Franconia Conference moves toward a debt free 2013

Souderton CenterFranconia Conference is entering the new year debt-free after receiving payment for the sale of the Indian Creek Road Farm’s development rights late last week.  The proceeds of the sale were used to pay off around 90% of the mortgage on the Souderton (Pa.) Center on December 27, 2012, according to the conference’s director of finance, Conrad Martin.  The remainder of the mortgage was paid using funds from the center’s Capital Improvement Fund.

This marks the fulfillment of a process set in motion in 2007 by the Vision and Finance Plan Team formed by the Franconia Conference Board to align the conference’s resources to the call for contextual and contemporary ministry.  The VFP team recommended in 2009 that the conference sell the development rights for the farm (near Harleysville, Pa.) and use the proceeds to pay off the Souderton Center’s ten-year-old mortgage.  With the mortgage paid off, this will free over $13,000 per month to replenish the improvement fund and support conference ministry.

The conference is positioned to start 2013 on solid financial footing, said Conference executive minister, Ertell Whigham.  “Along with anticipated increased giving from our congregations, this will enable us to invest more financial resources into ministry,” Whigham reflected.  “We are grateful for those who had a vision for how the Souderton Center could bless the conference. What a way to start a year and celebrate God’s ongoing provision!”

Selling the development rights to the farm acreage means that the land cannot be further developed and will likely remain in agricultural use.  The Vision and Finance Plan also recommended that the Indian Creek Road Farm be leased to an organization that would use the land to develop sustainable creation-care oriented ministries that recognize the nature of the preserved open space.  As a result, the property was leased in 2010 to Living Hope Farm, a non-profit sustainable agricultural CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm led by Jill Landes of Blooming Glen congregation.  Franconia Conference and Living Hope Farm are currently in conversations about beginning a Conference Related Ministry relationship.

In addition to property proposals, the VFP included recommendations about increasing continuing education expectations for credentialed leaders, creating grants for missional experiments, downsizing and relocating office space, and stabilizing the conference’s annual operating budget. The repayment of the mortgage was the final step in fulfilling the VFP’s recommendations. In early 2012, the conference board and staff acknowledged the fulfillment of the Vision and Financial Plan and moved toward a new set of working priorities (described in detail here). “We are pleased that the mortgage on the Souderton Center is paid off and that Franconia Conference is now debt-free,” said John Goshow, the board chair.   “This will allow us to focus even more intently on growing God’s Kingdom.”