Join members of the Parsonage Disposition Committee for an information session after worship on Sunday, September 25, 2022, in the church parlor. For those who will not be in the building, join on Zoom.
Parsonage Disposition Committee
August 31, 2022
History: 101 years ago a devoted deacon bequeathed his double-sized property on Forest Street to NHCC “for the use of the pastor and the church.” Dr. Charles Newhall also endowed a fund, “permanently,” to be known for the expenses of the upkeep and “such purposes as the church may determine.” This house has been the home to several pastors and rented here and there, and it has provided a century of blessing.
Current situation: The membership voted at the Annual Meeting on June 5, 2022, to sell the parsonage. This was the first of two votes undertaken in order to sell.
In July, Moderator Sally Brickell convened a Parsonage Disposition Committee whose members were Randy Ellis (Buildings & Grounds), Ann Hulsing (Senior Housing Committee), Keirsten Lawton (Endowment Committee), and Steve Willner (Stewardship Committee). Sally Brickell (ex officio) and the committee met four times on Zoom; the Reverend Ken Baily sat in on three of the four meetings. Consensus was reached through the meetings, extensive discussion by email, shared Google doc drafting, and frequent discussions in person and by phone.
Background: Our 2022 Annual Meeting vote followed eight years of unsuccessful efforts to turn the parsonage into senior housing as part of the church’s mission efforts. In addition, the current pastor’s family is moving out of the parsonage on October 1.
- Sell the parsonage, aiming to clear at least $1.7M.
- Manage the proceeds along with the NHCC endowment, withdrawing enough to support the pastor’s housing allowance but maintaining purchasing power to enable NHCC to buy another parsonage if desired in the future.
Other options considered and rejected
- Keeping the parsonage to rent it out. Rejected because the required renovations would be capital costs and because NHCC does not have the people power to be in the rental property business. The church would need to hire a property manager; we could not rely on volunteers or paid staff to take on this responsibility.
- Selling the parsonage and immediately buying a different property. Rejected for similar reasons.
- Selling the parsonage and adding the proceeds to the endowment with the customary withdrawal rate. Rejected because it may be desirable to have a parsonage in the future, and we want to retain capital for that purpose.
Next steps: An information session for the congregation will be held on Sunday, September 25, immediately after worship. The session will take place in person and on Zoom. Prior to the session, the committee’s recommendations will be distributed via the church’s electronic mail system. Recipients will be able to submit questions by email. A second vote will be taken at the congregational meeting on Sunday, October 23, 2022.
- Zoning prohibits senior housing. Newton zoning isn’t favorable at this time; the City of Newton has not approved any senior housing project. The City would have to have approved converting the barn to a dwelling unit.
- Costs increasing. The building needs major renovations, which would require cash up front. Costs of supplies and labor have risen greatly. The church would need to fund both construction and the pastor’s housing allowance.
- Pastoral proximity declining in importance. Electronic communication and geographic spread of members have decreased the need for a pastor to live near the church. Improvements in the church building have decreased the need for the parsonage as an event space.
- Pastoral and parish preferences have changed. A majority of pastors searching for appointments prefer not to live in a parsonage. Out of 62 current pastoral searches, only one church is offering “parsonage only.” Even among pastors requesting a parsonage, many prefer a smaller home. Also, a majority of churches no longer want to manage property.
- Lack of people power. After eight years of passionate efforts, Senior Housing Committee members no longer believe this project is doable.
- Changing preferences. The original plan reflected the pastor’s willingness to share on funding and planning and to move into the carriage house, an option now unavailable.
Some estimates to show how Recommendation 2 might work are as follows: When the pastor moves out of the parsonage, the cash cost of his compensation will increase by roughly $60,000. This will be offset by a savings of approximately $18,000 per year in parsonage expenses (repairs, utilities, insurance). If the church realizes $1.7M on the sale, and interim parsonage expenses prior to the sale are $0.1M, the withdrawal rate to cover the increased expense will be 2.6%. As of August 31, the endowment was worth $1.07M, from which the church is drawing 5.5%. If the endowment is managed as a single fund, the blended withdrawal rate will become 3.8%. These numbers will have to be recalculated when final values are known. The Endowment Committee will determine the specific investment strategy.