June 23rd All-Church Conference

Be There, or Be Square

Do you remember that injunction, “Be there, or be square”?

It apparently has been in use since the 1940’s, and has several shades of meaning, from “if you are not ‘there’ you are not ‘cool’” to “if you are not there, you will be left out”, and as a “playful invitation to encourage someone to attend an event or participate in an activity”.

And that is what this is, an invitation, albeit a serious and heartfelt one, meant to encourage you to attend, and participate in the special called church conference on Sunday, June 23rd, immediately following worship.  The purpose of this church conference is to review the budget as established by the Coeur Team, set the pastor’s compensation, and solicit input on church security, more especially becoming a weapon-free zone, and employing a security service to provide armed security. District Superintendent, Daniel Miranda, will be presiding.

Here are the particulars:

Budget Review: As covered during the All-Church Meeting on April 28th, the Finance Team has diligently worked to prepare a budget for the church’s fiscal year July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2025.  The proposed budget discussed on April 28th, included reductions in staff hours and a proposed reduction in the pastor’s compensation of roughly 10%.

While The Book of Discipline assigns to the church council (in CUMC’s case, the Coeur Team) the responsibility for “establish[ing] the budget on recommendation of the committee on finance and ensur[ing] adequate provision for the financial needs of the church” (¶ 252. 4. c)) every member of the church has in a sense “a say”.  We have “a say” indirectly in our giving, especially our financial giving, and we have “a say” more directly in establishing the pastor’s compensation, since that is a part of the budget.

That indirect “say”, our estimates of giving, or “pledges”, has been taken into account by the finance team in preparing the budget to be presented to, and voted on, by the Coeur Team.
This is the budget that will be reviewed with the whole body of the church on June 23rd.
Also included in the budget to be reviewed on June 23rd are additional reductions in staff hours, expenditure of reserves, and a reduction in estimates of historic “un-pledged giving”.
Most importantly, however, is the inclusion of a reduction of the pastor’s compensation.  This is where the professing members of the church have a direct “say” in the budget as the pastor’s compensation is set by the charge conference, and in this case, by the church conference.

In a rare form of leadership, Pastor Amanda has volunteered to reduce her compensation in order to meet the church’s budgetary needs.  This reflects not only “leading from the front” vis-á-vis reductions in staff hours, but also the reality of the “indirect say” we have made through our pledged giving.  To make this change requires the church membership to “set the compensation”. We will do that at the June 23rd church conference.

Church security: Data compiled by The Violence Prevention Project shows that: 31% of mass shootings occur in “the workplace”; the vast majority of mass shootings in houses of worship occur in the Southern states; and, of the nine locations identified as places where mass shootings occur, six are more frequent than houses of worship. Nonetheless, the recent arrest of a local person who had been radicalized and had apparently targeted houses of worship, brought concern for church security back to the forefront.

As a result, several things have happened. We have re-implemented the practice of keeping the doors locked, with access granted by the office staff, after viewing the security camera image. We have ensured that the front doors are locked at the time worship starts, and have stationed a volunteer in the lobby to allow access to late comers, as well as for “screening”. We have locked, and kept closed, the doors to the worship space (emergency exit is still possible) to further reduce access. Our safety officer has contacted the Coeur d’Alene police, who have assured us that the measures we are taking are reasonable.

We have, in collaboration with three other United Methodist Churches, formed a “church security collab” to develop church security guidelines. Led by a lay member of Spokane Valley UMC, guidance from the US Department of Homeland Security, and our insurance carrier has been, and is being, reviewed and incorporated into the guidelines.

A part of that effort is consideration of becoming a “weapon-free zone”. This is a long-standing discussion. The United Methodist Church included it in The Book of Resolutions in 2000, and at least one major denomination includes it in their rules for the use of church facilities.

While additional research is needed concerning Idaho State law, the Coeur Team thinks it essential to get at least a general sense of the congregation’s feelings around becoming a “weapon-free zone”.

Additionally, the Coeur Team thinks it is essential to get a sense of the congregation’s feelings around the idea of employing a security service to provide armed security. A member of the congregation has brought forward a concern for security related to:
•the radicalized person,
•CUMC’s open and inclusive “All Means All” face-to-face with “North Idaho’s history of white supremacy and right winged radical groups” as illustrated by “recent incidents”,
•the “ongoing political divisiveness in our community” possibly exacerbated by the upcoming elections, and
•Idaho’s gun laws which allow concealed weapon carry without a permit by anyone 18 or over.

They have proposed, therefore, that CUMC “contract with a local security company to provide an armed (concealed), plain-clothes security guard” who would be stationed in the lobby on Sunday mornings. In support of this proposal, they have found a donor willing to underwrite the cost up to a maximum of $4,000.  

We have reached out to our insurance company to learn how this might affect our insurance costs. The insurer has responded and while they did not quote any specific price, it is clear that they will require an extensive review of any security plan we put in place, along with other information, that involves an armed security service. We have also done some cursory looking – via internet searches – and have learned that, generally, insurance costs can range from the low to the high thousands of dollars. These costs have not been included in the proposed budget.

In addition, we will contact local security firms to get a sense of the services they provide, an understanding of the training and experience of their personnel, as well as the insurance they carry, and references.  

In summary, on Sunday, June 23rd, immediately following worship, District Superintendent Daniel Miranda will preside at a special called church conference. Its purpose is to review the budget as established by the Coeur Team, set the pastor’s compensation, and solicit input on church security, more especially becoming a weapon-free zone, and employing a security service to provide armed security.

Be there, or be square!

John Townsend
Chair, Coeur Team

No Comments