Parish Committee Meeting: June 2020

June 17, 2020

Members in attendance: Nick Covino (Chair), Chris Andrysiak, Priscilla Damon, Dwight Gertz, Carrie Marotta, Tim Moynihan, R.L. Smith, Jeani Welsh, Peter Hussey, Jane O’Rourke, Jessica Packineau

Ex officio: John Krzywicki (Treasurer), Jenny Rankin (Interim Minister), Sylvia Perry (Clerk)

Staff and Guests: Ralph Smith (Chair, Personnel Committee), Gina Halstead (Co-Chair, Transition Team), Chris Andrysiak, Mary Helen Lorenz (Chair Adult Programs Committee and Anti-Racism Task Force), Ken Hurd (Anti-Racism Task Force)

The PC met through ZOOM to discuss several important issues:

  1.  Carrie Marotta shared an Opening Poem:  “A Litany for Survival”, by Audre Lorde.
  2. Nick Covino introduced new Parish Committee Members and thanked retiring colleagues. Priscilla Damon, Ray Shepherd, RL Smith are cycling off of the Parish Committee.  Peter Watkinson is stepping down from the role of Clerk.   Nick expressed deep gratitude for these individuals for their service on the PC and expressed thanks for all of the work they have been involved with this year and throughout their time on the PC.  Nick welcomed newcomers to the Parish Committee, Peter Hussey, Jessica Packineau and Jane O’Rourke.  Collectively they bring experience and wisdom to the PC, and have been involved in the life of FPL in other capacities including YPC, finance, welcoming and hospitality committees, safe congregation committee, and personnel. Sylvia Perry is starting as the new Clerk.
  3. Motion made to approve Minutes from May PC Meeting, submitted by Peter Watkinson. Minutes approved.
  4. Interim Minister Jenny Rankin reported on Current Events at FPL.  She reports that we are in good shape as we head in to the summer and have held together remarkably as a community through this challenging time.  She expressed thanks for church staff and the safe congregation committee for all of their work this year, especially in managing the transition from live to online church.  She is grateful to all involved in the “staying connected” efforts including phone tree, Friday afternoon tea, and other programs.  FPL said goodbye to Meredith and Gert, and celebrated and honored the long tenure and contributions Gert made to the day-to-day operations of FPL. Summer services  will be led by Sarah, Margit and the Deacons. The Anti-Racism task force is very energized and will be active through the summer. Church Buildings will stay closed through Sept 1. Jenny said she will be working with the Deacons and Transition Team to gather feedback on virtual FPL, online services and programs, and try to evaluate what is working and what might be desired.
  5. Jeani Welsh provided an update from the Safe Congregation committee. A discussion was had around summer camp programming if the church is closed. We acknowledged that this is an opportunity to offer programming and a social community for kids when so much has been canceled.  The committee agreed they would need to hear a proposal with specific operating procedures in the next 2 weeks at which point Jenny is on summer recess. 
  6. John Krzywicki provided a Treasurer’s Report.  He reported we are running a bigger surplus than expected surplus because we are shut down.  We have 90% of pledges in at this point.  We are expecting a 96-98% rate of completions on the pledge drive by end June and this is consistent with past years.  We are aware of potential for market volatility given the current public health and economic crisis.  At the next PC meeting, John will provide a wrap up of the past 12 months. He also offered to provide a tutorial on the FPL budget for any PC members, old and new.
  7. Ken Hurd and Mary Helen Lorenz provided an update on the Anti-Racism Task Force and made a motion to display Black Lives Matter Banner on the front of the church.  At this year’s Annual Meeting and at the forum hosted by the Anti-Racist Task Force, we posed the question of what could The First Parish of Lincoln do to raise awareness and become part of the solution to purge the cancer of systemic racism that has metastasized throughout our society. We asked two questions: When folks look back 20 years from now, how do we want the First Parish to be remembered for what we did in 2020? What actions might we take to make a difference in our community and in our nation? The Anti-Racist Task Force would like to propose that, as a faith community, we seize the moment and fulfill our Call to Ministry by announcing to Lincoln that we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
    Ken shared an artistic rendering of the banner and reviewed feedback received from congregants on this proposal. Overwhelmingly people (~57 people) were in favor but some (5) people were concerned about politicization of this  issue. It has been endorsed by a number of committees including Community Engagement Task Force, Deacons, Outreach, Welcoming, and YPC.
    Ken shared a November 1963 Resolution on Racial Injustice. On November 13, 1963 a Special Meeting of the Congregation voted for this resolution to the By-Laws of The First Parish in Lincoln:
    “Recognizing racial injustice as a major social problem, we the people of the First Parish in Lincoln reaffirm our faith in the ultimate dignity of all mankind, men and women of every race, welcoming them into the membership of our church; and, as part of the Service of All for which our covenant unites us, we resolve to devote our minds and efforts to the Christian task of correcting racial injustice and helping those whose lives have been burdened and limited for generations by discriminatory treatment.”  
    A Motion made to agree to purchase and display a Black Lives Matter Banner temporality until such time as church regroups in person.  Motion was approved.
  8. Gina Halstead provided and update from the Transition Team.  For the past two years, the Transition team has focused on welcoming and establishing the Interim minister, gathering feedback from the congregation, managing through changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic, and current events around racial justice.  Looking ahead to the next 2 years, the Transition Team plans to solidify and declare our values, hold more conversations around who as a congregation we want to serve and help, and establish a mission and vision statement to help guide FPL prepare for search for new Settled Minister. Goal is for Search Committee to be announced by April 2021 and to have a budget in place for the new minister salary  by June 2021.
  9. Chris Andrysiak highlighted some financial modeling work and strategic decisions around growth to get to sustainable fiscal model. He proposed a financial and strategic planning exercise in conjunction with the work of Transition Team.
  10. Ralph Smith provided an update on the new Parish Administrator.  Her offer letter will be mailed this week and we have put together a draft onboarding plan.  She will plan to be in the office 5 days per week and will be able to work with Gert 8 hours per week, split in 2 increments. Members of this committee will be asked to be part of her orientation.
    Ralph also provided an update on Sarah Klockowski.  Jenny reports that she has  decided to enter the ordination track to become a UUA minister.  We propose that FPL adjust her contract to include ministerial duties in addition to her current communications and tech role. This would be a Full-time, year-round position and Jenny endorses this proposal and financial commitment.
    Motion was made to make this change to Sarah’s position to fulfill duties both as a ministerial intern and continue in her other FPL roles in communications and technology. Motion passed.
  11. Tim provide a quick updated from the Facilities Committee.  The Roof, Driveway, and other grounds projects are all being worked on and in good shape.
  12. John Krzywicki provided update on 3 recent Outreach Committee requests for distributions:
    1. South Sudanese Enrichment for Families is a small Lincoln-based nonprofit with close FPL ties and a regular recipient of annual Outreach grants and the sole organization that serves the needs of one of the most under-resourced and vulnerable immigrant groups in eastern Massachusetts: the South Sudanese community of some 100-150 individuals.  Its programs and finances have been upended by the COVID crisis. The Outreach Committee therefore requests PC approval of a grant to SSEF of a maximum of $2000.
    2. $24,000 Preston Transformative Innovation grant to Massachusetts Rivers Alliance
    3. $5000 Preston Emergency grant to the Lincoln Council on Aging.
      Motion to approve $31,000 as requested for these 3 recommendations. Motion approved
  13. Nick proposed the PC reviews and revises FPL’s process for Outreach Requests and Charitable Distributions.  He also requests the current committee members consider church committees for which they will serve as liaisons, and that we examine the process for how we populate committees in general.

Meeting adjourned at 7:30 and the PC went in to executive session.

Minutes submitted by Sylvia Perry, Clerk

Children’s Summer Clothing Drive for Solutions at Work

Thursday, June 18th through July 1st

First Parish has received an urgent call for help from Justina Riopelle, one of the amazing workers at Solutions at Work, an organization that serves families living in poverty in Cambridge and Dorchester. Although their center is closed, Justina and others are delivering packages of children’s summer clothing directly to families. So great is the need that their stock is rapidly running out.  This is where we come in!

Justina and her team are looking for clean, gently used children’s summer clothing for boys and girls of all ages: shorts, T-shirts, dresses, skirts, sweatshirts, socks, underwear, bathing suits, diapers, wipes, towels, sneakers, flipflops — anything kids may need for summer!

If your closets and drawers need culling, or if you feel moved to purchase some children’s staples (underwear, T-shirts, socks, diapers), please bring them to the bins on the Stearns Room porch or contact Mary Gaylord (mgaylord@fas.harvard.edu) for pick-up. Please, no toys, books or cold weather clothing at this time!

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn are causing severe ongoing hardship for urban communities already struggling. Your response to the pop-up Mother’s Day drive was overwhelming.  Let’s do it again!

This Children’s Summer Clothing Drive is jointly sponsored by the Anti-Racism Task Force and the Outreach Committee.

An Update on Outreach (May 2020)

by Larry Buell

Throughout this season of disruptions, First Parish has risen inspiringly to the challenge of reaching out to our vulnerable neighbors near home and in the greater Boston area.  The Outreach Committee is delighted to report that thanks to the combination of our record-breaking Easter offering and remaining funds available to our committee, within the last month our church has been able to donate more than $20,000 in emergency grants to partner organizations working on the front lines to ensure food security, essential medical services, and shelter to those in need both in Lincoln and in hard-hit neighboring communities from Roxbury to Waltham to Framingham with large minority and immigrant populations disproportionately afflicted by the pandemic.  What’s more, a similar amount remains available for additional grants through the end of June, thanks to the Parish Committee’s approval of our request to set aside one-third of Outreach’s 2019-20 allocation from the Jean Wood Preston Endowment ($25,000) for grants for emergency relief.

Building on Outreach’s close ties with our partner organizations both as financial donors and as sponsor of ongoing volunteer efforts, but extending far beyond what our committee could accomplish alone, has been the outstandingly proactive work of FPL’s new Community Engagement Task Force.  

Meanwhile, Outreach’s pursuit of our usual top priority between March and May—evaluation of candidates for the Jean Wood Preston grants ($5000 – $25,000 for capital improvement or transformative innovation)—has continued in a form that has also allowed us to respond robustly to the needs of the COVID crisis as noted above.    We’ve deferred until next year finalists whose projects we judged could be postponed with little inconvenience to their overall programs and forged ahead with follow-up inquiries and site-visits via Zoom with the two contenders applying for projects whose urgency seems to demand decisions now.  We expect to announce the decisions by mid-June if not before.

Webinar: Air Pollution, COVID-19 Mortality and Communities of Color

Wednesday, May 27, 6pm

With a respiratory pandemic sweeping the globe, it’s important to understand the links between air quality, health, and injustice. MetroWest Climate Solutions—an all-volunteer committee made up of members of First Parish in Wayland, First Parish in Lincoln, First Parish Church in Weston, the Congregational Church of Weston, and other individuals—is presenting a webinar on this topic as part of its ongoing series on tackling climate change. The webinar is sponsored by The Union of Concerned Scientists and Conservation Law Foundation. 

Xiao Wu, a Harvard School of Public Health Ph.D. candidate in biostatistics, will describe research linking COVID-19 death rates with particulate air pollution. Paulina Muratore, a senior campaign organizer for Clean Transportation with the Union of Concerned Scientists, will describe how fine particulate matter from cars, trucks, and buses disproportionately impacts communities of color and the need to reduce air pollution from the transportation sector. Staci Rubin, a senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, will moderate the program. The speakers will share information about how to take action.

To Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/air-pollution-covid-19-mortality-and-communities-of-color-what-we-can-do-about-it-a-webcast-registration-104835582048

Conservation Agriculture

By David O’Neil

Could a single idea embraced globally make a major contribution toward avoiding catastrophic climate change, while at the same time increasing the world’s food supply, restoring biodiversity and, in fact, saving farmers money?  “Conservation Agriculture” is that rapidly evolving practice.  American soils have lost more than 40% of their carbon since colonial times, first from plowing, then from chemical additives that have killed off the microscopic life of the soil. Escalating in use after World War II, it became known as “agrochemical farming,” and “the Green Revolution.”  But now, through the practice of Conservation Agriculture, very large quantities of carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and RE-sequestered over time in the soil. 

The principles of Conservation Agriculture are all in practice in Lincoln today.  Codman Farm, now managed by Pete Lowy, was formerly reliant on hay production; it is now rebuilding soil organic matter by returning animals to the pastures to increase forage fertility through the use of directly deposited animal manures. Properly managed rotational grazing of chickens, cows, pigs and turkeys assures a proper level of animal impact to the soil and an even distribution of manure.  Take a look at Mt. Misery field.

Drumlin Farm is also rebuilding soil carbon, through the basic organic principles – no chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers – and through the practice of “fallowing,” where each acre produces crops for five years and then “rests” for two years.  During that time the land is never bare, but cover-cropped with clover in order to fix nitrogen and build organic matter.  With the help of its farm animals, Drumlin Farm also produces its own compost, which is entirely recycled to its fields.  Farm Manager Matt Celona says that because of the level of soil organic matter it has achieved through these practices, irrigation is never required.

Lindentree Farm is experimenting with reduced tillage – plowing (or tillage) exposes and oxidizes sequestered carbon, turning it into carbon dioxide.  Plowing also reduces organic matter and the micro-organisms that healthy soils depend on.  One technique that Farm Manager Ari Kurtz is using is called “occultation” – a series of large black tarps are spread over prepared soils and weighted down for a period of several weeks in the spring or summer.  The weed seeds underneath germinate but then die due to lack of light.  A subsequent crop can then be planted that grows in a relatively weed-free environment, requiring less cultivation and soil disturbance.  The farm is also trying new combinations of cover crops to add soil organic matter.

Not least, Lincoln’s Agricultural Subcommittee (which works with the Agricultural Commission) has steadfastly promoted ALL of the principles of Conservation Agriculture in their leased land: they encourage organic practice, diverse crop rotations, minimal soil disturbance (no-till), and the steady use of cover crops.

FPL Green strongly encourages all of us to fight climate change by supporting Lincoln’s farms and their actions to implement Conservation Agriculture.  Buying food locally will not only help mitigate climate change but has the added benefits of improving the health of our ecosystems and our economy.       

FPL Council of Committees Meeting: April 2020

April 29, 2020

Attendees: R.L. Smith, Tucker Smith, Gina Halsted, Kim Buell, Larry Buell, Sarah Andrysiak, Joan Mansfield, Gary Taylor, Janet Boynton, Mary Helen Lorenz, Mimsy Beckwith, Stephen Brand, Dwight Gertz, Terry Green, Rosemary Lloyd, Deanna Laferriere, Peter Sugar, Ralph Smith, Nancy Henderson, Jennie Morris, Barbara Sampson, Margit Griffith, Jenny Rankin, Sarah Klockowski

The Council of Committees is a gathering of people who are ‘Chairs’ of major church working groups.  Some of these are the YPC, Welcoming, Outreach, Finance, Facilities, Personnel, Generous Giving among others. The aim of this group is to gather 3-4 times each year to share thoughts about the state of First Parish. While the main purpose is to facilitate communication about the life of the church, this group extends the governance functioning and oversight of the parish by raising issues that should receive greater attention.

At this meeting three questions were presented for discussion.

  1. How are we (First Parish/Lincoln community/ourselves) doing? What is going well?

A general feeling of appreciation was expressed to the Staff and Deacons for their creativity with online worship. It is comforting to scroll through names of attendees and it feels centering to be connected on a Sunday morning. Many people who were not attending pre-COVID or who have moved away are now attending Zoom services. Virtual Coffee Hour is going particularly well. The group, also, expressed their gratitude for the Ladies’ Tea, Music from the familiar Sanctuary, and the work of committees that is keeping the Parish business in order.

Dr. Stephen Brand reflected on the impact of the crisis on those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, especially those that are understaffed and underfunded. Over one half of COVID-related deaths in MA have occurred in assisted living facilities. Discussion ensued about how the church might respond to this need. Suggestions included:

  • Expanding the successful phone tree to include those in nursing homes
  • Collecting gently used laptops and iPads for those living in isolation without means of tuning in to Zoom programs
  • Writing letters and postcards to nursing home residents.

Terry Green and others expressed concern for Lincoln youth, particularly our upcoming graduates. Dwindling of school year, lack of closure and commemoration, etc. What resources can First Parish offer parents looking for things to do with children at home? Jenny mentioned other vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ youth, young adults who have recently moved, etc.

Jennie Morris noted that she has seen visitors to our Zoom worship services and is wondering about how the Welcoming Committee and FPL in general can welcome visitors in a virtual forum. Larry Buell reported that the Easter Offering to be distributed to local charities was among the largest in recent history.

 If you have the ability to help with any of the above, Sarah Klockowski can be your first line of further information and volunteering.

  • What would we like to see First Parish do for summer activities/services?

The strong consensus of the group was to have some kind of Sunday Service continue throughout the summer. The Deacons are in the planning stages of this worship activity and they are open to creative ideas and help. Breakout rooms have been a successful vehicle for informal interaction and a livestream of the church has been comforting to some. A new initiative called “The Gathering Project” is in the planning stages, more Forest Bathing trips and outdoor worship services were proposed as ways to connect over the summer. Deanna Laferriere is the point person for offering ideas and help with delivery.

  • What work do we want to do internally this summer given the decision to extend the transition period?

This was the question that generated the greatest energy. The principal issues remaining for the Transition discussion, prior to the selection of a new Settled Minister, have to do with: Mission, Important Relationships in the Community, and Vision for the Future. In particular questions about: “Who is our neighbor?”, “What do we as a church stand for?”, “Why do we do church?” and “How has this pandemic influenced our future?”

A good number of points were made about how to move our priorities from discussion and occasional action to establishing roots and relationships with community partners and important issues like race, income inequality and poverty. There are important issues to clarify regarding the ‘right size’ of the congregation, what we can afford in the way of resources and what our financial responsibility to the church should be. Several felt that clarity about these issues of mission, vision and values will be important factors in securing the right Settled Minister and engaging more members.

Jenny reminded us that “people are watching us” to see where First Parish puts its feet and its money during the COVID pandemic. This is an historic opportunity to define the values of First Parish.

Contributions to this discussion should go to RL Smith and Gina Halstead who chair the Transition Team.

Nick Covino, for the Parish Committee

Easter Offering finale—more good news

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Clearly the spirit of generosity remains alive and well at First Parish amidst the threat that faces us all!  The final tally for the Easter offering was an amazing $9260, which by a very large margin breaks all previous records for any holiday offering for the past decade if not for all time.  Checks for $1852 are being sent to each of the five organizations now struggling to provide food for neighbors in need in and near Lincoln: the Lincoln Food Pantry, Open Table, the Community Day Center of Waltham, Waltham-based Chaplains on the Way, and the Roxbury-based Unitarian Universalist Urban Mission.  And greeted with thanks and relief: “This is wonderful news!” “The outpouring of support from your community has been amazing.”  This impressive and heartwarming collective accomplishment also augurs well, we hope and trust, for the success of such other efforts now in process under FPL leadership as the Mother’s Day popup drive and the food donation drive for the Lincoln Food Pantry.

Transition Team extends commitment

Recently, in light of the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world and our church, the Parish Committee, in conversation with the Transition Team chairs, voted to extend FPL’s Interim Period to a fourth year.  The plan now is to name a Search Committee in the Spring of 2021 rather than next month, with the goal of calling a new minister in the spring of 2022.

We are blessed and thankful that Reverend Jenny Rankin has agreed to continue to walk by our side for this extended journey.  Additionally, all seven members of the Transition Team (who originally committed to a two-year assignment) have also enthusiastically extended their commitment to a fourth year.

Two months ago we were on track and ready to move to the Search process, but now we have more time.  How fast things can change!! How should we best use this new found time? One thing is for sure.  We will not be hitting the “Pause” button; way too much has changed.

The Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew, of the Southern New England UCC, advises, “We cannot go back to the way things were, and this includes our pre-coronavirus way of doing, being, and thinking about church.”  He urges churches to consider, “How must the church change for a new normal?”, with a secondary question being: “How can we best use this interim time to prepare our church for that new normal?”

This, First Parish friends and family, is what the Transition Team will be helping us all explore in the coming months.R.L. Smith and Gina Halsted for the Transition Team

NOMINATING COMMITTEE PRESENTS SLATE FOR FY2021

The Nominating Committee is pleased to present the following slate of members to be elected at the Annual Meeting of our church on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

Officers

Moderator                             1 year             Barbara Sampson

Treasurer                              1 year             John Kryzwicki

Assistant Treasurer              1 year             Mary Briggs

Clerk                                       1 year             Sylvia Perry

Board of Deacons

Member                                  3 years            Sarah Bishop

Member                                  3 years            Doug Crosby

Member                                  3  years           James DeNormandie

Member                                  2 years            Andy Clark

Chair person                          1 year             Paula Waterman

Parish Committee

Member                                  3 years            Nick Covino

Member                                  3 years            Jessica Packineau

Member                                  3 years            Jean Welsh

Member                                  2 years            Jane O’Rouke

Member                                  2 years            Pete Hussey

Chair person                          1 year             Nick Covino

Nominating Committee

Member                                  1 year             Linn Elmes

Member                                  1 year             Jennie Morris

Member                                  1 year             Joe Robbat

Member                                  1 year             Ray Shepard

Chair person                          1 year             Tom DeNormandie

Additional nominations may be made by any two members of the church; the nominee must be a member of the church and assent to the nomination.  Such nominations must be received by the Nominating Committee not later than Monday, May 18, which is 15 days before the Annual Meeting.    (Note:  Current members in mid-term are not up for re-election; their names will be included in the Annual Report, but are not included above.)

Submitted by the Nominating Committee:  Tom DeNormandie, Alexis Jette Borggaard, Sylvia Perry, Ray Shepard and Barbara Sampson