Letter from Staff-Parish Relations Chair Re: Susan Sprague

2009 was a year of unanticipated change and movement for the leadership of our church. With the loss of an accompanist, an administrator, and an Associate Pastor, we also embraced the arrival of a new accompanist and a new administrator and underwent some major reorganization change.

As the Staff-Parish Relations Team chair, I need to share some very difficult news. Sid and I met with Susan on Friday to inform her of our inability to fund her return to Trinity. It was a painful decision and I feel the need to share how this came to be.

As you know, Susan has been our Associate Pastor for many years. For an activist church such as ours, we were blessed to have two talented pastors. When Susan became ill over a year ago, her Trinity family was there for her, both emotionally and financially. With the loss of Susan on a day to day basis, the leadership teams needed to do major restructuring to fill gaps that her absence created. Susan’s pastoral and program tasks as well as the many organizational responsibilities she had assumed needed to be redistributed.

Susan was placed on Incapacity Leave at Annual Conference in June. At that point, we still hoped that she would ultimately be able to return in some capacity, although there were no assurances. When our administrator relocated last August, we made the decision to hire a full-time administrator, the first full-time non-clergy person Trinity has ever had. We feel strongly that this is a good and important move for Trinity.

The Staff Parish Relations team met with Susan a few months ago. She was feeling better and talked with us about the possibility of returning initially for 5 – 6 months at ¼ time. The Staff-Parish Relations team deliberated, and recommended to the Finance Team that, if the funds existed, we rehire Susan at ¼-time capacity.

The Finance Team needed to balance budget items. In the end, the numbers simply did not add up and the Finance Team needed to measure our desire to have Susan with us with Trinity’s need and resources. Their decision was that we were unable to bring her back. As a result, Susan will remain on Incapacity Leave, which pays a portion of her salary, her full pensions and her full health insurance, through May. Our District Superintendent, Bobbi Kaye Jones, assures us that as an ordained member of the conference, she and the bishop will work to find Susan a position that allows her to work in the capacity she needs, though there is no guarantee of it, and that they are very aware of her gifts and skills.

We love Susan, and feel blessed that she was able to share her gifts with us for so many years. This is a heartbreaking and painful decision. The members of the Staff Parish Relations Team and the Finance Team spent many hours agonizing over it. However, many of us who have been here for a long time have weathered many storms together. We hope that those of you who haven’t been with us for long will know that we are a strong family. In our family, we all have a part in the healing process of the church. We hope that you can all help us move forward together.

Thank you,
Diane Harvey Anderson
Chair, Staff-Parish Relations Team

If you would like to send a letter to Susan to let her know you are thinking of her and appreciate her time at Trinity, you are welcome to:

  • Send it through the office (I will forward it on to her.)  Trinity’s address is 600 E. 50th St., Austin 78751;
  • Email me at mail@tumc.org to get her address (I don’t want to post it on the web.)
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About Trinity UMC

Trinity United Methodist Church is not a church that has all the answers, but we do know the source of our hope, healing, and love. Your continued participation is welcome as we seek to serve God through each other, our community, and our world. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would simply like to talk. Trinity United Methodist Church is a dynamic community of people, who through their trust in God's faithfulness, strive to provide an inclusive, joyful, loving, and caring environment. In this community, people can find spiritual nurture and growth, mutual support of individual needs, and a sense of family. Reaching out through vital and creative worship, people-centered programs, and social and environmental stewardship, this congregation serves the local and global communities.

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