by Douglas H. Parkhurst
An Every Member Canvass, sometimes known as a Stewardship Campaign, is and has been (as in many Unitarian Universalist churches) the primary fundraising activity of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury (UUCD). This annual effort takes place in late winter/early spring. It is timed to allow the church’s financial team and board of trustees to create a budget to present at the UUCD’s annual meeting later in the spring and for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
In these times of quarter million dollar budgets the pledges made during the yearly canvass account for something in the neighborhood of seventy percent of the UUCD’s annual income. It can be interesting and instructive to examine church income and expenses for earlier years. Let’s take a look back at the First Universalist Society of Danbury’s proposed budget for a fiscal year during the mid-twentieth century, 1949-50. Discussion of this budget began at the December 9, 1948, meeting of the board of trustees chaired by Wallace Parkhurst. Also discussed “at length” was the church’s Fair Share amount of $225.00 requested by the Universalist Church of America for the denomination’s Unified Appeal.
At the board meeting on January 13, 1949, a report from Clifford Taylor stated that weekly offerings were being collected at a “very high percentage rate.” During this meeting the board voted to reorganize the church’s governance with the creation of six standing committees. One of these would be Finance and Budget to be chaired by William Wood.
There appears to have been no meeting of the church trustees in February. The next meeting was held on March 10th and lasted well over three hours. The 1949-50 budget was discussed at length as well as a possible offering to be dedicated to Fair Share. Arthur Olson advised that the Danbury Universalist Church would receive a payment of $720.00 in aid from the Connecticut Universalist Convention, a ten percent reduction from the $800.00 received the previous year. The board scheduled the church’s every member canvass for Sunday afternoon, March 27th.
A letter to church members and friends was prepared announcing the upcoming canvass with details of the proposed budget.
…The EVERY-MEMBER CANVASS will be held on March 27, 1949 in the after-noon from 2:00 – 4:00 o’clock. At that time canvassers will call upon you for your pledge for the coming year. Last year the Church took a big step forward. It steps forward again this year. It is our sincere hope to meet or balance the budget by your generous help. IT CAN BE DONE!
Last year this Church raised approximately 43% of its budget by pledges [Note – 54% in this proposed budget]….If this Church were to receive 100 pledges of $1.00 per Sunday, IT WOULD OVER-SUBSCRIBE THE BUDGET.
However the budget can be BALANCED if there are to be received 60 pledges of $1.00 per Sunday. If the people of our Parish could see their way to meet either of these two proposals OUR CHURCH WOULD HAVE A DEBT-FREE YEAR.
With your whole-hearted support, this can be a banner year for the Universalist Church of Danbury TO GO OVER THE TOP IN PLEDGES.
The Finance Committee
Some explanation will be helpful regarding the above. It was reported at a board of trustees meeting in late 1947 that the church “constituency” numbered approximately 173. The board sometimes met at the church at 347 Main St., Danbury, and other times at the homes of board members. Wallace Parkhurst was this writer’s father. The Unified Appeal was the Universalist denomination’s version of today’s Annual Program Fund of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Rev. John P. Christensen succeeded Rev. Harry Adams Hersey as minister after the latter’s retirement in mid-1948. Rev. Christensen lived with his family at the church parsonage at 8 Division St., Danbury. Adelaide Grabert was continuing her long tenure as church organist and choir director. The church building was heated by a coal/coke furnace with a hot air system, which not long after was replaced by an oil burner boiler and steam heat. The Universalist Youth Fellowship (U.Y.F.) was the 1940s successor organization to the Young People’s Christian Union (Y.P.C.U.) The MMT (Meet Me There) Club was a couples group which organized church suppers, social events, and fundraisers. Several internet inflation calculators show that $4,638 in 1949 dollars would be worth approximately $56,000 today.