Dr Gale Watkins is the Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church.  He leads us in our walk with Christ and provides the pastoral care for every person at Westminster.  His Princeton Seminary background allows for a deep and rich understanding of the bible as it relates to modern day use.  As an avid marathon runner, including twice in the Boston Marathon, Gale was recently presented with Westminster's own medal for completing 20 years of service  with this church.

Dear friends,


Back in January, our church held its annual congregational meeting. On that occasion, we spoke frankly about our church’s life, both the good things that continue to take place and some major challenges we’re facing. We saw that our financial reserves have been decreasing, and that our 2017 budget calls for us to dip into our savings to meet current expenses. We are aware that this is a trend that cannot continue forever. At that meeting, I pointed out that it is unusual for a church of our size to have a full-time pastor, and that we may need to make a change. That change is now before us.

Our Session is proposing a change in my terms of call, so that, effective September 1, I will shift from a full-time to a 3/4 time position. This will do two things. One, it will save the church some money. Two, it will give me an opportunity to do something new, something I am eager to do.

First, the financial details. The proposed change would reduce effective salary from the current $47047 to 3/4 of that amount, which is $35285. In our case, "effective salary" consists of three parts: salary, housing allowance, and deferred compensation (retirement plan for employees of a non-profit organization, called a 403(b) plan). The current breakdown is: Salary: $22412; Housing: $17435; 403(b) plan: $7200, which adds up to a total of $47047. The new breakdown would be: Salary: $10650; Housing: $17435; 403(b) plan: $7200, which adds up to a total of $35285, which is 3/4 of the current amount.

Our church is obligated to pay dues to the Board of Pension according to a formula that is based on effective salary. This is a constitutional requirement for installed pastors and associate pastors in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The current dues rate is 24.5% of effective salary for medical coverage; 11% for pension; 1% for death and disability. Thus, the total dues amounts to 36.5% of effective salary. Thus, our church is currently paying annual dues of $17,172. However, the Board has a minimum amount for medical dues, which is $10780, even if one is working part-time. Thus, our total Board of Pensions dues will decrease, but not as much as we would like. The new total dues will be $15014 ($10780 for medical; $3881 for pension; $353 for death/disability).

The "bottom line" is that the church’s spending on effective salary plus Board of Pensions dues would change from $64219 to $50299. That represents a savings of about $14000 over the course of a year.

Any change in a pastor’s terms of call must be approved by the congregation and by the Presbytery. Our Session has called for a congregational meeting to be held on Sunday, August 6, immediately after our worship service. The Session will propose a change in terms of call, and the congregation will vote on it. If it is approved, we would then ask the Presbytery to concur, then it will go into effect on September 1.

Now, what about the opportunity that I mentioned above? I have a new job! I will be a part-time adjunct faculty at Grand Canyon University in the College of Theology. I will begin this fall semester as an instructional assistant for two sections of the required course entitled "Christian Worldview." I see this as a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of college students. I hope that, in the future, I will be able to teach my own classes at Grand Canyon. In the application process, I have been thoroughly impressed by what is happening at the university, and I look forward to taking part in its mission.

Practically speaking, this means that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will be on the Grand Canyon campus rather than in the Westminster office. I will continue to work in the church office on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and will be present as usual on Sunday mornings. I will have to keep close track of my hours, and for the first time balance two jobs. There are plenty of other pastors who are "bi-vocational," and I expect that it will go well. We will all have to get used to the change. There may be need for some people to step up to fill in some of the gaps.

For now, please be familiar with the proposal that we will take up on August 6. If you have questions, feel free to speak with Session members Don, Carol, or Debby, or myself, and we will try to answer them.



God’s blessings on you.


Gale Watkins, Pastor