News

Church Council Corner – January 2022

Monthly Update from your Church Council

Prepared by Council Secretary Laurie Carlson

All church council members were present with one church member who also attended to observe.  There were three invited guests:  Treasurer Robert Carr to provide the Year 2021 financial update, along with Song Leader Heather Davis and Former Music Director Charles Calhoun to provide feedback and guidance on the music program.

Covid Update

As you are all aware we have returned to virtual services due to the resurgence of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus. The church council continues to monitor the local SF public health data closely to determine when it will be safe to resume in-person worship. At this time, we anticipate continuing with Zoom services into February. The church council will convene via zoom again on January 26th to review the Covid-19 statistics and determine when in-person services may reasonably reconvene. During this time that we cannot meet together, a Saturday morning virtual Social Hour has been organized in addition to the virtual coffee hour offered after service each Sunday. This provides all of us with the opportunity to see each other virtually and maintain a sense of caring and community. Consider also reaching out via email or phone to members and friends to let them know they are in your thoughts. Everyone can do this simple act of connection.

2021 Year-End Finances

Income in December was strong due to congregational giving and several weddings leading to a gain of $5.8k. Overall, our 2021 fiscal year was good, in the sense that we bettered the approved 2021 budget. Income of $278k was higher than the budget of $266k. 2021 expenses of $312.2k were slightly lower than the budget of $314.4k. 2021 net income of -34.2k was better than the deficit budget of -48.4k. In summary, the church is well positioned for our approved 2022 budget, which is conservative given how weddings and receptions are already showing a healthy rebound. Thank you for your generous financial support again this year. We are so very blessed.

Music Program Update 

The congregation is in a period of discernment about the direction and vision for the music program following Jonathan Dimmock’s departure. There are many questions to be considered and the church council wanted to hear from Heather Davis, who has been serving as our song leader since September and Charles Calhoun, organist and our previous music director. The feedback, insight and expertise they shared with us provided valuable information to be carefully thought through. The next step is to hear from our congregation about your priorities and desires for the future. To that end, a Fireside Chat is being planned to allow for in-person conversation and discussion. The original date proposed for this was February 6th, however this date will now need to be postponed until we are able to hold this meeting in person. We do hope it will happen before the end of February.

Stewardship Activities

  1. The first of the year is the beginning of our annual pledge campaign. The theme for this year is “A Gift of Song” and you will be receiving more information about it through the mail and the e-newsletter. Be on the lookout for it.
  2. Offering tours of the sanctuary to the public. We want to share our beautiful sanctuary with our neighbors and the larger SF Community. The plan is to offer these tours after service on Sunday from 1-3 p.m. A guidebook is being developed with information about the history of the sanctuary. Training for members/friends interested in serving as guides will occur. We are hoping members will see this as a fun and enjoyable opportunity and will want to participate. More information about this will be presented at the next Fireside Chat. 

Church Directory. The plan is to produce a printed and digital church directory with the contact information of our members and friends over the next one and a half months.  We already have most of the information we need. This directory will only be made available to active members and friends. If you DO NOT want to be included in the directory please contact Laurie Carlson, council secretary, by March 1st at councilsecretary@sfswedenborgian.org.


In-Person Worship Services Canceled Until Further Notice

December 30, 2021

During this pandemic, the spiritual and physical welfare of our members and friends have been our two primary concerns. Just as we were beginning to feel more comfortable holding in-person services, meeting indoors, singing, and enjoying coffee hour together, the Omicron variant of Covid 19 appeared. Covid cases due to this variant among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people have risen steadily and significantly during the first weeks of December. We have not yet seen the impact the Christmas holiday will have on new cases and hospitalizations with so many celebrating, gathering, and traveling. The church council has been carefully following the San Francisco statistics and this has prompted us to make some difficult decisions to safeguard the physical health and safety of our worshipping community.

After meeting Wednesday evening and reviewing the current data and trends, we made the decision to cancel in person worship services for two weeks. We will hold online, virtual services only on Sunday, January 2nd and January 9th. Only those who are involved in the streaming production of the service, its music and liturgy will attend at the church.
We realize how disappointing this is on so many levels. We did not make this decision easily or lightly. We know we are being overly conservative with our interpretation, understanding and implementation of the city guidelines and we apologize for the short notice. The most current information on which to base decisions is only available each Wednesday, so it is challenging to be able to communicate more quickly. The council will hold an adhoc meeting on Wednesday January 12th where we will review the omicron infection rates to determine if we can resume in-person worship services on Sunday, January 16th. We expect to have to implement some stricter guidelines such as limiting attendance, pre-registration, proof of vaccination and boosters, no singing, etc. at that time.

We are very hopeful this will just be a short hiatus for us and that we will soon be worshipping together again safely in person. We do not want anyone to get sick, to be worried about risk of exposure, or inadvertently transmit the virus to others. Those are very real concerns each of us individually lives with during this pandemic. If you have questions and concerns about our decision to cancel in-person services for two weeks, please reach out to any of the church council members and/or Reverend Lee (revjclee@sfswedenborgian.org).

We wish everyone a safe, healthy and joyful New Years. 

Laurie Carlson, Church Council Secretary


Church Council Corner – December 2021

Monthly Update from your Church Council

Prepared by Council Secretary Laurie Carlson

Your Church Council met in person in the Parish House on Sunday, December 12, 2021.  All Council Members were present in person at the meeting and no guests attended. We would like to extend a warm invitation and reminder that these meetings are open to Congregational Members and Friends.  Each of you are invited and encouraged to attend. If you have any issues, questions, concerns, and/or feedback, every Council Member is available to listen and speak with you. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us.

We welcomed our new Council Member Carolyn O’Brien who was elected during the Annual Meeting on November 14, 2021.  Andrew Dodd and Ewa Robinson were also re-elected to serve a second three-year term. They join continuing Council Members:  Jennifer Lindsay – President, Laurie Carlson – Secretary, Lea Park, and Randy Wiederhold. Robert Carr continues to serve as Treasurer on behalf of the Council. Andrew Dodd will serve as Council Vice President, replacing Tom Murphy who transitioned off of Council after six years of faithful, dedicated service. Thank you Tom for all your hard work and service for the church over these past six years. We look forward to another productive year under the leadership of Jennifer Lindsay and the wise counsel of our Senior Minister, Reverend Lee. Topics discussed at the meeting as follows.

Jennifer outlined her three main priorities for this year:

  1. Continue to strengthen our participation with the National Denomination and the West Coast PCA.       
  2. Determine the future look, sound, and direction of the Music Program.        
  3. Continued progress on the sale of 2121 Lyon Street property.

Finances

October was a strong month of giving from pledges and offerings ($12,600 vs $6,500 in September). Revenue from weddings, receptions, and memorials also increased, totaling $11,400. Total income for the month was $33,400. The Staff continues to work diligently to manage our expenses and have been successful in achieving this during 2021. With continued strong giving during the Holiday Season, the church will end the year in a promising financial position. Our annual giving campaign will begin in January with a new theme and we hope everyone will be able to participate.

2121 Lyon Street Update

The monthly rent was raised on the property by $1,000 in October.  The garage survey was completed. This data will be analyzed to determine the feasibility of building a garage. There is no plan to build a garage prior to its sale, however determining if one can be built and having plans for it will be beneficial information for potential buyers. We expect to complete the analysis by the end of February 2022.

Planned Maintenance and Repairs

  1.  Roof replacement for the Parish house:  Bids have been requested and we have received two and are waiting for two more before determining the company to hire.  Replacement repair expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022.
  2. Garden maintenance: Council is in discussion with Nature in the City about their proposal to transition the garden to plants and shrubs native to the area, drought resistant, and pollinating plants. We will also be working with an arborist to trim the trees.

Fireside Chat 

As discussed at the Annual Meeting, a fireside chat will be held February 6, 2022. Mark your calendars. The topics for discussion are not finalized yet here are several under consideration:

  1. Further discussion, consideration, and explanation of the Land Acknowledgment Statement. 
  2. Soliciting your feedback on the direction of the music program and comments about the program from September through January.  
  3. Offering a training program for those interested in providing routine tours of the sanctuary and gardens to the community after Sunday services.

Finally, we wish you all a very blessed and joyous Christmas Season. 2021 has been another year of changes, challenges, and surprising opportunities. We hope to see you at one of the Christmas Eve Services and certainly look forward with anticipation to being together safely in 2022.


Church Council Corner – July 2021

Monthly Update from your Church Council

Prepared by Council Secretary Laurie Carlson

The Church Council held its first in-person meeting since March 2020 on Sunday, July 18th. The Zoom meetings served us extremely well over these past months, it was nonetheless wonderful to be able to meet together in person to continue with our work. All members were able to attend and no congregational members attended.

Topics Discussed:

  1. Updates and feedback on the church’s return to in person services. We have been able to worship together in person and virtually for the past 4 weeks. The worship services have gone very well and each week the live stream is improving and those worshipping in person have not found the filming disruptive. As you will have noted, we have made some modifications to be mindful and respectful of safety concerns. Communion is served in prepared cups and distributed on entry into the church. Greetings have been limited to standing and quietly acknowledging and waving to one another. There is no passing of the offering basket and coffee hour has been minimized with the focus being on fellowship versus food. These modifications will remain in place for the time being. As the Covid Delta variant is becoming more prevalent, we should prepare ourselves for more modifications. Council will pay close attention to the city and state recommendations for mask wearing, physical distancing, capacity, etc. and will communicate and implement any changes as quickly as we learn of them. Our priority is to provide both a meaningful and safe worship experience. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to speak with our pastor or any council member.
  2. Summary of the Fireside Chat on 7/11/21. Seventeen congregants attended this conversation, the purpose of which was to provide a forum for people to give feedback on the in-person services and the pump organ, as well as to provide an update on the church’s financial status and progress on selling 2121 Lyon Street. 
  3. 2021 Budget Update: As you might recall, we approved a deficit budget for 2021 which projected a loss of -$48K. However, as hoped, we did receive (as of Feb 2021) $37.5k forgiveness of the Spring 2020 PPP loan and because we do not need to repay that loan, for the first 6 months of this year the church has an operating net income of about $12K! Additionally, Rites and Sacraments (event income) is steadily increasing and congregational giving has been exceptional. Overall, for the first half of this year we are on course for the year. This is wonderful news considering everything endured over the past 2 years and everyone is to be applauded.
  4. 2022 budget preparation is beginning now. A preliminary budget will be submitted to Jennifer Lindsay, Council President by August 1st. This will provide adequate time for review and distribution to our members prior to our Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for November 14, 2021. You can mark your calendars now for the Annual Meeting.
  5. We are also in the process of submitting for a second Iungerich Grant. The application is due August 15th.
  6. Looking ahead: St Dorothy’s Rest has been reserved for our Memorial Day Retreat in 2022. Another event to look forward to.

Finally, what a blessing it is to have such a wonderful minister, operations manager, choir director, choir and each of you. It fills my heart with joy.


Church Council Corner – April 2021

Monthly Update from your Church Council

Prepared by Council Secretary Laurie Carlson

Our church council met Sunday, April 18, 2021 with all council members present via zoom.

Re-opening In-Person Worship Services

As mentioned in last month’s council corner, the church has two priorities when considering this. First, we want to ensure our members safety, well-being, and comfort when attending in person and second, to continue providing a high-quality and meaningful virtual worship experience for those unable to attend in person.

  1. We will continue to follow the San Francisco Health Department’s (SFHD) directives with regard to Covid-19. These directives are constantly being updated based on infection rates, hospitalizations, etc.  We are currently planning to offer in-door services in conformance with these and other SFHD guidelines.
  2. We will wait to begin in-person services until Reverend Lee is fully vaccinated.
  3. A Fireside Chat to discuss the Covid Re-opening Action Plan will be held this Sunday, April 25, 2021.  Details of the plan will be shared, the findings of the survey will be discussed, and members and friends will have an opportunity to ask questions.
  4. A summary of the action plan will be communicated in the E-newsletter following the meeting this Sunday.

Fireside Chat Agenda

A fireside chat will occur in place of the typical virtual coffee hour following service on Sunday, April 25th. The Zoom link used for coffee hour will be the same link for this meeting. The following items will be discussed:

  1. Covid Reopening Action Plan – Lea Park and Tom Murphy
  2. Update on the 2121 Lyon street sale – Robert Carr
  3. Update on the Nature & Spirit Series – Andrew Dodd

Delegates to the Denomination’s Annual Convention

Nine members have volunteered to serve as our church’s delegates to the convention which will be held virtually June 25-27, 2021. The members are Chris Hammer, Ralph Kearns, Nick and Nancy Leras, Andrea LoPinto, Tom Murphy, Jen Pompeo, Richard Shadoian, and Devin Zuber. Thank you all for your willingness to participate as delegates.

Events Update

On an encouraging note, the church is receiving more calls and requests about holding events.

  • One wedding in the garden took place on April 10th. 
  • Two new bookings for wedding only have been scheduled, one in 2021 and one in 2022 .
  • Three memorial services to be held in the garden have been scheduled.
  • One high school graduation party in the garden has been scheduled
  • A baptism is scheduled for this coming Saturday and two more are being planned.

This is a hopeful sign about the future and the contribution these events make to our finances

Blessings to you all and please plan to join us this Sunday for worship service and the fireside chat. The next church council meeting will be May 16th at 1 p.m. Any who are interested are welcome to attend. Please contact Rev. Lee for Zoom link info: revjclee@sfswedenborgian.org


Church Council Corner – March 2021

Monthly Update from your Church Council

Prepared by Council Secretary Laurie Carlson

Our church council met Sunday March 21, 2021with all council members present via zoom. Our discussion this month focused on 3 primary topics:

  1. Update on Finances
  2. Reopening In-Person Worship Services
  3. Nature and Spirit – Reimagining our 125th Anniversary Celebration

Update on Finances

  • Our application for forgiveness of the Spring 2020 PPP loan was granted, meaning we do not need to repay the $37,500 received. This is wonderful news.
  • We received pledges totaling $77,000 during January. No new pledges were received during February. It is never too late to pledge. And again, thank you to everyone for your generous support.
  • Regarding 2121 Lyon Street, we are in the process of interviewing two real estate agencies as candidates to handle the sale of the property. One candidate was interviewed last week and the other candidate will be interviewed this coming week. Following these presentations and interviews, a decision to contract with one of these agencies will occur.

Reopening In-Person Worship Services

As mentioned in February’s Council Corner, the church has two priorities when considering in-person worship services. First, we aim to ensure our members’ and minister’s safety, well-being, and comfort. Second, we want to continue providing a high-quality and meaningful virtual worship experience for those unable to attend in person.

  • We continue to follow the San Francisco Health Department’s (SFHD) directives with regard to Covid-19. These directives are constantly being updated based on infection rates, hospitalizations, etc.
  • In-person worship services will begin once Reverend Lee has been fully vaccinated.
  • We are determining what technical equipment and personnel support are necessary to provide combined live streaming/in-person worship services. Once we have determined our plans, we will utilize a consultant being provided by General Convention, our denomination, to assist us in implementation.
  • Your input is important. A survey was included in the e-newsletter last week and will be available for the next few weeks. Please take the time to complete the survey as it will provide vital information about your wishes and concerns. Complete the survey here.
  • A virtual Fireside Chat will be scheduled in April after Easter to share information and obtain your feedback about a reopening plan.
  • In the meantime, occasional small gatherings in the garden will allow members a chance to be with each other in-person.

Nature and Spirit – Reimagining our 125th Anniversary Celebration 

The Stewardship Committee under the excellent leadership of Andrew Dodd and Professor Devin Zuber is working on creating this celebration as a virtual program. Significant progress has been made. There will be eight weeks of presentations (two each week) from the end of April until late June.  Each week will culminate with a live Q&A session with the presenters held on each Sunday May 2nd through June 20th. Many of the presenters originally scheduled in 2020 have agreed to participate in this reimagined celebration.

A preliminary budget has been approved and the Stewardship Committee is in the process of applying for grants to help fund this exciting event. Advertising and additional details will be made available shortly.  If you have any questions or are interested in helping with this program, please contact Andrew Dodd.

Our next meeting will be held April 18th at 1 p.m.  Thank you everyone and stay well.


Church Council Corner – February 2021

Monthly Update from your Church Council

Prepared by Council Secretary Laurie Carlson

Our church council met last Sunday, February 21st, 2021, with all council members present via Zoom. You will find a short summary of the issues discussed. 

The council has identified three primary goals for 2021:

  1. Ensuring Financial stability 
  2. Providing a high quality and meaningful worship experience 
  3. Maintaining strong connections with both our members and friends and with the larger denomination.

Financial Stability

  • We applied for and received our second PPP loan of $32,160. This is indeed a welcome addition to our finances.
  • We have received 21 pledges to date, totaling $77,000.00. Our projected budget for 2021 from pledging and congregational giving is $126,000. We are 62% of our way there. Thank you all for your generous support. 
  • Selling of the 2121 Lyon Street Property. A committee has been formed under the leadership of our treasurer Robert Carr and steps have been taken to begin the first phase of this project. It is premature to share much information at this time, however we do want you to know work has begun. If you have questions please feel free to contact Robert directly.

Worship Experience

  • Andrew Dodd and his team have been working diligently to improve the quality of our virtual worship experience. The virtual service is going on line at 10:50 a.m. which allows people plenty of time to establish their connection and for the service to begin on time at 11:00. This seems to be working very well and substantially decreases anxiety levels.
  • A worship committee has been formed to explore if, when, and how we can begin holding in-person services again. New regulations now allow for in person worship services at 25 % capacity. However, there will still be restrictions as far wearing masks, distancing, and no singing. Our church is committed to ensuring members safety and wellbeing when attending in person and at the same time, ensuring a high quality, meaningful virtual worship experience for those unable to attend in person. This is a challenging task and one that we will be working on in the coming months.

Staying Connected

  • The 1-year anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic is quickly approaching. It has been a long and challenging year. We have survived financially and we have grown in many unanticipated ways. Our members remain healthy and we continue to reach out, care for, and support each other. With the incidence of infections, hospitalizations and infections decreasing, the increasing number of people receiving vaccinations, and the gradual lifting of restrictions, 2021 offers promise and hope. 
  • Several of our members have been participating in the Swedenborgians in Action Against Racism (programs being offered by the denomination). For those attending this has been an eye-opening, educational and beneficial experience. It has also provided an opportunity to meet Swedenborgians from all over the country.
  • Nature and Spirit – Reimagining our 125th Anniversary Celebration. As mentioned in the last council corner, the Stewardship committee under the leadership of Andrew Dodd and Devin Zuber is working on creating a virtual program. Most of the original speakers are interested and excited about participating in this virtual event. Work is underway and you will be receiving regular updates in the next two months.

Our next meeting will be held March 21st at 1 p.m. Thank you everyone and stay well.


Church Council Corner – January 2021

Monthly Update from your Church Council

Prepared by Council Secretary Laurie Carlson

The first church council meeting of 2021 was held on Sunday January 17, 2021.  All council members were able to attend this meeting by Zoom.  Remember members and friends are welcome to attend these meetings as well.  A Zoom link will be provided to you if interested.  Below is a summary of the discussion.

Our new council president, Jennifer Lindsay began the meeting by outlining her three priorities for the year. They include:

  1. Ensuring Financial stability which includes the selling of 2121 Lyon St., establishing protocols/financial safeguards to protect the funds produced by the sale, and wisely investing the funds or creating an endowment in the Common Fund.
  2. Continuing to improve the quality of our virtual worship experience.
  3. Establishing a stronger relationship and participation with our national denomination. 

Reverend Lee wants to remind everyone that he is available for pastoral care and counseling. He reported that we are beginning to receive a few more couples are inquiring about and scheduling dates for weddings.  Hopefully with the availability of the vaccine, we will begin to receive even more. Rev. Lee’s priorities for this year- a renewed effort to communicate with our members and friends, to provide comforting and inspiring services and messages and to designate time to translate True Christian Religion into Korean.  He will continue to provide classes and activities which are listed in another section of this newsletter.

Payroll Protection Loans:  Our treasurer, Robert Carr submitted the loan forgiveness form for the first PP loan we received last spring.  He is very confident that this loan will be forgiven in full as we meet the criteria for loan forgiveness.  Congress approved a Pandemic Bill in Dec, 2020 which included the provision of a second PPP loan.  Criteria for qualifying for this second loan includes demonstrating a revenue decrease of 25%.  Our Church’s revenue decreased by 34% from 2019 to 2020. The online portal is now available and we submitted a request for 2.5 months of payroll again, approximately $37,000.  This will be a wonderful boost to our finances.

2021 Pledge Campaign:  The pledge letter was sent out by email a week ago with the ability to complete your pledge on line.  We ask that you prayerfully consider your response again this year.  We are so thankful for the incredible financial support we received from all of you past year and your support, nurturing, and caring for our church community during this unexpected year.

Nature and Spirit Reboot:  The Stewardship committee is working on re-imaging the 125th Anniversary Celebration from the in person 6-day experience to an online virtual format.  So much wonderful work was put into the creation of this celebration.   It seems fitting to see if we can’t somehow bring this celebration to life in 2021.  Stay tuned for more details on this. 

Lastly… We learned a lot.  We endured a lot.  We achieved a lot in 2020.  We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for.  Let us look forward with hope, preparation, and anticipation for all that this new year will bring.


Denomination Offers Pandemic Relief Grants for Individuals

The Executive Committee of the General Council of the Swedenborgian Church in the U.S. and Canada has authorized a limited number of one-time grants per household for pandemic related relief.  Applications should be directed to Rev. Junchol Lee at revjclee@sfswedenborgian.org or 415-346-6468.

Pandemic Relief Grants for Individuals

  • Up to $500 one-time grant per household for pandemic related relief.  Grants shall be initiated by church members who are 18 years or older and actively involved with a Swedenborg Church Society, Camp, or Association/Conference.
  • The President of General Convention will present the requests with attribution as to the person or household making the grant request on an as needed basis to Executive Committee for confirmation.
  • Donations to the fund to be requested starting in January from individuals who may have the capacity and willingness to assist in this effort.  Donations to be matched dollar for dollar up to $10,000 in total contribution from General Convention.
  • Employees of General Convention and members of General Council are explicitly excluded from consideration of a grant request.
  • Grants will be available through 2021 Convention or until the available funds are fully expended.