost the church a small percentage of your donation. If it helps you pay your pledge on time, it’s worth it!

If you took advantage of automatic payments for your 2020 pledge, don’t forget to set them up for 2021. Also check to be sure the ones for 2020 stopped on December 31. I’ve known people who didn’t realize they had to set up again each year, and other people who kept paying the previous year’s pledge along with the current year’s pledge. They were the ones who couldn’t figure out why their bank balance was always so low!

Please let me know if you have questions. I will be glad to answer them.

I’m really excited to be here and to be doing the work of the Treasurer in 2021. More importantly, I’m excited to be doing the work of Being Church with all of you in 2021 and for years to come.