The Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter

I wrote a case statement for Allen MAC client, The Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Burlington, North Carolina, for its Fulfilling the Vision Campaign.

Campaign Case Statement

Fulfilling the Vision

A Capital Campaign for The Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter

A People of Vision

To worship God, revealed to us as creator, as Jesus the Christ, and as the Holy Spirit, and experience God’s presence within the church family, nurturing each other through a comprehensive parish program while affirming each other’s individual ministries and responding to God’s continuing call to minister to others.

Parish Mission Statement
The Church of the Holy Comforter

As we, the members of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, prepare to celebrate the 125th anniversary of our church’s founding in 1879, our leaders have formulated a visionary strategic plan to renew, revitalize and rededicate our congregation to our shared mission. The goals, objectives and strategies detailed in the plan document, titled “A Vision for the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter,” encompass virtually every aspect of our program and operations.

As part of the Vision plan, we will conclude a comprehensive program of capital improvements to our buildings, in progress since 1989. With generous, widespread support from our members and friends, our church will fund the remaining projects through the $2.3 million Fulfilling the Vision Campaign.

‘Their Greatest Comfort’

Our prime property in downtown Burlington, our beautiful sanctuary and two of its largest and most richly symbolic stained glass windows, even the name of our church, were all the gifts of one family. In 1909, Lawrence Shackleford Holt and his wife Margaret Locke Erwin Holt gave us our land and sanctuary building in memory of their cherished daughter Emily Farish Holt, who died of diphtheria in 1882.

The original Saint Athanasius Church, built in 1880, had served the congregation well, but the couple’s vision for what their church could and would become is clearly reflected in the building they created. It is a testament to their foresight and faith that the sanctuary continues to serve us well and will do so for decades to come.

The magnificent triple stained-glass window given by the Holt family as a backdrop for the altar in the new church depicts the annunciation, resurrection and ascension of Christ. For the west wall, the Holts commissioned an elaborate stained glass work depicting Christ’s blessing of the children. The blond-haired child resting her head on Christ’s shoulder is said to be five-year-old Emily. In her book, Stained Glass: The Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, author Betsy Liles Gant writes of our church, “It is called the Church of the Holy Comforter, for the Holts said that their greatest comfort during their sadness came from their church.”

Soon after the first service in the new sanctuary, the January 1912 edition of The Carolina Churchman published a report describing our “Beautiful Church and the splendid lot on which it stands.” Of Mr. and Mrs. Holt and the new sanctuary, the article said, “Long after they shall have been gathered home, it will be standing there in its stately and imposing proportions, witnessing to God and His truth, the symbol of Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Faith and Order.” Indeed, it is.

The Holt family’s loss of their daughter brought into painfully sharp focus their personal need for an enduring source of spiritual comfort and strength. In large part because of their generosity and vision, hundreds of families to this day continue to rely on the Church of the Holy Comforter as they did for God’s great comfort and strength. We hope, with the successful realization of our Vision, many more will be able to do so well into the future.

Clarifying the Vision

We share, as a congregation, a rich history and heritage. Our roots in the community run deep. The quality and effectiveness of our services, our programs and our ministries are superb. The profound and abiding commitment of our clergy and lay leaders, the music we offer to the glory of God, our beautiful worship space and the services we hold there—all are all in keeping with in the best and most holy traditions of the Episcopal Church. While we are indeed gratified by these great strengths, however, we recognize a need for improvement in several key areas.

The life of our church continues to be sustained by a core group of dedicated, capable leaders, but a growing number of members are less active. One-third of our member households—112 in all—did not support ongoing church operations with a pledge to the 2001 budget. Clearly, the church is not adequately meeting the perceived needs of these members and they, in turn, are not helping meet the needs of the church.

While we regularly welcome new members, our net growth in membership is not what we believe it should be. From 1997 to 2002, our membership grew from 598 to 636—an increase of only 38 people. Yet, according to a 2000 demographic study to which the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina subscribed, there are more than 5,000 people in Alamance County—our parish—who express an Episcopal religious preference. For more than 1,000 of them, “finding a good church” is the primary spiritual or personal concern, while nearly 850 more are most interested in “finding spiritual teaching.”

As the one Episcopal church in Burlington, we know we are not only a good church—we are a truly wonderful church with many beneficial programs and services and limitless promise for the future. We know we could be growing steadily. We know we have much to offer to young families, single adults, children and older adults. We know we can attract and serve a more diverse congregation.

In seeking to fulfill that promise, at their January 2002 retreat, the Vestry established a comprehensive set of goals for stimulating new growth and revitalization of virtually every aspect of the life and ministry of the Church of the Holy Comforter. Since then, many people have worked countless hours to develop and articulate objectives and strategies in support of the goals and, through a series of in-home meetings, to share the vision with the membership of our church.

“The Vision for the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter” is a dynamic, living document, filled with plans to test and explore. As more inactive and new members become involved, our shared vision will undoubtedly be further refined and enriched by their contributions. Ultimately, as the plan states, our vision is to “transform ourselves, a community of the faithful ministering to its members, to being a missionary congregation, a community of disciples who view all of our activities as missions that proclaim who we are by word and action, lead others to Christ, make disciples and transform lives.”

Fulfilling Our Vision

As the opportunities of the vision have become clear, our clergy and Vestry wisely elected to address them even as they prepared to move forward with the remaining improvements to our buildings. They see the stuffy rooms and peeling paint in our buildings as a grossly inaccurate reflection of our vitality and enthusiasm and of what we have to offer as a church.  As we move ahead with realizing the Vision, we will strive mightily to make our church more responsive and relevant to the needs of our members, to prospective members and to people in our community who can benefit from our help and support. At the same time, we will move ahead to complete our capital improvement projects.

The leaders of the Church of the Holy Comforter first identified and documented the need to repair and refurbish our buildings in 1989. Having served the parish well since 1911 with only minimal maintenance, the main building was suddenly, rapidly succumbing to the elements, as were the Education Building, in service since 1926, and the Great Hall, a center of parish life since 1965. While the three buildings remained structurally sound, all had sustained moisture damage that would certainly, inevitably worsen without immediate attention.

More than ten years and two capital campaigns later, our church buildings and bell tower are now safe and, with proper care, will remain so for generations to come. All are under new or repaired roofs with cleaned and sealed masonry, re-pointed mortar, new copper gutters and fresh paint. Drainage patterns have been reworked to divert water from the structures. Rotten wood and crumbling plaster have been restored, damaged doors have been reconditioned or replaced, and energy-efficient storm windows have been installed throughout all three buildings. Our treasured stained-glass windows have been painstakingly cleaned and lovingly restored to their original beauty, with tempered plate glass now protecting them from harm.

With our buildings’ most urgent problems successfully resolved, the clergy and Vestry are now prepared to address the remaining problems first documented in 1989 and reaffirmed in subsequent professional evaluations and by our own observations and continuing frustrations. Our 37-year-old heating, ventilation and air conditioning system needs to be replaced with a low-maintenance, energy-efficient new system. The Great Hall needs to be refurbished, with adequate, convenient storage space provided for furnishings and equipment. Access to and circulation within our buildings must be made barrier-free so that any person of limited mobility can participate fully and comfortably in the life of our church.

In 1989, our first priority was to repair water damage to our buildings and to safeguard them against the elements. Clearly, we needed a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system then, but our first order of business was to repair and protect the buildings. Our single largest expenditure was for a new slate roof for the sanctuary. The original slate roof had sheltered us for nearly 80 years. The new slate roof has an expected useful life of more than 100 years. The refurbished slate roof on the Education Building will last from 40 to 75 years.

We recognized the value of our assets, not only in dollars and cents but in spiritual and emotional terms as well, and we were committed to do things right. Unwilling to compromise on the quality of workmanship and materials and determined to restore the buildings to better-than-new condition, we realized despite our best hopes, the generous gifts to our 1990 and 1995 campaigns would be inadequate to complete the projects.

In late spring 2001, we received cost estimates for the new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, the planned refurbishment of Great Hall and the Access Tower. The combined estimates totaled $2.3 million. The three priorities of the Fulfilling the Vision Campaign represent sound, sensible investments in preserving and enhancing the church’s most valuable assets. The improvements to our buildings will enable us to make full use of them in supporting the programs and activities of a revitalized, thriving church.

The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning System

Since 1989, we have known our aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning system needed to be replaced. Our members have come to know certain portions of the church, such as the auditorium and third floor classrooms, cannot be used at certain times of the year. They know to expect to be too hot or too cold, depending on the location and the time of year, when they participate in worship and church events. With every passing year, we have seen growing portions of our operating funds diverted from other program and maintenance needs to fund costly repairs and replacements of aging system components. We can solve these problems and realize many important benefits with a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

Lower Maintenance Costs

As our present heating and air conditioning system ages, break-downs are becoming more frequent and more costly to repair. The high cost of keeping the old system going diverts operating funds from other needs. We can reasonably expect our new system to need only routine maintenance for many years to come. Should any fundamental problems arise with workmanship or system components, they are likely to emerge while our new system is still under warranty and can be corrected at no additional cost.

Lower Operating Costs

In the 1960s, when our old system was new, our society was relatively unconcerned about conserving fuel and protecting the environment. In the decades since, stewardship of our precious natural resources has become a growing concern for all of us. The new heating and air conditioning system components will reflect the cumulative results of four decades of innovations in fuel-efficient design. Sophisticated computer controls will maintain comfort levels throughout our buildings in the most intelligent, fuel-sparing ways. New ductwork will be thoroughly insulated to minimize waste. Our utility bills will drop significantly, freeing operating funds for other worthwhile purposes.

Improved Performance and Safety

With a single thermostat sometimes regulating temperatures on three floors, our current heating and air conditioning system lacks the zoning needed to control temperatures consistently and to conserve energy. With the new properly zoned and computer-controlled system, we will enjoy comfort as well as cost-savings impossible with our present system.

With our current two-piped system, we must hire a service technician to come in every spring and switch the entire system from heating to air-conditioning. Each fall, we have the system switched back again. If the weather turns unseasonably warm or cold after the changeover, we pull out the fans or the sweaters and hope the hot spell or the cold snap will end soon. The new four-piped system will switch seamlessly between heating and air-conditioning as needed from season to season, day to day, from hour to hour, even from zone to zone. Stuffy third-floor classrooms can be cooled while the Great Hall is being heated.

The new system will comply with current building codes, which are more stringent that the codes in place with our existing system was installed. The new system will be safer than the old one.

A Better Environment

Our members, musicians, staff and visitors can enjoy a more healthful, more comfortable environment throughout the year in any part of our church. With the new system up and running, the days of sweltering and shivering will be over. Besides providing a better environment for people, the new system will help us be better stewards of one of our most treasured possessions—our Dobson organ. Changes in temperature and humidity can damage or destroy a musical instrument. The new properly zoned, climate-control system will be programmed to maintain our organ’s environment at temperatures well within a specified safe range.

Full Use of Our Facilities

Our third-floor classrooms and the auditorium are effectively unusable all summer because air conditioning is lacking or inadequate. The new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system will effectively restore the full, unrestricted use of this valuable space year-round.

The Great Hall Renovation

Since its dedication in October 1965, the Great Hall has been a center of activity for our church and parish. Its present state of wear and disrepair serves to affirm the Great Hall’s utility and longstanding importance to our church. With proceeds from the Fulfilling the Vision Campaign, we can not only restore the condition and appearance of the Great Hall, we can enjoy even greater flexibility in our use of this spacious, versatile facility.

Repair and Refurbishment

Central to the plans for the Great Hall are a number of long-postponed repairs and refurbishments to the interior. New, premium-quality vinyl tile flooring will satisfy practical needs for versatility, durability and easy maintenance as well as aesthetic needs for an attractive material suitable for more formal social events. New draperies will replace the old, now deteriorated beyond cleaning and repair. All interior surfaces will be repaired and freshly painted. The bathrooms will be completely renovated. 

A More Pleasant, More Comfortable Environment

Like every other part of the church, the Great Hall will be heated and cooled more comfortably and consistently by the new HVAC system. To further improve the Great Hall’s environment, steps will be taken to control ambient light streaming in through the windows and to reduce ambient noise. Fabric-wrapped wall and ceiling panels will dramatically improve the hall’s acoustic properties, greatly enhancing the experience of using the facility.

Improved Flexibility, Utility and Safety

The Great Hall’s size and versatility are its chief assets. The Fulfilling the Vision Campaign will allow us to derive the unprecedented utility and benefit from both. All furniture and fixtures, including tables, chairs and recreational equipment will be portable to permit fast, easy transformations of the Great Hall for a variety of purposes. Acoustic wall panels on casters will provide a fast, flexible way to subdivide the space. A portable stage can be moved into place as needed. Basketball goals can appear in time for an afternoon game and then disappear before members and guests arrive for an evening reception. The hall’s 40-year-old electrical wiring will be replaced to improve safety and to accommodate versatile new lighting and sound systems.

Storage Space

The stacks of tables, chairs and other equipment in the Great Hall’s entry and vestibule clearly demonstrate a most pressing need for storage space convenient to the facility. By providing a new storage area adjacent to the Great Hall in the first floor of the Access Tower, the campaign allows us to remove the clutter, retain the full use of the Great Hall’s entire space and store all our furniture and equipment safely and conveniently.

The Access Tower

Consistent with demographic trends in our society as a whole, our community and our congregation are aging. As our population’s number and proportion of aging adults grow, we can expect a commensurate growth in the number of people who will experience a disability. The 2000 U.S. Census of Alamance County counted 26,905 people aged five and older with some form of disability, including nearly half of all adults 65 years old and older. Assuming our congregation at least approximately represents a cross-section of the county’s population as a whole, we can infer at least some of our members, perhaps as many as half of the older ones, have or will have some form of disability within their lifetimes.

So far, we have not responded to the special needs of members, prospective members and guests for a barrier-free facility. While able-bodied parishioners have always moved freely throughout our church buildings, wheelchair-bound members and visitors have had to navigate a series of parking lots, sidewalks and ramps simply to get from the sanctuary to the Great Hall.

The third-floor auditorium has been inaccessible to anyone unable to climb stairs. A routine visit to the restroom has sometimes proved an insurmountable challenge when doorways and stalls are too narrow for a wheelchair, faucets and lavatories are beyond reach and there are no railings to grab for support. With its elevator and handicapped-accessible bathrooms on all three levels, the Access Tower removes these barriers to access and participation in the life of our church.

After thoughtful consideration and consultation with our architects and engineers, we have determined the best, most cost-efficient location for the Access Tower is the hallway of the 1964 classroom building. Rooms and hallways in the existing structure can be used with minimal restructuring, and we can continue to take best advantage of the covered entrance on the east side of the Great Hall. The location next to the Great Hall makes the tower ideal for added storage space as well.

From this relatively central location, the lower two levels of the church can be freely accessed by wheelchair without the need to go outdoors and around buildings to move between the sanctuary and the Great Hall. For the first time ever, a person in a wheelchair can attend a program in the auditorium or participate in a Sunday School class on the third floor. Even able bodied members will welcome the elevator when moving heavy equipment and supplies to various areas of the church.

In addition to making our entire facility barrier free, the Access Tower’s basement storage area adjacent to the Great Hall offers an ingenious solution to our storage problems. The Access Tower offers an additional “bonus” in the form of a paved outdoor terrace directly above the storage area, ideal for enjoying outdoor gatherings and special events.

We have no way of knowing how many of our inactive members stopped coming to church services and events because they can no longer climb stairs. We have no way of knowing how many prospective members have ruled us out because a family member uses a walker or a wheelchair. Even one person who stays away or is denied participation in our programs and services is one too many. One prospective member who eliminates us from consideration because of access problems represents a loss for all concerned. Now that we have recognized the need for barrier-free access throughout our church, it is our duty and obligation to act.

Aside from its many practical benefits, the Access Tower will stand as a symbol of our congregation’s openness and compassionate concern for others. The tower will encourage participation in events and allow the church full, convenient, unrestricted use of all our facilities. As we age, any of us or our family members could develop mobility problems that would prevent full participation in the life of our church. With the Access Tower in place, we can rest assured our spiritual support will not necessarily be jeopardized by disability or physical infirmity.

Your Response

On November 5, 1911, Lawrence Shackleford Holt stood before the congregation, assembled for the first time in their new sanctuary, and handed over the deed to the property. In the deed, Mr. Holt stipulated that the pews in the new church could never be sold or owned so that all the church might always belong to all its members.

The Church of the Holy Comforter still belongs to all of us. Together, we are responsible for its physical condition as well as its spiritual viability and vitality.  As the lengthy list of recent repairs and renovations attests, we have been good stewards of Mr. and Mrs. Holt’s gifts. With the completion of the first phase of our capital improvement projects, our buildings are in the best shape they have been since they were new. We have prepared them to last for decades more with only minimal care and maintenance required.

The Fulfilling the Vision Campaign is about removing impediments to our continuing progress—clearing away physical barriers to access, restrictions to the use of our buildings, limits on the flexibility of our programming. In the context of our larger vision for the future of our church, we see a concurrent clearing away of impediments to participation in the life of our church. We hope to address concerns of our inactive members and welcome them back into our midst. We hope to reach potential members in our parish and offer them benefits of such relevance and value that they will flock to our services and events.

With its ambitious goal of $2.3 million, the Fulfilling the Vision Campaign challenges us individually and as a congregation as we have never before been challenged. Widespread generosity and enthusiasm will be essential for success. Once completed, the campaign projects will permit us to enjoy full and free access to attractive, safe, usable spaces for worship, fellowship, work and play. On a deeper level, the completed projects will represent tangible signs of our shared vision for the bright future of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter.

In The Episcopal Church in Burlington, 1879-1979: One Hundred Years in History, church historian Margaret Elizabeth Gant observed, “The life of the Episcopal church in Burlington, North Carolina, has been both active and inactive, self-concerned and outwardly concerned, united and splintered. Through tremendous transitions, difficult and energetic and uplifting times, it has never divided but has remained one church through its one hundred years.”

We are still one church, and when our children write the history of our second hundred years, this time in the life of our church will be remembered as one of renewal and rededication to the values that have sustained us since 1879. In planning your response to the Fulfilling the Vision Campaign, we encourage you to consider not only financial support of the campaign projects, but broader support toward realizing our vision of a revitalized, welcoming church.

Campaign Priorities

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning system$ 1,131,088
Great Hall refurbishment300,000
Access Tower400,000
Life safety issues (emergency exits, fire alarms, etc.)100,000
Code compliance issues100,000
Architects’ fees—planning75,000
Architects’ fees—bidding, project oversight100,000
New boiler loan35,000
Fund raising fee60,000
Total$ 2,300,000

Naming & Memorial Opportunities

The Vestry has approved a number of naming opportunities to recognize gifts to the campaign of $25,000 and more. As you plan your commitment to the campaign, you and your family may consider which of the opportunities would be most meaningful to you.

Access tower$250,000
Access tower terrace100,000
Vestry meeting room75,000
First-, second- and third-floor tower lobbies50,000 each
Meditation garden50,000
Children’s chapel50,000
Music room50,000
Small dining room50,000
Rector’s office50,000
Assistant rector’s office50,000
Main floor hall between the small parlor and the east-west hall25,000
West end of the main floor on the parlor side25,000
East end of the main floor on the office side25,000
Main floor hallway to the doors by the assistant rector’s office25,000
Lower floor hall’s west end, near the offices25,000
Lower floor hall’s east end, near the Great Hall25,000
Two first-floor classrooms25,000 each
Five third-floor classrooms25,000 each
Third-floor kitchen25,000

Gifts Needed to Raise $2,300,000

Number of GiftsFive-Year Pledge Amount (per year)Total
1$300,000 ($60,00)$300,000
4100,000 (20,000)400,000
850,000 (10,000)400,000
1625,000 (5,000)400,000
3010,000 (2,000)300,000
605,000 (1,000)300,000
602,500 (500)150,000
501,000 (200)50,000
229 $2,300,000

Ways of Giving

Donors may make one-time gifts or may fulfill their pledges over a period of five years. Gifts of cash as well as gifts of stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets of value are welcome. The Church of the Holy Comforter is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization; all gifts are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Various options for giving are outlined below.


Money by check is the easiest and most common way to make a gift. Cash gifts may be used annually as charitable deductions on your federal income tax return to offset up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income. You may carry forward any unused deductions over the next five years.

Appreciated Securities
Gifts of appreciated securities such as stocks, mutual fund shares and bonds, which you have owned longer than six months, are fully tax-deductible charitable contributions, including the difference between what you paid for the security and its market value when donated. Such gifts are deductible annually up to 30 percent of your adjusted annual gross income on your federal tax return with the same five-year carry-over deduction provision as cash gifts. Remember that you must give the security itself, rather than selling it first and giving the cash, in order to avoid paying tax on the capital gain.

Real Estate
The same tax advantages that apply to stocks and bonds also apply to real estate. You may give acreage, a farm, a lot, a house, a commercial building, or any other kind of real estate held longer than six months and receive a charitable deduction for the full market value and also avoid taxes on the profit. 

Tangible Personal Property
You may give any other asset of value; for example, an automobile, a painting, a coin collection, a piece of jewelry or equipment, etc., and receive a charitable deduction.

Corporate Gifts
Corporations are permitted by law to give away to qualified charitable organizations up to 10 percent of their pre-tax profits in any given fiscal year. This provision is a double tax saving in that neither the corporation nor the individual is taxed on the gift.


In addition to current pledges to the campaign, alternate giving strategies should be considered.  Listed below are several planned or deferred giving opportunities that will enable you to make an even larger overall response to The Church of the Holy Comforter.  The campaign consultant will be glad to review which type of planned gift is most appropriate for you.

Charitable Gift Annuities
A gift annuity is a contract between you as the donor and the Church of the Holy Comforter where, in exchange for a gift of cash or marketable securities, Holy Comforter will promise to pay you a guaranteed income stream for life. The annuity can be for one life or two, which means you and your spouse can enjoy this income stream at a percentage based on your life expectancy.

Charitable Remainder Trusts
Individuals most often use a charitable trust with low basis assets that produce little or no income. Selling the asset and reinvesting for income will generate an unacceptable capital gains tax. When the asset is gifted to a charitable remainder trust, no capital gains tax is paid so the full amount can be reinvested to provide lifetime income to the donor or the donor and spouse.

Charitable Lead Trusts
A charitable lead trust is the opposite of the remainder trust. It provides an income stream to the Church of the Holy Comforter for the term of the trust and then trust assets revert to family—typically children or grandchildren. The primary benefit to the donor of a lead trust is that it can produce significant gift tax as well as estate tax savings while shifting assets to heirs outside of the estate.

Life Insurance
By giving an insurance policy already in force, you will receive a charitable deduction for the cash value of the policy. You may take out a new insurance policy on your life, or assign one already in force, naming Holy Comforter as the owner and beneficiary.  The premiums will be tax-deductible.

Retention of Life Interest Gift
You may give a personal residence or farm and retain lifetime use of the property. You will receive an immediate charitable deduction for the remainder value of the gift based on your age. The property is removed from your estate for tax purposes. The donor is responsible for taxes, insurance, and maintenance. At your death or the death of the surviving spouse, the gift becomes the property of the Church of the Holy Comforter.

Retirement Plan
You may name the Church of the Holy Comforter as the beneficiary of all or a portion of a retirement plan such as an IRA or Keogh Plan. The trustee of the plan will help you make that beneficiary designation. Upon your death, the gift will come to Holy Comforter without probate. Or, if you choose, you can name a charitable remainder trust the beneficiary of the retirement plan. Then your heirs can receive the income for life or a term of years with the remainder going to Holy Comforter.

A Living Trust
You may name the Church of the Holy Comforter as a co-owner with right of survivor­ship of any savings account.  Upon your death, that account becomes the property of Holy Comforter automatically and without probate.

A Bequest through Your Will
You may name the Church of the Holy Comforter in your will, or in a codicil to your will, for a specific dollar amount, a percentage of your estate or as a final contingent beneficiary.

Gift Acceptance

The Church of the Holy Comforter Vestry must approve all gifts, other than cash and marketable securities.  The campaign consultant will be happy to assist you by providing additional information about making various types of gifts for your greatest tax advantage.

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