Winding up in Brunswick

     A major capital fund drive, a test of our commitment, an opportunity to strengthen our financial base, had never been done by the merged Association. It was necessary and appropriate for a religious/charitable organization such as ours. The Board approved the concept and the firm of Arthur Rabin Associates had been retained to assist in carrying out the drive. It was an important new initiative in the development of our future.

     There always seemed to be the need to educate the General Assembly on Board processes, specifically those involving finances. Many delegates were not aware that the Board routinely had three budgets under its eye at any given time. In the 1981-1982 year, for instance, the Board monitored the current year’s budget and made certain minor changes in it as we went along. A full, line-by-line review and final approval of the 1982-1983 budget followed detailed study by the finance committee, and the 1983-1984 budget was received and given a preliminary review.

     This year, the Board adopted a new budgeting procedure focusing on a more streamlined format for the decision packages on which we based our consideration, and a reduction in the time spent in consideration of the budget for the fiscal period two years hence. This new procedure appeared to be working well.

     Our economy as of June 1982 seems to be turning, although it may be the least dramatic and most slow-moving turnaround since the Second World War. The rate of inflation is slowing. There seems to be no sign of an immediate moderating of interest rates, the money center banks tested the lows of prime and then drew back. The stock market closed Friday at its lowest levels in the past 24 months. The trend lines in our picture which we will see illustrated in the report of the Finance Committee are discouraging, showing a tendency toward constriction in our fiscal ability to bear witness to our visions.

     According to Gertrude Stein: “As a cousin of mine once said about money, money is always there, but the pockets change; it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money.”

     What Miss Stein is saying for our edification -- and the nice thing about interpreting Gertrude Stein is that no one really understands exactly what she is saying -- is that the money is in our particular orbit -- it is just a matter of getting it into the right places. In other words, the membership of this association has, directly and through sources it can influence, the money to do whatever it wants to do.

     It is, therefore, a tragedy that we have perceived needs and defined programs to deal with them, but we cannot carry them out because we cannot muster the money for staff and materials. Let us recall in this moment a paraphrase of that great theologian Pogo -- “We have seen this institution and it is us.” Its strength is the measure of our strength, its weakness is the limitation we place on its strength.

     My message to you from someone who has completed his first year of study of our financial affairs on your behalf and with your charge -- my financial advice to this Association met in General Assembly -- if you remember one thing I say in this report, let it be this -- go back to your congregations, your area councils, your districts -- and do one small but measurable thing for the financial strength and vitality of this association.

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