Zoom with Tivoli and Fr. Charlie Meyer
January 19, 2023, 9:57 AM

Last night there was a meeting with Fr. Charlie Mayer formerly of Grace Church, Ossining, the two wardens of Tivoli, Larry Hough of Tivoli church and myself. (Rachel was absent but invited)

it was a general fact finding and introduction session where Fr. Mayer explained his credentials and costs and we introduced ourselves and our churches to him.

There were two churches in Ossining (Trinity and St Pauls churches), which recently made efforts to come together as one church. The reasons were very similar to ours - lack of congregation, small amounts of volunteer time, inability to afford a full time priest on their own. Fr. Mayer was heavily involved in this as a part time priest - along with another full time priest of the other church.  Now that the two churches have fully merged, they have employed a new full time priest to lead them going forward.

The interesting points of this merger were as follows:

1) For some time before the full merger the two churches (St Pauls and Trinity churches) worked together under a single vestry and did events etc together. They kept separate finances but helped each other with voluntary hours and shared worship every other week at the two churches.

2) In the end each church was canonically and legally dissolved and a new church was formed.  At this stage, the two joined congregations in worship permanently each week and voted to change the name to Grace Church (from a ballot of many names)

3) No decision has been made about which church to adopt as the new home for the church, leaving the remaining church to be used as outreach center/event space etc. The new full time PIC was employed with the specific remit of leading this conversation and assessing what to do.  They found this the best thing to do.

4) Fr. Charlie is a consultant and he has consulted on a number of diocese projects.  The ossining merger was successful, but not quick, the congregations having to do much of the heavy lifting. Although recommended by the transition Ministry of the Diocese, he is not officially representing the diocese. He works on a retainer of 10 hours at a time at a cost of $2500. He stated that one retainer should be enough for the whole process but this depends vastly on how much of the heavy lifting we do ourselves and how much we leave to him.

5) During the merger the churches hired an accountant that handled the finances and putting together a single budget and merging both the endowments etc.  They also hired a lawyer who is versed both in Episcopal canonical law and corporation law for the state etc.

6) a note on the diocese.  Both churches are of the same mind.  To put it bluntly, the Diocese is showing very little interest, no financial help and have no formal plans, no written down plan of action or even an idea of other possibilities for small churches in the area.  After a single email introduction from Nora Smith (of the Transition Ministry of the Diocese) she asked to even be removed from the CC: email list and to just inform her if we make progress.  Frankly, I couldn't be more disappointed in the diocese, considering we have worked hard at getting all assessments paid in full and on time, handed in all parochial report and audit paperwork on time, and paid back all loans 3 years early.

We meet again on Monday 23rd January in person to set a plan for the merger of the two churches on paper.


01-20-2023 at 11:29 AM
Barb Zelie
Thank you for this update Damien. Much to be considered…
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