Congregational Letter

Dear friends:

As you know, we are preparing for a virtual Town Hall meeting on Monday, October 12th. This will be followed by a virtual Congregational Meeting on October 26th at 7:00 pm, at which time we’ll vote on the offer we have received from MetroGroup Development to purchase our West Campus property.

If the congregation votes to sell the West Campus, I also want to acknowledge that I know that it will be hard on some of our members. Our church buildings are special to us. We celebrate births, grieve the loss of loved ones, laugh and cry and grow together within their walls. I hope we can all be sensitive to this fact in the weeks and months to come. Let’s be kind to each other.

We have tried to anticipate as many questions as possible in order to have an efficient meeting in a few weeks. In this message I want to share the details and decision-making that got us here.

Who is making this recommendation?

In February 2020, our church voted to convene a special task force to receive purchase offers for the West Campus on behalf of the church. Task force members include Leadership Council Chairman Chuck Reeder, Trustee Bruce Wetmore, Trustee George Liebel, and Lay Leader Danny Davis. Sharon Saige and I served on the task force as ex-officio members.

The task force was given the following mandate:

To receive offers for the West Campus church property for market value (at least), with preference given to buyers open to a partnership allowing FUMC to continue its presence on the property.

What is the appraised value of the West Campus property?

The appraised value as of 6/20/19 was $3,555,000. The appraisal report is available to view here.

What are the terms of the offer being presented?

A letter of intent from the potential buyer, MetroGroup Development, is available by calling the church office.

What process did the task force use?

The task force decided to use the firm of Avison Young to assist with marketing to, and vetting of, potential buyers. Avison Young is a global commercial real estate firm with an office in Boca Raton at Lynn Financial Center. Additionally, we received legal advice from John Cappeller of Cappeller Law in Boca Raton.

Click here for a detailed timeline on the task force’s activities outlining actions, offers received, and the committee’s final recommendation.

How did the task force decide to move ahead with the offer before us now, and what offers were rejected?

In total we received 10 offers: 3 from churches and 7 from real estate investors and businesses.

We decided to reject offers with unfavorable or undesirable terms. We also felt it important to find a buyer able to work quickly through the due diligence period. (Due diligence in this context means a standard period in a real estate transaction allowing the buyer to check out all assets and requirements of the property in order to understand repairs, environmental concerns, zoning laws, insurance requirements, and other matters before the transaction is completed. If substantial concerns arise during the due diligence period, the potential buyer has the right to terminate their offer.) Finally, we decided to reject offers below market value.

Seven (7) offers received were below market value. Unfortunately, all offers that could have allowed a continuing partnership with FUMC were significantly under market value and included unworkable requests. One church, for example, wanted to require those that attend the West Campus to merge with their church. Another church requested a 10-year, interest-free balloon payment without any details as to security or source of fund for the original deposit, which we don’t have the means to support.

Three (3) offers were above market value (including the one we selected).

The highest offer we received was not selected because the buyer requested a due diligence period of 18-24 months without significant at-risk deposits.

We decided to accept MetroGroup’s offer for several reasons. They are an established developer with a good reputation. They submitted an above-market offer noncontingent on full governmental approvals, and they requested a 120-day due diligence period that indicates a willingness to work quickly. The due diligence period starts after the approval of the sale by both FUMC and our district, and a fully executed purchase and sale agreement.

If the sale goes through, what does MetroGroup plan do with the property?

This has not yet been announced, though we do know it will likely be a retail project. Whatever the property becomes, it must conform to the existing zoning and preserve the existing wetlands. MetroGroup’s past and present clients include national and regional retailers such as Tractor Supply Co, Cumberland Farms, Chase, CVS, WaWa and others.

If we vote to sell the property, then how long will we be able to continue church operations on the property?

If all goes as planned, we predict the deal will close in March/April of next year. We would need to transition away from the property by approximately June 2021.

After the property is sold, what will happen to those that attend the West Campus who aren’t able to come east?

Five years ago we created a vision statement for our church that has been our North Star in terms of direction. That document expires at the end of 2020, so we recently convened a strategic planning task force to work with our pastors to pray, strategize, and discern goals for our next five years.

Members of the task force come from both the east and west campuses. The survey we distributed a few weeks ago is part of that process, and we’ll continue to seek the input of church members in the months to come.

One aspect of the task force’s mandate is also to provide direction about how FUMC looks after our anticipated transition from two physical campuses to one. We are considering several options, including the possibility of renting a space on Sunday mornings to allow worship out west to continue. Though we have yet to formulate specifics, we are committed to maintaining a presence in West Boca.

Our mission as the church of Jesus Christ is certainly to take care of each other in our own congregation during this transition. Our overall mission is to continue to share God’s love with our entire Boca Raton community.

Note that our financial realities are still very much a concern. FUMC has spent more than we have taken in for more than a decade now, and our reserves are lower than they should be. All planning for the future assumes that we will operate within budget, which should be more manageable with one campus. (Note that according to the Book of Discipline, we cannot use the money from the sale of property for our operating budget. We will, however, be able to use the interest accrued from that money to fund operations.)

Since our current vision statement runs out at the end of this year, the task force will be working quickly to provide recommendations, which will be shared with leadership for approval, by December 2020.

Still have questions?

In order for us to hear from as many people as possible, we will be taking questions before the meeting. Not everyone is comfortable raising a hand and speaking up in front of a crowd: this method gives everyone a chance to be heard.

Please email questions by October 24th to Questions@FUMCBocaRaton.org.

Conclusion

I would like to say a big THANK YOU to the task force team for the many hours of meetings and emails, especially with COVID precautions, as it was even more work than anticipated. Also, I would like to thank Claire, Sharon, Becky, and Michele for sharing their time and talents.

So why do I believe this is the best decision for the future of FUMC? In short, the last six months have made it clearer than ever to me what is truly important as the church of Jesus Christ: the future of the church is within people, not within walls.

Since we went into quarantine in March, we’ve operated as a church with NO physical campus! And yet we have loved and prayed for each other from a distance. We’ve been meeting online and in small groups for worship, study, connection and community.

We join many other congregations, from a variety of denominations, who are realizing that the future of the American church is in finding ways to connect to and interact with people in our local communities, not in maintaining physical structures. The future of the church is in seeking opportunities to engage new people in new places, not in convincing people to come to our property on Sunday mornings. By supporting this recommendation that has been approved unanimously by our Leadership Council, we will be moving into a future that can be more focused on reaching new people.

This is an exciting time to be the church of Jesus Christ!

Please be in prayer about our upcoming church meeting on Monday, October 26th. Pray specifically that God challenges us to not simply maintain the status quo but instead for FUMC to thrive at sharing the love of Jesus Christ in new spaces.

In God’s Amazing Grace,

Pastor Marcus, Senior Pastor

 

It’s Time to Celebrate Pastor Rachel & Pastor Ryan!

JUNE 21, 2020

Please join us in saying goodbye to Pastor Rachel and Pastor Ryan on Sunday, June 21 on the north side of the church. This event has been planned with everyone’s health and safety in mind so please read carefully. Decide if you want to be part of the farewell parade from 4-5 PM or part of a small gathering at the MECE Pavilion from 5-6 PM.

The farewell parade allows you to decorate your car, make a poster, or whatever you want to let them know how much you love them and will miss them, and you don’t even get out of the car. For the parade please enter from NE 2nd Ave north entrance and turn right to make the big loop (you may know this as the MECE carline).
The other option is from 5-6 PM, you can park and walk over to the MECE Pavilion. To keep everyone safe we have to limit the number of people so please click here to register for a time in advance. 
Face masks and social distancing will be required. The time will go by quickly so feel free to bring a card or a note for them. We want to wish Pastor Rachel and Pastor Ryan all the best in their new adventure!

Staff Parish Relations News – February 19, 2020

On behalf of Staff Parish Relations Committee, one of my jobs is to announce changes to our staff. It’s with some sadness today that I share the news that our Director of Connections, Jill Haire, has announced her resignation. Jill has been at FUMC for longer than most of us. She is a true child of the church and grew up in the neighborhood around the East Campus. She attended our services, Sunday School, and eventually our youth group, forming deep bonds with our pastors, staff, and members.

At Palm Beach Atlantic University she felt a call to ministry and eventually returned to FUMC as our youth leader. In that position, Jill brought a unique enthusiasm and energy to the position by sharing a love of this congregation and the good news of Jesus Christ with hundreds of young people that passed through our programs over the years. Three years ago we created our Director of Connections position, and Jill’s extensive connections with our membership, coupled with her outgoing nature and infectious smile, made her the perfect person to step into and evolve the role. Under Jill’s watch, our C3 ministry began, connecting worshipers between services on the East Campus; she’s connected ushers and systems on both campuses, organized the Caring Callers ministry which utilizes more than  20 volunteers to reach out to our members on a regular basis, and so much more. As a “MECE Mom” she also represents the church at MECE events and has been a wonderful ambassador for the church in so many capacities. Jill has been part of the staff of FUMC for the last 14 years, and we are better for it.

For the last 18 months or so, Jill has been in prayer and conversation about the feeling of need for a Sabbatical. She has a husband and two precious young sons, as well as a growing home business, and feels God is calling her to a season of rest from church work. While I’m sad to see Jill go, and I know that our pastors, leadership, membership, and especially our staff will miss her terribly, I’m excited about the path Jill has before her—the rejuvenation that can come from a Sabbatical, the opportunity to grow a promising new business, and joyfully increased free time to dedicate to her family. Jill says she leaves with great love for FUMC and has promised to keep us in her prayers as we move into our future.

I hope you all will join me in thanking Jill for her many years of service and wishing her God’s blessings on the new adventures that await her. Her last Sunday with us will be on March 8th, which is MECE Sunday. Therefore, we’ll be celebrating her on the Sunday prior to that, March 1st. Please mark your calendars to join us during the East Campus C3 connection time in the Gathering Place at 10:30 am on Sunday, March 1st.

Claire Vande Polder, Chair

Staff Parish Relations Committee

Let’s Sing! – August 28, 2019

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. Ephesians 5:18-19

Dear Church Family,

Our church is busy with new opportunities for spiritual growth and exciting ways to connect on both campuses, and as Director of Music, I would like to invite you to connect and serve with others by joining one of our choirs.

In a reflection entitled “Sing” Pastor Quinn Caldwell writes, “There are about 5,400 animal species that make complex, intentional, repeatable, musical vocalizations. That is, there are about 5,400 species that sing. The majority live in the trees, a few live in the oceans, a very few live under ground, but there is one – only one – singing species that lives on the ground: humans – US!”

Contrary to what we have been led to think through recent shows like American Idol or The Voice, singing is sorely misrepresented as something only for elite talent. In truth, God created us all with the ability to sing. Singing is an inborn response; babies sing to themselves when filled with inner peace. Like babies, we sing because we feel good and singing makes us feel even better. For some of us this natural response became blocked at an early age through lack of nurture or negative feedback at a vulnerable age. As a music educator I have heard hundreds of stories that have led up to the “I can’t sing”, but we all need to sing – it’s in our DNA. There is good news – community singing is not about “can” and “can’t”. It’s about listening and supporting and encouraging each other – good neighbor things. It’s about accepting the vulnerability of learning new things, letting go of past “hang-ups”, and allowing ourselves the privilege of belonging in a group of other listening singers.

Even more truth – God needs us to sing – it is good for us and good for our society. And we at FUMC would LOVE for you to consider singing in one of our musical ensembles. In case you need more convincing, there are many good reasons for singing in a choir – here are four important ones.

  • Singing is an aerobic activity – a wonderful work-out for our lungs and circulatory system; it improves our posture and tones our muscles.
  • Singing in a choir improves our emotional and mental health as it releases endorphins and oxytocin which reduce stress and depression, and singing enhances our cognitive brain function.
  • Singing in a choir improves our confidence as a singer, and improves the way we hear music as ensemble singing helps to draw out our innate musical abilities.

AND MY FAVORITE….

  • Singing in a choir fulfills our basic need of belonging. In our fragmented, isolating society, it is a wonderful place to find connection with others. It is unifying through its common musical goals and a positive experience of shared commitment – the more you do something with others, the more likely you will grow closer to them. If you’re looking to get to know new people who share a love of music, a choir is a great place to start. It’s a fulfilling way to serve the Church.

Almost 800 years ago St. Francis of Assisi exclaimed “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, O praise ye! Alleluia! Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice, ye lights of evening, find a voice!” My hope is that you will choose this year as the season to find your voice and share it with our church by singing in our choirs. I know that you will find it a rewarding way to serve with others in God’s ministry. Feel free to contact me for more information about becoming a part of our music program here at FUMC.

In His grace and service,

Arlene Sparks

asparks@fumcbocaraton.org

Lay Leader’s Corner

Are You Willing to Dwell Across the Bridge?

I am very excited that our church is embarking on a new path of Fresh Expression. Pastor Rachel De Laune will lead this new adventure for us in just a few more weeks at Coral Sunset Elementary school. This is an opportunity for us to reach out and spread the Glorious Word of God.

I was “surfing” the internet the other day and came across a blog by Dr. Travis Collins. Dr Collins is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL.  I invite you to research Dr. Collins and his work. He is also a published author, including the book “From the Steeple to the Street.” The blog was titled: “Three Options to Reach the Unchurched”.  I found this blog very clear and a great analogy to explain the idea of Fresh Expressions. The following is a my paraphrasing of his blog article.

Dr Collins stated, in regards to the “unchurched”, we the “churched” have 3 options to action.

The first would be to assume if folks want to go to church they will. We have signs, they can find us.

The second is to be polite and caring. Go to them, be kind, get to know them and they invite them back to our comfort zone. In essence, back to our side of the bridge. Some may follow us back, but many will not as we are “essentially cutting them off from their networks of relationships with people far from God.”

The third is the best option in my book. This would be to cross the bridge into their world and dwell with them. Serve, pray and find out what church looks like among these folks. “Subsequently, it moves to starting new forms (fresh expression) of church among the people there–churches that spring up naturally, contextually, within that setting and among those particular people.”

In closing I will leave you with at quote from Winnie the Pooh, via A.A. Milne,

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come see you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

I hope to see you across the bridge as we light the candle on this new expression of  Faith.

Suzanne Reeves – Lay Leader

 

Previous Postings for Lay Leader’s Corner:

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018