St. George’s 1979-1981 a divided church

The church in 1979 was divided – the new prayer book of 1979 was a point of contention along with that the realization that Morning Prayer was being relegated to a secondary position behind the Eucharist.  The division affected other parts of church life, including a future renovation. 

30 dissatisfied members met in the home of Janel O’Malley with Charles Sydnor about changes they saw in the Episcopal Church . Asked about the direction of the church, Sydnor replied the church was more Eucharistic oriented.  He expressed a desire for the church to grow and reach more people in the community.  The majority of the group preferred Morning Prayer.  They hoped that “more dignity and stability” would return to St. George’s.  “The church was not the place for gimmicks. It was felt with the constant changes within the church, today’s youth will not have a firm foundation as Episcopalians.”  There appeared to be a division between those who had been a member of the church for many years vs. newer members

The church was having monetary problems.   In March, 1980 it had to renew an existing $1,500 bank note and to authorize the treasurer to borrow $2,000 more.  50% of the Easter offering in 1980 would be given to church operations and not given away.  Later in 1980, in the minutes iy was noted that St. George’s had not paid its Region I 1979 pledge of $1,000.  Financials at the end of 1980 revealed positive assets of $7,651 but only due to other income and a loan of $11,065. Without that net assets would have been ($3,413).

The Vestry retreat in 1980 reflected on the issues. Many thought the most crucial issue was increasing membership – to maintain the building and programs, for “an improved worship feeling with a fuller church” and more people taking part in activities.  This was said more than once. One Vestry member chagrined, “I seem to find very few people in the congregation who are happy with the church or think it is doing a good job.”  That same parishioner wanted to see a base group that could rally others. 

Charles’ time was being stretched. He was serving as the Dean of Region I, was on the Standing Committee, and also on the Big Brothers Board besides serving in other community roles.  They were looking to hire an assistant but the amount they could offer was limited. 

In 1980, the proposed renovation of the church showed further splits.  The desire for a free standing communion table to “meet the new liturgy” which could require moving the choir back to the gallery showed differences in a Sept., 1980 parish meeting.   There were many feeling “attached” to the current look of the church or that the changes were unnecessary.   Would moving the choir to the back affect the ability of the choir to process?  Would they lose closeness with the congregation. There were others who connected worship with the ability to grow.   The choir could be effective in the back as in the front and the acoustics would be better. 

A congregational survey reported to the Vestry in Oct., 1980 showed 119 of 193 opposed to any changes in the chancel.   The Vestry vote reflected that feeling.   The Preservation Plan was defeated as presented. The Vestry approved the repairs and painting for Narthex, Nave (all items except repair organ arches, exterior (1,2,3 and repair wall, chancel (3,9,10), gallery (repair floor and furniture).  The Preservation would return the contract to the Vestry.                

In addition, Worship commission reported on a survey concerning morning prayer with the congregation favoring a morning prayer service on “some regular basis.” Charles would schedule a morning prayer service on the 4th Sunday of each month and by having morning prayer with Eucharist on the second Sunday.

Complicating matters was the division of the Herndon Trust by the court into two funds, “A” and “B”, one created by the Will and the other created by the Trust.  

The Herndon Memorial Trust funds are actually two separate trusts, an inter vivos trust agreement and a testamentary trust, created by John W. Herndon. The testamentary trust, referred to as Trust Fund A, was established under the Will of John Herndon dated October 28, 1950 and probated on September 24, 1952. The trust agreement, referred to as Trust Fund B, was created by Mr. Herndon in 1951.

The case started from an internal dispute over two issues between the Rev. Charles Sydnor and members of the Herndon Trust, represented by A. Wilson Embrey.

One issue was the distribution of Herndon funds to other than needy men to various non-profit groups.  Embrey notes he had served on the Herndon Trust for 25 years. He was concerned about being sued for “miss-application of the income from the trust fund.” Apparently all of the Trustees of the Herndon Trust had resigned at some point except Embrey.

On the “Answer and Petition” Embrey lists the following donations based on the 1976 annual report of the church provided at a January 26, 1977 congregational meeting:

-Diocese of Va.  2/3 to Home for aged, 1/3 Home Handicapped children – $1000

-Big Brothers and Big Sisters $1,000

-American Brotherhood for the Blind$65

-Leukemia Society $100.20

-Fellowship Fund – Retirement Residence $500

-Disabled American Veterans $15

It appears that an Order, in response to a Petition filed by one of the Trustees, was entered by the Circuit Court of Fredericksburg in 1981 to clarify issues related to the number of trustees and the use of monies derived from the two funds. The Order authorized the Vestry to appoint no less than three and no more than five Trustees for each of the two funds and to replace a Trustee upon the death, resignation, or expiration of a fixed term. The Order further authorized the Trustees of the two funds to be the same, although it was not required that they be the same, and that the act of either trust fund shall require the consent of the majority of the existing trustees for each trust fund.

It was also ruled by the Circuit Court, in response to conflict among the trustees as to the use of trust monies, that the Trust Agreement lacked any reference or incorporation in the Will and vice versa and therefore the funds were two separate monetary amounts, each requiring a separate annual accounting and each being governed in its use by the provisions of the respective documents.   The conflict was based on the interpretation of the language as to the purpose of the fund under the Trust Agreement. Although both the Will and the Trust Agreement indicate Mr. Herndon intended the funds to assist elderly men, the language in the Trust Agreement was and still is interpreted by some to allow distributions for any charitable purpose and not just elderly men.

The division of the Herndon Trust was not healed until they were merged in 2013 after a petition drafted by Kevin Jones was approved by the court in July 25, 2013.