A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: ANNUAL MEETINGS RECAP
Friends, thanks to all of you who attended last week’s Annual Meetings of the Congregation and Corporation of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. I thought it might be helpful to do a brief recap for those of you who were unable to attend the meeting to confirm what happened.
First, the Congregational Nominating Committee presented an outstanding slate of nominees to serve as Elders, Deacons, Trustees, and members of the Congregational Nominating Committee. The nominations that were made by the committee were approved unanimously! The officers-elect will be doing training in February and will be ordained and/or installed in early March. Second, the Corporation Meeting focused on reports about the endowed/invested funds of the church, which performed quite well in 2023, increasing in value by 16% through growth in the market.
Returning to the Congregational Meeting, there were reports on ministry highlights from 2023, the Annual Operating Budget in 2023, and the approved Annual Operating Budget for 2024. The great news about the budget in 2023 is that we initially projected a deficit of over $300,000, because there is no “fat” in our budget to cut, and any cuts would inhibit our ability to fulfill our mission.
We asked the congregation to prayerfully consider making First Presbyterian your philanthropic priority for at least the next three years as we go through our strategic mission planning process for redeveloping our campus, which is simultaneously our greatest resource and our greatest liability, and many of you responded. That, plus a few timely bequests, enabled us to end 2023 with a small surplus!! For 2024, the Session has passed an operating budget with a substantially smaller deficit, and is continuing to ask for you to consider how you might be able to increase your support of our church if you have not already done so.
Finally, the congregation discussed the recommended changes to our congregational bylaws that the Session presented. It was a substantive discussion, including several proposed amendments to improve both clarity and congregational communication.
Those that passed were incorporated into the bylaws, while one regarding the reporting processes among Session, Trustees, and standing committees failed, but its substantive intent will be taken up by the Session in terms of improving internal communications processes.
With all that accomplished, we adjourned after 90 minutes, and many of us enjoyed a delicious pasta luncheon provided by our Boy Scout Troop 302, with a full room of diners and joyful conversation. If you were not able to attend, I hope this helps understand what happened, and that you’ll be able to join us next year!
Grace and Peace,
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