This morning I want to provide you with an update about our building project.
In December 2017 I was called to be the next minister of this brilliant congregation. I was subsequently installed and ordained in February 2018 – almost four years ago. I consider it the greatest privilege to be your minister and pastor and have enjoyed getting to know you and getting to teach the Bible to you.
As the years have progressed, we have got to know one another. I have got to know you and you have got to know me. There have been times when I have had to say some hard things to you – the majority of times from the Bible. That’s what the Bible does, though – exposes us and makes us think about who we are before God.
Occasionally in the life and times of a congregation, the minister or pastor has to speak to the congregation in a direct and uncomfortable way. That is the situation I find myself in this morning.
As you’ll know, the Congregational Committee met on Thursday evening. One of the items that was on the agenda was the building project. What the Committee heard was that the project is going out to tender this month. There are some small things that need ironed out but the project will go to tender in mid-January.
That is obviously very encouraging and very exciting. However, the Committee also discussed the issue of finance for the project.
Basically, how this process will work is similar to buying a house. The project is going to cost a certain amount of money – roughly around £2.7 million. The building fund at the moment stands at just over £1 million.
When the tender process is complete – which will be around early March – there will be a small window in which critical decisions will have to be made. If the decision is made to proceed with the project, before any contracts are signed, we will need to ready from a financial perspective.
To buy a house, you have to have the finance in place. To build a church, you have to have the finance in place. At the moment unfortunately we don’t.
In November I provided you with a thorough update about the project and a potential timeline for it. I also said that what was required was an increase in giving to the Building Fund.
The Congregational Committee were encouraged to hear that giving to the building fund has increased since that update. Some new standing orders have been set up, some significant lump sums have been received. We do not take those contributions for granted. But they are not enough.
Contributions to the Building Fund in 2020 came to £40,424. In 2020, there were 216 contributors within our congregation. 109 out of 216 contributed to the Building Fund. Of those 109 contributors, 11 contributed around 31% of the total for 2020. 49% of contributors gave nothing to the Building Fund.
The statistics for 2021 are not yet in but on the information we have, they have not changed in a significant way. Unless they do so the project will encounter grave difficulties.
At a congregational meeting in March 2016, 97% of voting members present were in favour of proceeding with a new build. A lot has happened between then and now. A vacancy, a pandemic. But here we are, almost six year later, further on with the project than we’ve been before, the project heading out to tender, ready to go.
At various points in its history, this congregation has required the sacrificial giving of its people. The building of this meetinghouse in the 1700s. The renovations to this meetinghouse since then and most recently in the late seventies. The building of a new manse in the nineties. We are at such a moment again.
This project will cost somewhere in the region of £2.7 million. We have just over £1 million. We have had a positive conversation with a bank about a loan of £1.7 million. However, they need us to demonstrate that we will be able to repay that loan. Contributions to the building fund at the moment are not enough for us to do that.
At the moment, the Building Fund is bringing in around £3000 a month. It will require at least triple that to prove to the bank that we can service a loan. That’s somewhere in the region of £7000-9000 a month.
I have explained several ways of giving to you in recent times. In November I mentioned standing orders, having mentioned them on numerous occasions before. From the bank’s perspective, standing orders are the best method of giving. Hard copies are available at all doors. Forms can be dowloaded from the Building Project section on our website.
Other ways of giving are also open to you, however. Lump sum donations are always gratefully received. If you have considered giving a lump sum when the project starts, however, we would ask that you consider giving it earlier. It has always been said that money will come in when the works starts but for the work to start, money needs to come in.
Interest-free loans are another option that is available. An interest-free loan is exactly what it sounds like – a loan of a certain amount of money without any interest attached to it. On Thursday the Congregational Committee agreed that interest-free loans should be mentioned to the congregation in more detail. Background work and preparations for interest-free loans is underway and will be complete within weeks, perhaps even days.
If you would like to contribute through any of the ways I have mentioned this morning, please contact our new Treasurer, Maureen Currie, our outgoing Treasurer, Billy Smyth, or our Deputy Treasurer, Des Alexander.
All of that is to say that the Committee wanted me to stress the delicate situation we find ourselves in with this project. Unless contributions to the building fund change in a significant way the project will encounter grave difficulties. As it stands at the moment, we won’t be able to sign a tender contract which would allow works to begin on site.
This project has been on the radar here for around 10 years, maybe longer. Where the congregation is in ten years time will in some ways be dictated by the decisions we make now.
What do we have here in Buckna. Materially speaking, we have £1 million that has been ring fenced for a building project. Physically (and proverbially) speaking, we have a pile of weans and young people. Young families have stayed in the area and in that way have told us that they want their children to come to our church. Spiritually speaking, we are a congregation that has a long Gospel, evangelical heritage. We are a congregation that loves the Lord Jesus and wants to tell other people about Him.
And that, at a root level, is what this project is about. Telling other people about Jesus and allowing future generations to tell other people about Jesus.
At various points in its history, this congregation has required the sacrificial giving of its people. We are at such a moment again. To build a church, you have to have the finance in place. At the moment unfortunately we don’t.
Let me therefore humbly appeal to you to consider contributing to the Building Fund. We do not take your contributions for granted and would be delighted to keep this project moving forward and for you to be involved in helping us do so.
Occasionally in the life and times of a congregation, the minister has to speak to the congregation in a direct and uncomfortable way. Today is such a day. In all humility and before the Lord, I leave it with you that what we having coming into the building fund at the moment is not enough.
I love being the minister of this brilliant congregation. I maybe don’t say that enough. But we love it here. As a family, we’re so settled. It’s a great place to live. And right now, together as a church family, we have the opportunity to move forward and progress the work here. To build on the Gospel work that has gone before us. To secure Gospel work in this area for generations to come.
That is what God is calling us to. He is calling us to step out in faith and trust that He will provide for us. Only He can. And He has promised in His Word that He will. It really is as Philippians 4 says. “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”