Sangha Evolution and a Home of Our Own by Robert Beatty, September 2003

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Summer is ending and the adventure of developing our community is once again coming to the forefront. The process of infrastructure development and moving forward on the purchase of a home for PIMC will be heating up.

Our capital campaign has been very successful. We began our fundraising this year with $18,500. Ruth Denison, who had contributed $10,000 last year, gave another $10,000 to kick off our capital campaign. Anonymous donors promised $140,000 as matching funds. Since mid-June, seventy-one donors have contributed a total of $42,000. Most generously, the anonymous donors have matched the $42,000, and more, by contributing a total of $75,000. This brings our building fund to $145,500. The anonymous donors have renewed their pledges and as soon as we raise an additional $65,000, they will match it.

Along with the financial contributions I have heard much enthusiasm, support and  encouragement for creating a home for PIMC. I have also been heartened by conversation with other Vipassana teachers who have tales to tell about the meandering path they took to ultimately find the “right” combination of community involvement and the proper real estate.

We made an offer of $410,000 on the church on Holgate as our fundraising effort got underway. In order to meet the obligations of our contract with the seller we were required to decide quickly whether or not we would purchase the building before knowing what the repairs on the electrical system and foundation would cost. Estimates ranged from $25,000 to $75,000. In addition, we had not had adequate time to consolidate our fundraising efforts. By mid-July it became clear we were not going to raise enough money to pay cash or secure a mortgage within the brief period of time allowed by the purchase contract. We (the PIMC board) withdrew our offer to prevent forfeiting our $15,000 earnest money. Although the Holgate property seemed like an excellent opportunity and there was plenty of enthusiasm within PIMC, the real estate market requires immediate action we were not prepared to take.

I had never expected to act so quickly in making an offer on a building, but there are only three churches for sale in Portland and this one met most of our needs. The board and I were motivated by the perception that churches of the requisite size and cost are difficult to find and that we had better act fast or miss out on a great opportunity. I am more comfortable with embracing the notion that we need to act in a mindful, responsible, and systematic way. We will find the facility that fits our needs and use the process of obtaining such a location as a vehicle for the enhancement and strengthening of our community.

One of our next steps in seeking a center is to approach Albina Bank, which specializes in loans to churches and non-profits, to arrange financing for whatever balance remains. Meanwhile we will continue our capital campaign, and when the time comes, individual Sangha members will be offered the Dana opportunity of committing to a certain monthly amount to pay a mortgage.

In the flurry of making an offer on a building, we discovered we had outpaced our community. On July 5th we held a community meeting to discuss this and other PIMC concerns. If you were not there, I suggest that you pick up and listen to a copy of the  tape of that meeting, and also read the transcription of my remarks that Ellen Morrison so kindly transcribed. Both are available on Sunday evenings.

At this meeting, and through conversations with individuals, the board and I learned some of the questions that had been concerning community members. Among them are:

• What process had led to the decision to purchase a building?

• How could more communication between the board and the community at large be facilitated?

• How is PIMC governed?

• How can people become involved?

PIMC continues to evolve and we will address these concerns at future board meetings. As part of this process, Danelle Till is breathing new life into our communication committee and welcomes any assistance.

The next board meeting is at my home on September 15th, beginning with meditation at 6:45 pm (sharp). Community members are welcome. The board will be taking up the question of how to proceed with the center, establishing bylaws to guide PIMC, and fundraising. If you have skills you would like to contribute to PIMC, please approach any board member or myself. If you have energy, I am sure we can put it to good use.

The church on Holgate is back on the market and, who knows, it may still be available by the time we are ready. If not, I am confident something else will become available. In the case of the Mid-peninsula Insight Meditation Center, Gil Frondale’s community in the Bay area, they finally purchased the third property they were very interested in. The process was complex and turbulent. It just seems to go that way.

I look forward to many opportunities to practice the Dharma together and to continue the adventure of creating a loving, participatory and engaged community.