A financial stewardship update

When you give an offering at Zion, not every dollar stays at Zion.  We are a church with a missional mindset that is always looking to support ministries beyond our walls.  For every $100 given to the general fund, $10 goes to support organizations like Christian Assistance Ministry, the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA, CASA Helotes, and SAMM.  Each of these ministries do some wonderful work in the world on our behalf.

One of the difficult decisions our congregation council had to make last year was to temporarily suspend our benevolence payments to our ministry partners. The council did not make this decision lightly because they knew that the contributions we send do some wonderfully important and life-giving ministries that extend the work of Zion beyond the church’s walls. The goal was to do this for as little time as possible and to increase our Blessed Change collections from every 5th Sunday to every last Sunday of the month.  That has helped offset some of the losses.

The council made the decision to examine the finances on a monthly basis to determine when we could begin benevolence payments. The council also committed to keeping the congregation informed on what’s been happening. In that spirit, we want to let you know some good news on this front.

We have been able to make our benevolence payments for the last three months!  This impacts so many in our community and around the world.

We think that this is trend will continue so now we are operating under the assumption that we WILL be sending our benevolence payments rather than not sending them.

The only way this could have happened is because of your faithful financial giving. Thanks be to God for your generosity!

Epiphany Building Update

February 2017 Construction Update

Here we are half way through February and construction continues. We thought you’d like an update of what’s happened:

-Work continues on the sanctuary and narthex. One of the many things happening this week is that we’ve had people installing some beautiful hardwood flooring in the chancel (altar and pulpit) and choir areas. They’ve put the wood down and now are sanding and staining the floors.

-Pastor Dave, Pastor Russell, Suzie, Julie, and Martha will be moving back to a renovated administration wing February 21. A couple of notes related to that:
-If you have a meeting in the Administration Wing or need to stop by (we always love visitors), the only exterior door that will be open will be conference room door on the 1604 side of the church property. The Narthex is off limits until construction is completed.

-Pastor Russell and Suzie have switched offices. This is because Julie and Martha’s office will be moving once the Gazebo and new offices are completed later this spring.

-The Fire Marshall has not given us clearance to occupy the old nursery until construction is completed on the gazebo and new office spaces later this spring.

-Construction has re-started on the gazebo and new office spaces. I’ll have another post about this tomorrow, but this is a very good thing that happened and will help us as we move towards completing this building.

Finally, here are some pictures:

When you come to anything in the administration wing, please use this entrance until construction is over.  The narthex doors will be locked because it is a construction zone and the gazebo area will also be under construction.

Notice the new tile and paint in the hallway.  (Also notice that the doors that exit to the narthex have the “No Exit signs.”)

The restrooms have been renovated.  We had to make some changes in the restrooms because of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  When you walk into each restroom you’ll notice new tile on the floor, new sinks and counter tops, and new bathroom stall doors.

Here’s a picture of the conference room.  You’ll notice the new carpet throughout the administration wing.

This is a picture of a stairwell next to the church office.  You’ll notice we have new lighting and that the stairwells are now open to the narthex.  We want to do what we can to let people know that we have a balcony that is available for seating.

Here’s a picture of the sanded floors for the chancel (altar and pulpit) and choir areas.  They have yet to be stained.

Here’s a picture of the interior of the new organ console.  If you go to the back of the Family Life Center, you’ll see the roll top down on it.  But here’s what will be coming into our sanctuary later this year.  We’ll have more information about the organ a little later in the year.

More to come tomorrow…

Pastor Russell

Medical Mission Trip

One of our outreach ministries at Zion is with a girls home in Rural Southwestern Honduras called Project Talitha Cumi.  Zion has been working with them for some years and will be returning there November 5-12.

This trip will be a medical resupply of the Project Talitha Cumi clinic, which we have stocked the last two years through congregation support.  The mission team will also see 200-300 patients from surrounding villages, which have little access to medical treatments.  Dr. Kathy Grove and Todd Grove will lead the team, which includes Jim Meadows, Paul Goldenbaum, and Ryan Grove.

We are in need of your medical supply donations.  The team is asking for the following items:

-Ibuprofen – 200 mg
-Acetaminophen – 500 mg
-Hydro-cortisone cream
-Muscle rub cream
-Petroleum jelly – small bottles
-Adult multi-vitamins – drug store quality
-Children multi-vitamins – drug store quality
-Prenatal multi-vitamins – drug store quality
-Triple antibiotic ointment

A helpful hint from the team:  You can purchase most of these items at the Dollar Tree in Helotes $1 each.  For vitamins, please use a drug store.  You can also make a cash donation so that the team can go and purchase these supplies.

God’s Work at Zion

One of the joys of being a pastor is seeing signs of God’s goodness in lots of different places.  I thought I’d share some signs of God’s Spirit stirring here at Zion over the last few weeks.

-We’ve met our challenge grant!!  As was announced in worship last week, we had a family step forward with a generous gift to challenge the people of Zion to help meet some major unexpected expenses with our building.  We were able to collect over $156,000 (with more pledged on the way!) in a little over a month.  $150,000 of that will be matched through the challenge grant.  It looks like by the time the rest of the pledges come in, we will have collected around $325,000.  Thanks be to God!!!

-Last Sunday children in grades 2-5 assembled 210 school kits for children throughout the world in need.  Their kits, along with other congregations, will be sent to Lutheran World Relief.

-Our Sunday School is off to a great start.  Our education director, Karen Stein, is working with the teachers who help form faith in the lives of the littlest disciples.

-Our Blessed Change ministry sent $319 to our partners at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio in honor of our former vicar, Pastor Emily Ebert, who was recently ordained and called to serve a congregation in the Buffalo, NY area.

-This Saturday we have a group of 28 people heading downtown to help feed the homeless with Taking it to the Streets.  They will cook the food here at Zion and then feed anyone that is hungry.  Thanks to Tim Tiemann for heading up this important ministry!

-Next weekend we have a group of people going to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.  We’re working with other Lutheran congregations in the area on this house.  We also have a group of volunteers that are feeding the crew on Saturday.

-We will have the bloodmobile here on Sunday.

-Third Graders are receiving Bibles this Sunday, September 11, as a way of Zion fulling baptismal promises to them. Three year olds have been given Story Bibles in their classroom as a way to introduce the Bible to them. They hear stories from these Bibles in their classroom.

-Our youth minister, Travis Baker, is having a confirmation ministry kick off this Sunday.  We give God thanks for the adults that spend their Sunday evenings with these youth as they go through this important part of their faith journey.

-Our musical groups have started back after a summer break.  We thank God for the people that use their musical gifts to praise the Risen Christ in worship!  It’s not too late to jump into one of our music groups.  For more info, contact Rob Mikulski.

-We recently commissioned a new Stephen Leader for our Stephen Ministry.  Several people in our congregation are considering becoming a Stephen Minister.  If you’d like to have more information about this ministry, contact Pastor Russell.

We are a blessed church!  God is doing some great things through this congregation.

In thankfulness for our partnership,

Pastor Russell

Sept. 1 Building Update

Here’s a visual update on what’s happening with some of our construction.

 

Corner Stone

The limestone is starting to go back up!  We had to remove the cornerstone on Church #3 to make the necessary repairs.  It is installed and you can see the first pieces of limestone to the left and right of it.  Yay!!

Sanctuary Interior

Work continues on the sanctuary.  This is a picture from under the large stained glass in the sanctuary looking towards the balcony.  Notice how the back wall has changed significantly.  The holes in the wall are where the glass will be.  Also, notice that the back wall of the sanctuary, which was not straight, has now been straightened out.  This will add some additional seating on the main floor of the sanctuary.

 

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Here’s a picture of the wall between the narthex and the sanctuary.  On the left side of the picture are the center doors into the sanctuary.

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Here’s a picture of the narthex from the admin wing of Church #3.  You’ll notice that the wall is flat and has less glass in it.  This will help with the acoustics in the sanctuary.  I really like the niches that will be at the end of each side of the narthex.

 

Fire Sprinkler 1

One of the things we are required to do is install a fire sprinkler system throughout the whole building.  Here are the pipes for the sanctuary.  Our contractor had them painted to match the wood ceiling in the sanctuary so it will blend in with the building as much as possible.

 

Fire Sprinkler 2

Here’s another shot of the fire sprinkler in the nursery.  It’s the black pipe running through the picture.  The fire line will be covered by the ceiling tiles (except for the sprinkler head) in the rest of the building, so there was no need to paint those.

As a gentle reminder, this area is still strictly off limits during construction.  We know that a lot of you want to get into the space and see it, but it’s just not safe for us to get in there right now.

If you have any questions, you are certainly welcome to ask either of the Pastors or Don Josephson, our building team chair.

Pastor Russell

The Adventure Continues, Part 3

In the previous posts, we shared information about what we know about Church #3 and how that impacts the rest of the construction project. Let’s look ahead to what’s coming –

1. Scaffolding is going up around the sanctuary and administration building.  It will take several weeks for the scaffolding to go up.
2. One of the commonly asked questions is – When do we expect to be back in the sanctuary?  We expect to return to our sanctuary in late Spring 2017.  In the meantime we will continue to meet in the Family Life Center for worship.
3.  Our architect and contractor are aggressively working on finding us savings. They understand our predicament and have spent many hours working for us.
4. We are working on the financial implications on all of this. Our capital campaign team that did such a marvelous job with Connect*Give*Grow has reconvened.
5. It is important that members of this community keep their offerings to the general fund and building fund current.
6. We will have a congregational meeting on June 26, immediately after the 11:15 service (at approximately 12:30). We need you to be present for that meeting.

If you have other questions or comments, please feel free to send an email to the church office and we’ll be happy to answer them the best we can. The building team, council, and staff have committed themselves to communicating as much as they can about this.

Finally, we invite you to be in prayer during this time. We went into this trusting that “God is calling…” and we continue this trusting that God is still calling.

The Adventure Continues, Part 2

Yesterday we shared a little bit about what’s happened with our building project.  To say the least, it’s an unexpected obstacle in this time of adventure!

The building team, staff, and council have been hard at work these last several months trying to figure out our next step forward.  We have been blessed with gifted contractors and architects who have been very helpful and supportive.

The main priority for us is to fix this problem so that it won’t happen again.  We don’t want to “kick the can down the road” for future disciples at Zion to deal with this because we know that this problem will get worse with time.

Our contractor and architect had several lengthy discussions on how to properly fix this and we were informed that the only way to move forward is to remove the exterior limestone, abate the damaged portions of the wall, properly fix the “bones” of the interior walls, and then put the limestone back up again. This fix will make sure we have a water tight building that won’t have this problem again.

This is not something we want to do but it is something we have to do. If we don’t do it now, not only will the building get worse (and cost more to fix), we also  run the risk of losing our construction financing.

This will be expensive. The initial price estimates we have received are that this will cost us about $1.2 million dollars. Since we had no way of knowing this was happening, we did not budget for such a major expense. At the same time, we cannot responsibly borrow another $1.2 million without putting significant financial strain on the congregation, so we have two options –
1. To pause part of the first sequence of construction until we collect the needed money.
2. Raise the $1.2 million quickly to pay for this unexpected surprise.

While we hope that we will be able to raise the necessary funds as soon as possible, at this point the leadership of this congregation feels that we must do the financially responsible thing and make the difficult decision to stop part of the project.  To save enough money, we must either –
1. Complete the exterior of the education building but not any of the interior.
2. Complete the exterior of the sanctuary but not any of the interior.

We don’t like either of these options. We strongly feel that both of these spaces are needed for our ministry. We also don’t like that if we stop work on either project; it will cost us more to complete it at a later date.

Our contractor and architect made the recommendation that we stop work on the interior of the education building. We agree with their recommendation and have asked them to work on finding as much savings as possible by not finishing the education building.

This means that the exterior of the education building will be completed but the rest of the education building will remain incomplete until we raise the needed funds. When people drive by our church, they will see a completed exterior. But because the interior will not be completed, we will not be able to occupy this space until the interior is completed.

Right now, we our main priorities are to keep the congregation informed on what’s going on and to navigate what has become a very complicated building project. We know that we will need to vote on some important items on June 26 at 12:30, so we’re asking for your presence at this important meeting. We are also asking for your prayers and support during this time.

More to come tomorrow…

The Adventure Continues

November 8, 2015 was a great day at Zion. We processed out of the sanctuary after our congregational meeting to break ground on our new construction. As we entered into construction, the two words Pastor Dave and Pastor Russell used were – “generosity” and “adventure.”

What an adventure it’s been! In January we made the transition from the sanctuary to the Family Life Center and began a new worship schedule. We give God thanks for the many ways in which this congregation has been so gracious with each other during this time of transition.

In any adventure there are obstacles. Earlier this year, we found out what our obstacle would be. As we began necessary demolition of parts of the sanctuary for remodeling, we found out something no one had any way of knowing about. Due to our previous architect and contractor not using best practices, we have significant problems in our sanctuary and administration building that we didn’t know about until we started looking behind the walls.

Here’s a list of the major problems:
1. There is supposed to be a gap between the limestone (which is a façade) and the walls actually holding up the building to allow for moisture drainage. The gap is smaller than what is usually called for and is clogged with remains of limestone and mortar.
2. The materials behind the limestone were not properly waterproofed.
3. The stained glass windows in the sanctuary were not flashed, allowing water to enter into the sanctuary.

We did additional testing and selective removal of other portions of the building and found out that this is present throughout the whole sanctuary and administration building.

While all this testing was going on, we consulted multiple attorneys to see what legal options we have against the previous contractor, architect, and inspector. Texas law gives us 10 years to find these sorts of defects and this building is over 25 years old, so we have no legal action. We have also contacted our insurance company to see if we can make any sort of insurance claim.

So in light of all of that, work has begun on fixing the problem. Earlier this week scaffolding began to be placed around the sanctuary walls and will remain there for several months.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a post on what will happen while the scaffolding is around the sanctuary.

Building Update

I thought I’d put together a brief update of what’s been happening with our construction:

-Penelope the Organ
To begin with I’d like to show a video from the Christ Cathedral in California after the Roman Catholic Church purchased that property from the Crystal Cathedral.

Our organ project isn’t nearly as large, but you can begin to see from the video how time consuming a project like this can be.

The pipe organ in Church #3, which was nicknamed Penelope, was removed from the sanctuary last week. It was a fascinating process to watch from start to finish. Each of the individual pipes had to be carefully removed, labeled, wrapped, and then put in boxes for transportation to the Dallas area. There are also parts on the inside of the pipe organ made of various types of wood that are made with various types of wood that are bulky and heavy that had to be removed and stored.

After a very full week of work, the final pieces of the pipe organ were removed from the sanctuary on Friday afternoon.

A lot of people have asked – what’s going to happen to Penelope?  If we were going to continue to use her in the sanctuary, she was going to need some significant repair work.  Rather than repairing Penelope, our organ builder took parts of Penelope so they can be re-purposed for future pipe organs throughout the country.

-All The Pews that Fit
Before major construction begins, the pews in the sanctuary have to be removed during construction. So here’s a quick run-down of what’s happened:
1. When the pews were installed, they were anchored into the floor. They had to be removed from the floor.
2. The longer pews in the sanctuary are actually two pieces joined together. They were taken apart.
3. In preparation for moving, the pews were wrapped in plastic to protect them as they’re stored during construction.

After all of that, the pews are being removed from the Sanctuary Wednesday and will be in storage during the renovation and it will be time for some selected demolition in the sanctuary.

-Moving Dirt…
Work on the education building continues…

Last week several parking spaces on the 1604 side were fenced off. There have been lots of loads of dirt dumped on our property that form the base for the new education building. The dirt has been moved around, packed, and will continue to be formed into a solid foundation for this building.  If you come up to the church campus during the day, you’ll probably hear the beeps and other sounds of heavy construction equipment like bulldozers.

-Finally
As always, we’re thankful for the ways in which this community of faith embodies generosity and adventure.  I invite you to keep our building team, staff, and construction crew in prayer.

Stories of Faith in Action #3

Over the last several days we’ve been hearing about how people at Zion have been using their gifts to put their faith in action.  Today’s story is from Dave Newman, one of our leaders of Zion’s Lutheran Men in Mission about a unique way a group of men used their gifts.  He writes:

“November 25 was a bittersweet day at Zion.

The bitter? After months of careful planning, designing, and praying, several of our oak trees had to be pushed over to make way for the new Education Building. Sad…those trees probably watched as Zion came and grew to be the church it is today. There is a common grieving throughout the congregation about losing some of God’s beautiful creations.

The sweet? God is continually the creator. Obviously, we soon will be blessed with a great new educational facility and enhanced areas for work and fellowship. We also will be blessed with many more new trees, albeit younger/smaller, for future generations.

And also…God creates opportunities. The trees were scheduled to be hauled to the landfill. What a waste! For years, Zion’s men have traveled many miles gathering firewood for Zion BBQ’s. The opportunity to gather firewood from our own church grounds was heaven sent. Also, the trees could be honored with a noble end…providing the next “Holy Smoke” for another Zion BBQ.

In keeping with the traditions passed down throughout our history, our men felt a responsibility to support Zion. Several volunteered hastily arranged hours to cut up and stack most of the fallen trunks and limbs before they were to be hauled away. We gathered enough firewood to last for several BBQ’s. While we still mourn the loss of our trees, we will be able to continue serving Zion again and again with the heat from burning their remains. A wonderful fringe benefit of the project was the camaraderie the Spirit provided among those who helped.

Any who would like to be included in Zion’s next Lutheran Men in Mission event, contact Dave Newman. (210-859-7860 or ddnewman@mac.com)”