1888 Annual General Meeting: major financial problems

St. Matthew's annual parochial meeting was held in the Schoolroom last night. The Rev. W. E. Paige occupied the chair, and opened the proceedings in the usual form.

The minutes of the last meeting were confirmed.

The Chairman said it gave him more than ordinary pleasure to meet them this year. The Vestry was able to say that the School was out of debt, there was a considerable balance to the Choir, and their general account debt was reduced.

Services had been held outside the parish as usual, an additional one being at Pahiatua. The Rev. J. C. Andrew had voluntarily conducted services at Tinui, for which he sincerely thanked him, as that had enabled him to hold extra services elsewhere. He took the opportunity of thanking the two lay-readers for carrying on the services on the occasions of his absence. He must say they had been most acceptable (applause.) He referred to the Sunday School, and expressed a wish that more teachers would come forward and assist. He took the opportunity of thanking all who had assisted in church work throughout the past year.

He had another statement he wished to take the opportunity of making. As there appeared to be some misconception with regard to the arrears of stipend he thought it was advisable in justice to the parish and himself, that he should state how these arrears had arisen. Before he came to Masterton the parsh had obtained a loan of £150 from the Diocesan Fund. Five years ago this loan was re-called. Four gentlemen gave a guarantee to the bank, and the loan was repaid. Very shortly afterwards the proceeds of a bazaar released those gentlemen from their liability. But, unfortunately, the guarantee was not cancelled, and was left in the Bank, and forgotten subsequently, as the vestry required money, the bank advanced it - until the overdraft reached £220, when an intimation was given that it would have to be reduced. It then transpired that this uncancelled guarantee was held as a collateral security by the Bank. It seemed to him then, and he still thought, that he should have lent himself to a fraud if he had allowed any money to be paid to him from an overdraft for which gentlemen were liable, who had given a guarantee for a totally different purpose, and who justly believed they had been relieved of any further responsibility in connection therewith. With great difficulty he induced the Synod, two years ago, to suspend for one year the regulation which requires all deficiencies in the stipend to be a first charge on the offertories. By this means the overdraft was reduced to £50. He also, after earnest entreaty, obtained from the Ladies Guild the £51 which had been intended for the stipend. Last July the bank intimated that the overdraft was not to exceed £100, and appeared uneasy at it not decreasing more rapidly. A cheque on account of stipend for £26 exceeded the limit by £14, and would have been dishonored at half-an-hours-notice, when to save the credit of the parish, he paid in the difference by a cheque of his own. Mr Nicol joined with him in obtaining an overdraft at another bank, and closed the long standing account, and cancelled the old guarantee. Last year he again trie dto gain the consent of the Synod to a further suspension of the regulations relative to deficiency of stipend being a first charge on the offertories. This was refused, but the surplus offerings had been thus applied, by which means the overdraft had been reduced to £52 1s 6d. It would thus be seen that two years' offertories at £50 each equal to £100, plus £51, ladies' guild for 1886-7 produced a sum of £150 in round numbers, which was the amount of arrears of stipend to date. In acting as above he simply did what anyone who valued the honor of the parish above his own interests would have done--declined to receive his stipend at the expense of four gentlemen who probably would have been called upon to make their guarantee good. He must therefore exonerate the Parish of blame in the stipend being so much in arrear. He had full confidence in the Parish, and believed that in the course of two or three years it would be entirely free from debt without other than ordinary efforts.

In the absence of the Churchwarden the Chairman read the

ANNUAL BALANCE SHEET and report as follows:--

In presenting the Balance Sheet for the past year the Vestry has the pleasure to report a marked improvement in the financial position of the Parish.

The liabilities at the commencement of the year were as follows:--

Loan on Parsonage, £150; interest on do., £12; stipend Masterton, £178 1s 6d; Whareama, £11 6s 6d; total £189 0s; old debts, some of two years' standing, £21; interest Bank, £2 15s 8d; overdraft, £96 10s 11d, making a grand total of £471 12 7d. The present liabilities are--Loan, £150; stipend Masterton £141 7s 6d; Whareama, £17 2s 6d; total stipend, £158 10s. Bank overdraft, £36 16s 6d; interest, &c., £2; special subscriptions, £15 14s; total, £363 0s 6d. The Parish has forwarded to the General Church Fund £306 17s 0d for stipend account and £9 4s on Whareama account; also interest for 1887 and 1888 on loan for pension fund upon the parsonage, which, if unpaid might have resulted in a demand for repayment from the gentlemen who personally guaranteed the loan. The vestry deemed it expedient to sell their Building Society shares, invested in for the purpose of extinguishing this loan to pay off the interest £24, applying the balance inwards reducing the overdraft, the shares realised their full value £54 3s 7d, and the proceeds were applied as above. The £9 annually paid to the Society together with interest lessened on reduced overdraft will thus meet the £12 due for interest on loan, repayment of which is not likely to be demanded as long as the interest is punctually paid. In March an offer of £50 towards reducing the overdraft was made on condition that the full amount of stipend due on June 30th was paid. Special subscriptions to the amount of £15 14s paid, and £2 2s extra promised were received, the offer therefore could not be taken advantage of, the money received is placed on the liabilities, and is at the disposal of the donors. The Funds of the Sunday School and choir fund are kept distinct from those of the Parish, but the Vestry learns with satisfaction that the former is out of debt, and the latter has a considerable balance to its credit. The Vestry has represented to the Church Property Trustees the advisedness of letting the frontages of the church site on building leases. The trustees have the matter under consideration, and the Synod will probably be asked for its sanction to the proposal. But it ought to be understood that any rents derived from leasing the site would be DIOCESAN PROPERTY, and that this Parish is not entitled to any exclusive benefit therefrom. The Vestry gratefully acknowledge the material substantial assistance offered by the Ladies' Guild, and regrets their loss of Miss Beard's valuable help, occasioned by her return to England. Other ladies, however, have kindly undertaken the work, and will, no doubt, render material aid in the present year.

The Vestry heartily thanks the Lay Readers, Messrs Von Sturmer and Grundy for carrying on the Church services during the absence of the Incumbent when holding services on the East Coast, at Brancepeth and at Pahiatua, the organist (Mrs Paige), and the gentlemen of the choir, and the Sunday School teachers for their valuable and effective assistance during the past year. The verger continues to fulfil his duties as he has done for many years. The Vestry desires to place on record its appreciation of the kindness of Mr Sellar who has for a second year acted as Hon. Sec., reliquishing both salary and commission, and conducted the correspondence and kept the accounts with his well known tact and ability.

In conclusion, the Vestry feels that the parishioners cannot but be satisfied with the improved condition of the financial position of the Parish, especially in a time of general depression, and is hopeful that with ordinary care the Parish will, in the course of two or three years, be entirely free from debt, without calling on the parishioners for extraordinary efforts.

The Chairman formally moved the adoption of the report and balance sheet, subject to the audit.

Mr Payton, in seconding the report, took the opportunity to point out what he considered one or two weak points in it. On former occasions the balance-sheet had been published prior to the meeting, and all present were able to master the contents; now it would be published after the meeting, when no one cared two pins about it. They had had the balance sheet read to them unaudited. In the future, perhaps, they would not get it at all. He could not grasp the contents of the balance sheet by simply hearing it read over, but it seemed to him there could not be the substantial improvement claimed in the report. There must have been some financial strain almost verging on bankruptcy, when they had had to snatch their sinking fund for current expenses. The clergyman had not been paid up, and that placed him and themselves in a false position. He hoped in future that the stipend would be paid punctually to the day.

The Chairman apologised that the balance sheet had not been printed and circulated before the meeting. It had been overlooked.

The motion was then put and carried.

The balance sheets of the Sunday School and Choir Fund were also adopted.

The Chairman said he had much pleasure in re-nominating Mr James Nicol as his Churchwarden. Before calling upon the parishioners to elect a Churchwarden and Vestry, he would read the following paper, which had been put into his hands recently:--

At a meeting held on Friday, the 29th June, 1888 at Mr W. H. Beetham's the following persons, being churchmen in the parish of St. Matthew's, Masterton were present viz., S. von Sturmer, W. H. Beetham, F. G. Moore, H. H. Smith, S. F. Beard, W. T. Grundy and W. G. Beard.

It was unanimously resolved--

1. That in view of the present state of the finances of the Church of St. Matthew's and of the arrears of the clergyman's stipend, it is incumbent upon churchmen to endeavor to devise some means whereby the same may be placed on a more satisfactory footing.

2. That to effect this it is absolutely necessary

A. That the clergyman's stipend for the parish of Masterton and the Whareama District be assessed by Synod for the present at £200 per annum in-lieu of £300 per annum as now assessed.

B. That the frontage of the Church acre be cut up into convenient business sites and let, and that the rents to be derived therefrom be added to the ordinary revenue of the parish.

3. That the above-name persons are prepared to be nominated as members of the vestry for St. Matthew's Church for the ensuing year, and pledge themselves if elected, and the second resolution is given effect to, to take up before the 31st day of March, 1889, debentures to the amount of £100 towards liquidating the present liabilities, and to exert themselves in the direction of carrying out the first resolution; but that if elected and the second resolution is not given effect to they will feel it incumbent upon them to resign charge of the parish affairs.

4. That a copy of these resolutions be given to the Rev. W. E. Paige by Messrs S. von Sturmer and W. H. Beetham.

The Chairman said those resolutions called for no further remarks from him. As they had already heard in the report, the vestry had taken the initiative with regard to leasing the front of the Church acre. There was a grevious misunderstanding with respect to any proceeds which might arise from such leases. They could not touch that fund as a matter of law.

He was doubtful whether the threat held out int he resolution marked No. 3 would have the desired effect of getting the rents, or have a deterrent effect in getting the parish the benefit from the leases. That of course was a matter of opinion.

Mr W. T. Grundy was elected parishioner's churchwarden on the motion of Mr W. H. Beetham, seconded by Mr F. G. Moore.

Mr Beetham said as one of those whose names appeared in the report just read by the Chairman, he would move the first resolution, and he must express himself as being utterly ashamed of having to do so. Some two or three years ago it had been suggested that Masterton was not able to find the sum at which they were assessed. He had strongly objected to the insinuation, and felt that it could be done. He depended very largely on support from Whareama and the East Coast in arriving at these conclusions. He was very sorry for the dissappointment. He was ashamed to acknowledge that the sum had not been collected. He acknowledged now that he was wrong in his surmises, and that those who had said the sum could not be raised had been in the right. He felt his position as mover of the resolution more painful after the statement of the Chairman, and the disinterested way he had acted over the payment of the stipend. He felt sure that the vestry would have paid the stipend and made other arrangements with the Bank if they have [had] considered the matter.Since the meeting referred to he had had some conversation with the Bishop, and learned that the church acre was vested in Trustees, and the Synod had no control over it. The bishop expressed the thought, however, that a very considerable moiety, on the suggestion of the Synod, would be paid to the Parish. He trusted it would be so and the parish lifted out of its present difficulties.

The first and second resolutions contained in the report were read and taken as one.

Mr F. G. Moore seconded the motion. With regard to the first part of the proposal there could be but one opinion. It was difficult to grasp their position by simply hearing the balance sheet read at the meeting. It appeared to him that the success which they claimed by the report was largely due to outside effort, and such a strain could not well be maintained. It remained for them to devise some means to get out of their difficulty. As the contributions did not increase and their receipts were insufficient to meet their requirements it would be necessary for them to do as many others had to do and retrench. The heaviest charge on the parish was naturally the minister's stipend, and it was in that direction the first onslaught would have to be made. It was with regret that he found it necessary it should be so although he had not changed his opinion that the amount at which Synod had assessed them was greater than could be raised.

Mr Payton said in what he had to say he did not wish to embarrass the position of those who were displaying their desire to cope with the financial position of the church. It seemed to him, however, that the first thing they ought to do was to wipe out the stipend debt of £150. He would, as an amendment move:

"That the amount of assessment be relegated to the incoming vestry with an instruction to make the payment of the existing stipend debt a first consideration."

Frequent reference had been made in Wellington to the position in which the Masterton church stood with regard to its minister. In his opinion the disgrace attending such a state of things rested with the Diocesan Synod for over-assessing the district. He concluded they ought first to get over the debt of £150 which should absolutely be wiped out. He did not care whether the stipend was £200 or £100, but whatever it was it should be paid to the day not be the cause of anxiety to the clergyman.

Mr L. J. Hooper seconded the amendment. He asked if the debt of £150 was a newly incurred one.

The Chairman said the debt was an old one, the overdraft having been paid off and that one left standing. They were not in a worse position financially than before.

Mr F. G. Moore, in speaking to the amendment said it was quite possible that the parishioners there present might think that those present at the meeting referred to were interfering unduly. He would assure them their only desire was to obviate the disparaging remarks of the Wellington press and denominations here. If the late vestry were satisfied with the present position of affairs and saw their way clear to relieve the parish from financial difficulties he was sure not one of those who had attended that meeting would say them nay. Mr Hooper had said the position at the present time was no worse than it was seven years ago. That they were in no worse position was due to extraordinary outside efforts. But how long were those special efforts to last? He did not think it right to depend upon such a source for their income.

Mr R. R. Meredith spoke in favor of the amendment.

Dr Beard was against the amendment. He could see from the fact of their selling the Building Society shares that they were going back.

Mr W. G. Beard considered the amendment altogether too indefinite. The mover of it should have fixed a certain amount of stipend and have gone in the direction of a higher or lower rate. Instead of that he had relegated it to the incoming Vestry. Those who had met had certainly hit upon something definite. They had the interest of the Church at heart, and the fact of their willingness to give a personal guarantee showed that they were in earnest. He asked the parishioners if it would not be more satisfactory to have a guarantee that the £150 would be wiped off and the stipend of £200 paid. It would be far more satisfactory for everyone concerned.

Mr R. Meredith pointed out that there was no guarantee that the stipend of £200 would be paid.

Mr Payton in reply said, as he had stated when moving the amendment he had not the slightest wish to embarrass those in favor of the proposition. His amendment was to a certain extent meant to be friendly. Mr Beetham had informed them that the debt would be wiped out in nine months if the proposal were carried. He thought that was a fairly satisfactory solution of the problem, and with that understanding he would, with the consent of the meeting waive his amendment.

Mr Hooper objected to the amendment being withdrawn.

The amendment was put to the meeting and lost.

The motion was then put and carried.

After some further discussion a vestry of six was appointed, comprising Messrs W. H. Beetham, S. von Sturmer, H. H. Smith, F. G. Moore, S. F. Beard and W. G. Beard.

Messrs E. W. Porrit and C. A. Tabiteau were appointed auditors. A hearty vote of thanks to Mrs Paige and the choir was carried on the motion of Mr W. G. Beard and the meeting terminated.


Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume IX, Issue 2946, 10 July 1888, Page 2