This past Sunday, Parish Almoner Jan Freeman and I offered an adult learning session on a new experiment in disbursing the rector’s discretionary fund. We’re calling it “Breathing Space”: a “guaranteed gift” each month, for 12 months, to each of two neighbor-partners, for these persons to use as they see fit. “Breathing Space” is inspired by universal basic income programs, but much smaller in scale and, obviously, not a government initiative. We’re hopeful “Breathing Space” will both lift a little weight from these neighbors’ shoulders, and also make our relationship even more mutually respectful and dignified than it already is.

We will try this experiment for 12 months, until late summer 2023, and then consider whether to continue.

(Please note: this initiative is separate from St. Luke’s “outreach” funds, which have historically been given to community organizations rather than directly to persons.)

Questions? Please plan to attend the second of two adult learning sessions this Sunday, 18 September at 9:10 a.m., in the Kramer Room at St. Luke’s (the room just off the narthex/vestibule as you enter from the north side visitor parking). And check out the FAQs below.


What is the rector’s discretionary fund?

The rector’s discretionary fund is a fund to be used for “pious and charitable purposes” (Canons of the Episcopal Church) among community members and congregants. The RDF cannot be used to meet church expenses, nor for the rector’s personal benefit (e.g. for continuing education or to buy a new clergy blouse). Within those parameters, the rector has discretion over the use of the fund. The fund is renewed through gifts from parishioners and/or designated plate offerings or other collections.

The names of recipients of gifts from the funds are kept on a confidential or need-to-know basis, but the RDF is audited annually along with the rest of the church’s funds.

Who disburses the Breathing Space funds?

Jan Freeman, our parish almoner, in conversation with Rhonda and with the assistance of Parish Administrator Kathy Barnes and Treasurer Julia Hoyle as needed.

What is an almoner?

An almoner distributes “alms,” or charitable gifts to persons in need, on behalf of a church or other Christian community.

How did you choose these first neighbor-partners for Breathing Space?

Our first two neighbor-partners are people we have worked with in the past, whose living situation is relatively stable, for whom a gift of this size is likely to have a positive impact.

One of our neighbor-partners is currently experiencing a significant illness which makes him unable to work, but he otherwise has a steady work record and is currently waiting for disability payments.

Could a member of St. Luke’s be a neighbor-partner?

They could.

How will you know if Breathing Space has a positive impact?

We will invite our neighbor-partners to describe for us the specific impact of the gifts, after six months and again after 12 months.

What about the other people who ask us for financial help?

Before moving to the Breathing Space model, Jan got in touch with the neighbors to whom we have most often given support, to let them know we would not have aid available after August (or so). A few asked for a final gift, e.g. to buy school supplies, and we fulfilled those requests as best we could.

Depending on the size of the RDF, we may be able to make occasional cash gifts from time to time. For the most part, however, over the next 12 months we will decline requests in order to focus our resources on Breathing Space. We will still offer food and toiletries, contributed by parishioners, to anyone who calls looking for help.  

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