*** Please attend the Community Meeting at 6:30 on Thursday, June 29th.
Dear Empty Hand Sangha,
Empty Hand Zen Center faces a decisive moment. The Board of Directors has examined our finances and sangha participation, and it has become increasingly clear that the way we have been operating is unsustainable. We simply do not have the financial reserves or the membership numbers to continue as we have.
More specifically, our current situation is this:
We estimate that, given the current level of financial support, and the amount of cash on hand, the sangha will only last about two more years. This is due to a projected budget shortfall of $26,738 or, to put it another way, the need to increase our total income by 48% during the remaining months of 2017 and in total for 2018. That sort of income increase would demand very substantial additional donations, membership, or a dramatic increase in our event income, which is only possible by providing hands on program assistance.
However, rather than growing, the donations have decreased, and the number of participants is down on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. In addition, one-day and three-day sittings that generate event income are poorly attended, and workshop attendance has also been very poor. This has directly led to less help for the Guiding Teacher in terms of maintaining the building, planning, offering events, and building awareness of our community. We cannot assume that any Guiding Teacher can do everything herself. It takes the commitment and energy of the community to run a sangha.
Even setting aside the expenses associated with having a full-time Guiding Teacher in residence, we still have the considerable expense of maintaining the building and paying the mortgage. Just continuing to care for the building requires large infusions of cash. It also requires even greater participation and communication between the teacher and members, as well as between the members themselves, for such things as planning and hosting regular sits, retreats and special events. With or without a residential teacher, we will have to do more.
This news does not mean the end, but the necessity for a transformation to a more realistic model of practice at Empty Hand. It has, thus, led the Board to examine different possibilities for the continuation of our sangha.
At this time, we feel that selling the building, renting space, and inviting a part-time teacher is both the most realistic and the only sustainable model for the sangha.
Our current Guiding Teacher Konin Cardenas is planning to bring her time here to a close at the beginning of September. If we follow through on these steps, we would no longer have the financial burden of maintaining and paying for the building, or of the full financial requirements of a residential teacher. Dues and donations at current levels could support the rent, zendo operations, and dana for a part-time teacher. What it would require is greater participation on the part of the community.
That said, if we were to receive substantial additional funding and much, much greater participation in zendo events, we could consider other alternatives. The Board recognizes how the membership must feel reading this. It has not been easy for us to discuss and send this letter. For anyone who has been a part of this community, selling the building represents a great symbolic loss. However, this can also be an opportunity for our sangha and our practice.
Our practice teaches us that everything is impermanent. For many years, we have relied on our Guiding Teachers to take care of virtually everything for us, including substantial portions of the community's income. It is time for a change. We must move on from the past, not cling to it. If we are to continue as a sangha, we must assume more of the responsibility for maintaining our sangha by generously giving of both our energy and our financial resources.
Day-to-day participation and communication will have to increase. More people will have to assume leadership roles in maintaining and expanding our sangha.
The Board cannot make this decision on its own. We will be holding a Community Meeting on Thursday evening, June 29th. More details will follow, but please save this date.
Even before this meeting, we would like to know your thoughts, ideas and feelings. We would hope to hear from each of you about your ability to take an active role in the next manifestation of this community.
Consider the state of your own practice and let us know:
Can you offer your time? Are you able to continue, or to increase your financial support? In the next few weeks, please reach out to any of the Board members, in person or by email. (Contacts are listed below.)
Your response in the next few weeks is needed to inform the next steps for this community.
Successful sanghas come in many forms. This news does not have to be an ending, but a transformation to a new Empty Hand.
May we continue this practice together, for the sake of all beings.
The Empty Hand Zen Center Board of Directors
Jeffrey Silver - Chairman - firstname.lastname@example.org
Elena Falcone - Treasurer - email@example.com
Chris Dee - Secretary - firstname.lastname@example.org
Konin Cardenas - Guiding Teacher - email@example.com
Deb Wood - firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Raddock - email@example.com
Paula Borsody - firstname.lastname@example.org