Episcopal Church-Founded Cooperatives Contribute to Progress in Rural Parishes
From P20K to P173M
(An ECP Vision 2018 Story)
Well-meaning individuals have observed that ECP Vision 2018 was accordingly too parochial and focused on the institutional interest of the Church without much consideration to the day-to-day realities of its members. The experience of St. William’s Parish in Butigue, Paracelis completely debunks this observation and validates what Vision 2018 had intended to do which is to grow congregations in order that they can better pursue and live out the Five Marks of Mission.
Back in the early 1990s, the congregation of St. William’s consisted of only seven families. The women members practiced og-ogbo, where they pooled their meager financial resources that they rotated among themselves in order to support their economic activities. A grant of P20,000 from the Anglican Board of Mission – Australia boosted the self-help operation and allowed them to get more members. In 1997, the St. William’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative was formally registered and has since then provided much-needed providential, agricultural and small-business financing to the people in and out of Paracelis. It now has 1,756 regular members and 1,527 associate and laboratory members . Much of the economic upliftment in the municipality can be attributed to the assistance of the cooperative. Today, after 21 years, the cooperative has P173.54 million in assets, with members’ equity amounting to P41.72 million and has 59 employees. Aside from its multi-million lending operations, the cooperative operates a grocery, pharmacy, airconditioned lodging rooms and a 5-van transport service. In the records of the ECP’s development program, St. William’s Cooperative is listed as a spectacular success.
The congregation of St. William’s has grown to more than 100 families and has been admitted as a full-fledge parish in 2009. Through the cooperative, the parish is one of the main contributors to various fund-raising activities of the diocese and is actually supporting neighboring congregations. It has started an elementary school from Kindergarten up to Grade II with 32 total pupils and intends to complete the 7-year levels of basic education.
The cooperative is open to non-Episcopalians who now compose the majority of its membership. Pastors of evangelical churches are active members and directors of the cooperative. Yet, even with its membership configuration, the cooperative strongly maintains its Episcopal roots. It’s General Assembly always starts with an Episcopal sung mass, with full attendance from the pastors and leaders of other denominations. The ECP’s Five Marks of Mission is prominently displayed in the coop offices as part of its values enhancement program and biblical verses are found in the Assembly theme and in various documents and members’ t-shirts.
In recognition of its Episcopal roots and continued spiritual guidance, the cooperative pledges 10% of its annual net income to the parish. Surprisingly, the initial opposition to this came from Episcopal members themselves but it was the pastors and leaders of evangelical churches who, up to this day, are insistent that the coop must always express thanksgiving through this pledge.
Much of success of both the parish and the cooperative has evolved out of the visionary leadership of the rector, The Rev. Frenzel Ray P. Piluden [now bishop-elect], and The Rt. Rev. Alexander A. Wandag, Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago.
I was privileged to speak at the 21st General Assembly of the coop last 24th February 2018. One of the stories I shared was our experience in Nairobi, Kenya where Mr. Patrick W. Pelenia, CEO of the Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark, presented the ECP’s coop program in an international micro-finance conference in 2012. The conference was impressed with the presentation just as they were impressed with an earlier presentation from a Kenyan micro-finance bank whose president and manager was an Anglican who finished advance economic and management degrees from Oxford University of England. Following these presentations, a Kenyan friend of mine asked where our people managing our coops, including St. William’s, took their MBAs. I explained to him that perhaps the elementary and high schools in Paracelis are comparable to the graduate schools of England since most of our coop directors are elementary and high school graduates in the municipality. Also, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary must be comparable to Oxford University since the manager of St. William’s was a SATS graduate. These are the leaders who have transformed P20 thousand into P173 million.