“If we were in town and we weren’t sick in bed, we were in church on Sunday morning,” says Betsey Ullom as she remembers her parents, Bill and Maggie Webber. “Between the two of them they were probably on every church committee.” In addition to an active social life, a high-power career, and a multitude of other volunteer roles and interests, the Webbers were an institution at Tigard United Methodist Church.
“My dad liked to invest in things that were permanent,” says Betsey. So when he began to plan for a major gift to the church, “he wanted the money to be used in perpetuity, to be there forever.” So in 1985, Bill helped the church set up an endowment “to maintain, repair, improve, insure, and protect the real property of the church.” Bob and Dixie Hill made an $8,000 cash gift, and the Webbers made a $40,000 gift of stock. That’s how it all started.
These gifts set a powerful example for other members of the church, and over time, more people came forward with major gifts and bequests. The bylaws that Bill had helped to write protected the principle so it could continue to grow. Thirty years later, it’s worth over a million dollars.
Tigard UMC has a strong ethic of socially responsible investing. That’s why they’ve chosen to invest their endowment with the Northwest United Methodist Foundation. Church treasurer Rick Beadnell admits, “I don’t want to keep track of what we’re not supposed to invest in.” Because the Foundation partners with Wespath, it offers a worry-free way to follow the guidelines in our United Methodist social principles, and still get a good return from a balanced portfolio. In a year like 2017 when the stock market booms, Tigard UMC has had access to more than $75,000 from its endowment.
Some of this money is unrestricted, which Pastor Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen says has allowed good things to happen. “When someone has an idea for a new ministry, like Messy Church, it eases a lot of the anxiety… we have funds we can leverage for ministry.” This freedom to innovate shows: in addition to a vast array of traditional church programming, Tigard UMC hosts a food pantry, an indoor play gym for young children, and the Jubilatté coffee shop, which encourages “conversation, not conversion.”
Some of the money is earmarked for music ministries. In the past, it’s paid for sheet music and instruments: organ repairs (which were especially close to Bill Webber’s heart, since he loved the organ), handbells, and even marimbas!
The final portion of the endowment’s earnings is used for facility upgrades. And it’s a good thing. Last year, heavy rains caused a landslide on the church property. Plus, large sections of roof, carpet and paint were showing their age. It was time to replace the old HVAC system and single-pane windows so that the building was more energy-efficient. And there were lots of smaller problems as well.
In order to tackle fifteen maintenance projects at once, Tigard UMC took out loan with the Foundation. They used the endowment’s regular distribution to meet the requirement for having 30% cash on hand for the project. They’ll make manageable payments for ten years, and in the meantime, they’ll enjoy major improvements to their church property.
Treasurer Rick Beadnell concludes: “The endowment fund is the largest donor to Tigard United Methodist Church every year.” His advice to other church leaders is: if you’re not sure whether or not to set up an endowment, go for it! Having the account open and the policies in place makes it easier to ask for and accept major gifts and bequests. In fact, Tigard UMC has never had to ask very hard. These gifts have largely announced themselves.
Betsey Ullom has remained an active member of Tigard UMC partly because it brings back powerful memories of her parents. “I just feel them here so much.” When she imagines them looking down on the congregation now, she says, “I think they’d be very pleased.” The church offers hospitality to hundreds of people every week, and provides a spiritual home for family and friends whom they dearly loved. “The only thing my mother would not be pleased about is that I wear pants to church now,” Betsey says with a laugh.
The Webbers’ act of generosity set off a chain reaction. God has moved many other people to provide for their church in perpetuity. These saints who have gone before us live on in our memory and in their gifts, which continue to provide a home for the spirit, service, and community of Tigard UMC.
By Julia Frisbie, Associate Director, NWUMF