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All Good News at the Parish Annual Meeting

News--Annual Meeting 2023

News--Annual Meeting 2023

St. Philippians react when the Rector shared during the annual meeting that he’d had doubt that Brian McGreevy could connect Sunday’s Gospel topic, Nicodemus, with C.S. Lewis. 

Parishioners packed the Parish Hall for the 2023 Parish Annual Meeting on Sunday, March 5, a joyous occasion filled with the Good News and good news––of parish life after litigation, of a surplus of funds, of vibrant ministry, of a most generous bequeathal, and of plans to ready the physical St. Philip’s for the next generation.

During his address, the Rev. Jeffrey S. Miller, Rector, shared that the numbers in the pews are increasing, and when someone mentioned to him recently that communion “takes so long,” his response was, “Hallelujah!” What a wonderful “problem” to have. Young adults are flocking to Theology on Tap every other week, and the children’s choirs, under the direction of Zippy Hood, are even above pre-pandemic numbers. While some churches are doing away with Sunday school, our classes are going strong––for adults and children alike.  

The Rector reminded us that just some years ago, St. Philip’s carried a debt of over $1.2 million. We are now back in the black, and 2022 saw us able to help our diocese with a gift of $200,000 (in addition to our tithe) and to bless St. David Cheraw, another church in our diocese, with new communion silver after they lost their property in the lawsuit with the Episcopal Church.

Jim Stelling, chair of the Finance Committee, took the stage to give an update on the vast amount of work done on campus since the April 2022 SC Supreme Court ruling in St. Philip’s favor––and the vast amount left to do. His photographs opened people’s eyes to the amount of upkeep and huge sprawl of our property––some likely didn’t even know that St. Philip’s owns the office building on the corner of Cumberland and State Streets.

Stelling noted that an anonymous donation allowed for a needed upgrade in our audio-visual equipment––the quality of our livestream is now much improved and we are very grateful! He shared some conceptual plans of a possible columbarian in the Tea Garden courtyard behind the Ministries Hall, so that, since the availablility of plots in the graveyard and cemetery is so low, we would have a place for the younger people in our congregation to ... he hesitated to finish the sentence, but Miller helped him out as those in attendence chuckled: “To be buried.” Indeed, while we may want to search for a euphimism, the necessity of those plans is an inevitable fact of life––but we can rest in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection. 

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Miller took the stage again to share the good news of a most generous gift: the Battle Trust. Liz Battle joined our ranks in 2012 after moving to Charleston from New York, where she had practiced as a corporate lawyer. Once she arrived, Battle went all-in at St. Philip’s, including volunteering for the Open Door ministry and attending every Evensong service offered. She was so moved and inspired by the preaching, teaching, and music of St. Philip’s that when she died in February of 2022 following a brief battle with cancer, she left a large  portion of her estate to St. Philip’s––a portion currently valued at about $7 million.

A keen investor, Battle left instructions for how the trust is generally to be used and invested. Bob Kunes, co-trustee along with Todd Brown, shared that the Battle Trust will provide support in the areas with the greatest need, with particular focus to be on the music program, continuing clergy education, and adult educational programs, by allowing major withdrawal rights every 10 years (with the final withdrawal of 100% of remaining funds at 50 years) and smaller withdrawals annually. The Trust is not to be used to pay salaries or to be pledged to physical projects except in extraordinary circumstances, such as natural disasters.

The story of Liz Battle’s devotion to her church and her vision for its future was an emotional one, and many people were dabbing at their eyes as Miller spoke. It was a poignant reminder of our need to improve and maintain this property for future generations of St. Philippians, who we hope will still be learning from the best of the best many, many years down the road. Just as the St. Philippians of the late 1830s gave sacrificially to rebuild the church after a fire––during the major depression set off by the Panic of 1837––and gave us the space we worship in to this day, so will we need to give sacrificially so that we and future generations may continue to worship and spread the Good News on this glorious campus. Stay tuned for news of the capital campaign that will be beginning in the coming months.

Kat Phillips, who introduced herself as “your Senior Warden––for about six more minutes,” then announced the nominees for the next Vestry class: Ashley Davis, Polly Dickson, Jayne Gurley, and David Wright. With no opposition and no nominees from the floor, our new class was voted in.

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When it came time to thank the outgoing Vestry class, Miller returned to the stage. He first thanked Bob Kunes, Joanna Ghegan, and Robby Marion for their three years of service on the Vestry, and then, before bringing Kat Phillips back up, he talked about how he’d had to persuade her to serve as Warden. When Phillips came to the stage to receive her gift, though, she set the record straight––it hadn’t been that difficult. “He said, ‘Would you do something for me?’ I said, ‘Is it legal?’ He said yes. I said, ‘I’ll do it.’”

Miss the meeting? Copies of the 2022 Annual Report are available in the church office.