Massachusetts: Together Now campaign surpasses $20 million

By Tracy Sukraw
Posted Sep 24, 2013

[Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts] A year and a half after its public launch, and with all congregations participating, the Diocese of Massachusetts’ Together Now fundraising campaign reached its $20-million goal over the summer months.

“We’ve done it. We’re over the top. Large and small, individually and collectively, we’ve done it, and we’ve done it together,” Massachusetts Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE said in a campaign update to congregations and donors.

When the pledge tally hit $20,049,826 as of June 30, it was a finish-line moment in what has been a marathon effort counted off in dozens of success stories along the way — up, down and across the diocese — as individuals and congregations found their way into the campaign and then made it their own.

Trinity Church in Haverhill, a congregation with an average Sunday attendance of about 40 in an economically depressed city at the diocese’s northern edge, set a collaborative campaign goal of $80,000 and raised $99,460.  “That we could ever raise this kind of money, at this time, astounds me, and reminds me that when we live our lives from a place of abundance, God shows the way for miracles to happen,” the Rev. Jane Bearden, rector, said back in March.

St. Bartholomew’s Church in Cambridge, one of the diocese’s historically black parishes, set out to collect $40,000 for the campaign on a designated Sunday, after several weeks of outreach last spring, and came away with $66,160 in pledges. “It was beyond my wildest expectation of what we could raise in these hard times,” the Rev. Leslie Sterling, Priest-in-Charge, reported at the time. “Meeting our Together Now goal gives us a stake in the continued vitality of the Diocese of Massachusetts, and a direct connection to local, national and international mission and ministry,” she said.

Grace Church in Everett, made up of two small congregations, one English-speaking and one French and Creole-speaking, also conducted an in-pew collection for the campaign, setting a $10,000 goal and coming away with $32,160 raised. “I’m really grateful for how God moved through the participation of both of our congregations. In all things, we seek to be one community, and this was a huge statement about our oneness as a parish and our oneness in Christ,” the Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran, Rector, said.

One of the distinguishing things about the Together Now campaign:  It wasn’t about just one thing.

The money raised is for an array of initiatives — some still in the development phase — that are focused on building up congregational life and mission in the diocese through collaboration and by expanding the reach of already successful diocesan programs.

The funding for those initiatives falls into five areas:  $2 million as a tithe for mission work outside the diocese; $2 million for environmental stewardship through “green” grants and loans to congregations; $4.5 million to create mission hubs (strategically located groups of congregations collaborating to meet local needs) and a Mission Institute (a collaboration with Episcopal City Mission and the Episcopal Divinity School to develop innovative learning opportunities for congregations and leaders); $7.5 million for ongoing and expanded ministry programs with children, youth and young adults, including the diocese’s Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield, N.H.; and $4 million for renovations to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in downtown Boston, to help make it more accessible, more energy efficient and better configured to both host and model innovative worship, ministry and public witness.

The campaign’s many components initially made it difficult to make a case for, but in the end  proved to be a strength as the variety of its proposed projects spoke to the varied interests of different donors and congregations, bearing out Shaw’s mantra from the very beginning: This campaign had something to offer every single congregation of the diocese.

The Rev. Pamela Werntz, rector of Emmanuel Church in Boston, said in a presentation at Diocesan Convention last November that as her congregation worked to figure out its participation in the campaign, “We began to look through photographs and realized we could find Emmanuelites participating in each of the Together Now priorities.”

“We realized that we have met the diocese and the diocese is us,” Werntz said. Her parish’s collaborative campaign goal was $600,000, the parish portion to be used for repairing a back-alley wall, and raised $769,390.

To help make it possible for every congregation to contribute, Shaw asked for a campaign designed around several participation options. Congregations could make a pledge to the campaign (raising $837,018, as of June 30), take up an in-pew collection ($1,759,430) or make a gift to the diocesan campaign from an independently run capital campaign ($1,055,400).

A fourth option was to conduct a collaborative campaign, with the help of diocesan consultants, offering 30 percent of the amount raised to the diocesan campaign and keeping 70 percent for the parish.

Thirty-nine congregations ran these collaborative campaigns, raising $4,733,162 for the diocesan campaign and an additional $11.8 million for their own local needs, which, when combined with the $11.6 million in major gifts from individual donors, brings the total amount raised by the Together Now campaign to $31.9 million.

And yet, this kind of success did not seem a sure thing four years ago when campaign planning began.

“No, this was never a sure thing,” Warren McFarlan, a professor emeritus of business administration at Harvard Business School, who chaired the campaign with his wife, Karen, said. “You never know which congregations and which past major donors are going to give support, or which new donors will come forth unexpectedly. And the diocese had only run one other campaign before” — at least in recent memory, raising $15 million to build the $18-million Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield, N.H., which opened in 2003 — “and that one was much easier to describe,” he said.

Persistence and strategy were important components to the campaign’s success, McFarlan said. “Our consultants, CCS, were a strong force that helped us relentlessly move forward. Our diocesan development staff also rose to the occasion, and we now have a much more confident program for maintaining donor outreach going forward,” he said.

McFarlan noted how very different congregations in very different settings were able to reach deep and surpass their campaign goals.

“Holy Spirit, Mattapan comes to mind,” McFarlan said of an inner-city Boston parish that raised its goal of $680,000. “The parish is at the center of their lives and they really reached into their pockets. My own parish in Winchester also comes to mind, which is among the major donors and successful parishes that gave the campaign a great leap forward.” The Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, one of the diocese’s largest and in an affluent suburb north of Boston, surpassed its $1.85-million collaborative campaign goal, raising $1,991,125.

McFarlan, as he explained why he and his wife signed on to the campaign, summed up what many others have said of the inspiration for their own involvement.

“We did it because of a real belief in Tom Shaw and his energy and commitment to make it a success, and because the initiatives being put forward were eminently worthwhile and in the best interests of the long-term future of the diocese. It was a combination of his faith and willingness to ask. You have to have a tolerance for rejection in a project like this–not everyone shares your enthusiasm — and he never chickened out,” McFarlan said.

Shaw has proved over his now 19-year tenure to be a bishop who is not only unafraid to talk about money but who also does not mind asking people for it when he believes it will do Gospel good in the world.

“People might not believe this, but really, the numbers are the least important thing to me. It’s everything that surrounds the numbers that is the main thing,” Shaw said. “I knew this campaign would be hard work, but I also had real confidence in the people of the diocese and the power of the Holy Spirit. I have been astounded at the courage of some of our parishes to do this — some without a lot of financial resources but the desire to work together as a diocese to do the work of the Gospel. I have tremendous gratitude for the generosity at the parish level and of individual donors. It’s a testament to people’s faith.”

The Rev. Silvestre Romero, priest-in-charge at St. Peter’s/San Pedro in Salem, a small congregation on the North Shore that is about half English-speaking and half Spanish-speaking, said that it took some time to get on board with the campaign.

“Since we have such a wide range of economics within our congregation, and challenges of culture and language, we were stuck on the issue of how can we ask people for more money when they’re hardly making it,” he said. It took “realizing we are part of a diocese that has been supporting us over a period of years and that we don’t have a choice not to participate.”

That and a dinosaur of a boiler, he said with a laugh, that was costing the parish $20,000 in heating oil a year. The parish, whose collaborative campaign is still in progress, is $45,210 on the way toward a $180,000 goal. The money will help with roof and window repair and boiler replacement while also supporting diocesan mission.

“This campaign has been a good learning process for us. Now we have a different way of talking about money. Now it is a conversation about how do we contribute to the life of the parish.  That has been a positive reality,” Romero said.

The Rev. Kate Malin, Rector of St. Anne’s-in-the-Fields Church in Lincoln, an affluent western suburb, said her congregation, too, took awhile to determine how to take part in the campaign, deciding in the end that the appetite and timing for a capital campaign wasn’t right.

The parish decided, instead, to do an in-pew collection. Its goal was $150,000, and it raised $193,970.

“We began the conversation with some anxiety,” she said. Even though the church’s buildings are in good shape, having undergone recent renovation, it has “no endowment at all,” she said, and faces budget uncertainties of its own.

As a “destination church” drawing from 12 towns, she said, “there is a big challenge for us in building community but a real desire for that.”

The timing of the in-pew collection at St. Anne’s, coming as it did soon after the Boston Marathon bombings, offered an opportunity for Malin to preach about belonging to one another and not being afraid, she said.

The experience of collecting pledge cards and carrying them up to the altar in the context of liturgy was powerful, she said, and one the parish will repeat during its regular fall stewardship campaign.

Beyond dollar amounts, Malin said, campaign success at St. Anne’s was also about “our demonstrated desire to be part of something larger and a sense of actually belonging to something bigger than ourselves.”

The global mission component of the Together Now campaign resonated with many at St. Anne’s, Joan Perera, who co-chaired the St. Anne’s campaign with Tom Shively, said. “We did well and most were very happy to give and willing to stretch in order to give,” she said.

Already the money is being spent.

Since June, matching grants totaling $116,474 have been awarded to 14 congregations for their global mission projects, and diocesan staff are in conversation with 20 additional congregations who are developing mission partnerships. Grants have also been awarded to the Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation in Uganda for a new medical center ($250,000), to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem for a vocational training kitchen and for health care ministries ($150,000) and to Be the Change-Kenya, an organization devoted to ending child poverty ($25,000).

A pilot mission hub of South Coast parishes is beginning its second year, with diocesan Life Together young adult interns serving in parishes and social service agencies, and initiation of a B-SAFE summer program for vulnerable city children. Six additional teams of congregations have submitted letters of intent to become mission hubs.

The new Mission Institute is staffed, held its first pilot workshop last spring and is developing a catalog of new offerings for congregations, including online leadership training.

Thirty-nine “green” grants totaling $257,552 went out this spring for creation care projects and energy efficiency improvements to church buildings.  Construction will soon begin at the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center on a new retreat house, using “green” technologies to minimize carbon footprint; it will be named in honor of retired bishop suffragan Bud Cederholm.

And in May, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul unveiled a new pediment sculpture, with plans for interior renovations to begin after Easter next year.

Having worked hard together with the entire diocese to raise this money, Shaw says he doesn’t believe in squirreling it away.

“I don’t think this is a time that is appropriate for raising endowment to preserve the institution. God is calling the church into change, and to have funding for experimentation and to further mission in ways that we know are capturing people’s attention is critical. From that we’ll discover what has lasting value,” he said.

He says the success of the Diocese of Massachusetts’ campaign is good news for the entire Episcopal Church.

“It’s a real indication that people are generous and want to give to the church. I think it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s high time for our wider church to take on work like this, and I’ve been hoping over and over again that it will.”

— Tracy J. Sukraw is director of communications of the Diocese of Massachusetts.