From the Safe Congregations Task Force

March 27, 2020

The Safe Congregations Task Force is recommending that the Church remain closed until such time as the Governor’s emergency order extending the closure of schools is lifted. For now, the earliest church services could resume is Sunday, May 3. We recognize that parishoners may be especially disappointed that we will not meet physically for Easter services. Unfortunately, even an outdoor service that might draw a small crowd keeping distance is still unwise. Your health and the health of our community is the most important consideration. We hope you understand and we look forward to seeing everyone at our online worship services. 

Parish Committee Meeting: March 2020

March 18, 2020

Members in attendance: Nick Covino (Chair), Chris Andrysiak, Priscilla Damon, Dwight Gertz, Carrie Marotta, Tim Moynihan, R.L. Smith, Ray Shepherd, Jeani Welsh

Ex officio: John Krzywicki (Treasurer), Jenny Rankin (Interim Minister), Peter Watkinson (Clerk)

Staff and Guests: Gert McDermott (Administrator), Sarah Klockowski, Margit Griffith, Meridith Jeremiah

The agenda of the evening covered two important areas:

  • How are we helping and how do we help the parish and the greater Lincoln community to manage this health care crisis?
  • What are the business/organizational issues that require the attention of the governing body? 

Less pressing issues were tabled to concentrate on the above.  With other groups available to meet the pastoral and community engagement issues of FPL, the PC focused first on the business/organizational issues that are its primary responsibility in this dual healthcare and financial crisis.

Staff were first invited into the meeting to let the Parish Committee know how they are doing.

Rev. Jenny expressed her gratitude for the staff who have been working around the clock to figure out how to work in a whole new world. Gert is work is working well from home and is managing the business affairs as well as can be expected. Margit said RE without a classroom is challenging, but she can engage children and families to connect and to learn from home. Sarah feels blessed to be working with this congregation and has been busy with providing communication and tech support for the Sunday service and other responsibilities.

Business and Organization

John K (Treasurer) provided a 30-minute outline of our current financial position, the forecast for FYE20 and a brief look forward to the budget planning process. The key elements of his presentation were:

  • FPL will most likely end the fiscal year with a slight surplus.  Magic Garden is closed and there may not be revenue from them, in the near future. Revenue from Sunday Collections will be down due to the move to the online church service, although people are free to contribute electronically. Nonetheless, the church operating budget looks like it will finish positively.
  • The investment accounts of the church, as with the rest of the country, are significantly depleted. This argues strongly that the PC acts to preserve the invested funds.

The PC moved to take every appropriate action to preserve the parish’s financial capital until further notice. Action on this motion means that:         

The Facilities Committee will refrain from projects that are not urgent or that do not have a signed, binding, contract. The rationale for this is both to preserve the value of FPL’s invested funds and to undertake construction when prices will likely be more favorable. The Roof Project is both necessary and under contract, but the Playground and some of the smaller projects will continue to be planned so that we can move to construction when prudent. Mr. Sugar (Facilities Chair) has been consulted and will work accordingly.

Priscilla Damon who is the PC Liaison will be joined by Jeani Welsh to meet with the Outreach Committee to review its plans for distributing financial awards this spring. The aim of this review is to balance any acute need for support with the opportunity to defer awards until the stock market makes a correction.

Even with the need to preserve capital, the PC moved to continue payment to its RE instructors and several Independent Contractors through this crisis. While several of our instructional programs are suspended (e.g., OWL) it was felt to be respectful and right to continue to honor these smaller contracts to dedicated professionals. A small token payment was authorized to thank the Sunday child-care workers, if necessary. The fact that the current year has been managed well and that it is forecast to have a positive balance at year-end allows for this generosity.

The PC moved to create a Document Collection Initiative to gather all relevant FPL governance, organization and business materials into one place. RL Smith has been charged to lead a small team to collect documents and to create a central filing system. PLEASE send what you have on your computer along to him; this is a most important element in preparing for both a new Settled Minister and, especially, a new Parish Administrator.

While not formal votes, the PC agreed to delay the survey to identify the Settled Minister Search Committee for a month to acknowledge the attention needed for COVID-19 work.

Ralph Smith and the Personnel Committee have been proceeding with a plan to hire a temporary administrative person to assist with the May transition of Ms. McDermott.  Ralph and his group are considering whether this person could both become a ‘temp to hire’ and, potentially, begin to work this summer. Gert has offered, if needed, to be available in a contract position to help with some of the bookkeeping functions.

There was a good deal of discussion about whether to lock the doors to the church. Understandable positions on both sides included a desire to keep the church safe from theft and potential infection versus allowing access to someone who may feel a significant need for sanctuary. The PC voted to leave the doors of the church unlocked, even while maintaining the status of the church as “Closed.”  

The PC voted to create a Community Engagement Task Force that will coordinate the efforts of the various groups of First Parish (e.g., Outreach, Deacons, Membership, PC, Staff) to identify and respond to the needs of the people of greater Lincoln, during this time. A significant amount of time was devoted to considering some options for this Task Force’s work. Rev. Jenny and Sarah K will coordinate this effort.

The PC was unanimously grateful to the staff of FPL for their creative response to the parish’s needs at this critical time.

Meeting adjourned at 8:25 p.m.

Nick Covino

For the Parish Committee

From the Safe Congregations Task Force, 3/16/20

In addition to the closing of the sanctuary and parish, The Safe Congregations Task Force strongly discourages in person meetings for church related classes, workshops, committees or small groups for the foreseeable future. The Task Force fully supports the recommendations from public health professionals regarding the importance of social distancing. Please refer to the articles attached below for further information. 

What you need to know about the coronavirus: Plain language from an emergency physician

Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day

Office & Operations Update from Gert, 3/16/20

As stated in the News Brief notice last week, church buildings are closed and staff are all working remotely until April 1st. Here is an update on what “Office & Operations” will look like during this time: 

Office:  I (Gert) will be taking advantage of not having to work around morning rush hour and begin my “office” days earlier here at home. While I will be checking and responding to email fairly regularly and attending on-line meetings as necessary, the best times to get a quick response from me will be from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday through Friday – gert@fplincoln.org. I will also check in for voicemail messages at least once during these hours – 781-259-8118 ext. 110. The coming week will be focused on financial and pledge campaign tasks, and the following two weeks will be partly dedicated to preparations for transitioning my responsibilities to a new staff member.  

Finances:  I have taken home everything needed to continue getting the bills and the staff paid. I will also be making a weekly trip to the Lincoln Post Office to pick up mail, and will visit the church’s bank on my way into town to deposit the checks received during the previous week. This will ensure there are no interruptions in the church’s financial activities. 

Donations: If you normally pay your pledge with checks in the plate, please consider giving online using a credit card or by requesting an electronic fund transfer from your bank account. The link to make a donation can be found on our website – https://www.fplincoln.org/donate/. Alternatively, if you pay your other bills on-line through your bank’s bill-pay service, simply add the church as one of your “Billers” and have them send us a check on your behalf. If you choose to use either of these methods, they have the option of setting-up recurring monthly payments towards your pledge. If you prefer to send us a check in the mail, then rest assured that it will be retrieved from the Post Office and safely deposited into the church’s account.

Pledges for FY21: I will be logging in pledges for our Generous Giving Committee and providing them with weekly updates on our progress towards the goal. If you have not yet sent your pledge card in, please consider making your pledge on our website to get it counted sooner – https://www.fplincoln.org/donate/. If you prefer to mail your card in, then I will retrieve it at the Post Office along with the rest of the mail on a weekly basis.

Facilities: As of 12 noon on Saturday, March 14, the last of the staff members cleared out of the Parish House. Soon after our cleaning company came in and did one final cleaning of the buildings, including sanitizing all “touch items” (door knobs, cabinet handles, faucets, etc.), removed all trash, and sanitized restroom fixtures as part of their regular service. As the Parish Committee voted that the buildings will remain closed with no access until April 1st, there will be no further cleanings until we prepare to re-open. The Lincoln Police and Fire Departments will have access to the buildings should there be an emergency. If any other members or staff feel there is an urgent need to access the buildings, please reach out to me and we can discuss alternative solutions. If a way to address the need without entering the buildings cannot be found, we can arrange for emergency access. If any emergency access occurs, I will be maintaining a log in the event local health officials need to track any Covid 19 cases that may occur within the Lincoln community.  

Thank you for your patience as we all find new ways to stay connected and carry on during the coming weeks!  

From the Parish Committee On COVID-19

March 15, 2020

Dear First Parish,

I hope that you all are well and safe. This has been a very dramatic and uncertain week. The downturn in the stock market and the evolving news about the COVID-19 virus have been very worrisome concerns for many.

The PC has been emailing and calling each other and it is in close contact with Rev Rankin. We will meet by phone this Wednesday to review our public health situation as well as current church business. If you have something of importance to discuss, please send it along to Gert for the agenda.

The church has been very well-served by its staff during this time. These professionals have been charged with evaluating our members’ needs for safety and pastoral care; protecting our facilities and maintaining a healthy work and prayerful environment; anticipating needs in the absence of policy; continuing with transition responsibilities; and they have found time to arrange a creative response to our spiritual needs with a streaming service. This has required a good deal of discussion and creativity. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and creative staff.

Rev Rankin asked for a Task Force to advise her on immediate actions that must be taken on behalf of the parish. Thank you to those members who have stepped forward.

The PC has been asked to vote on certain major changes, but it has empowered Rev Rankin to do what she and her consultants deem to be prudent regarding day to day activities of FPL.  The urgency of this situation requires leadership and quick decisions; her judgment and problem solving talent have been spot on. FPL is very fortunate to have this experienced and thoughtful pastor.

Looking ahead, we will find time after addressing the first wave of this challenge to address ongoing needs. We will remember that this church and our country have weathered many significant challenges and we will manage this one as well. It is unusual to do so by keeping distance and sheltering in place; we ski to church in blizzards and gather on the Commons. But, this  situation calls for us to use technology to maintain a connection and to trust those whom we have empowered to lead us by taking thoughtful, quick and effective action on our behalf.

Remain calm and connected to each other. There is a First Parish, even if it is serving ‘virtual’ cookies on Sunday for awhile.

Nick Covino
for the Parish Committee

Message from Rev. Jenny and the Safe Congregations Task Force about COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Dear members and friends,

This week the Parish Committee formed the Safe Congregations Task Force to help plan and prepare as our community responds to the coronavirus. The members of the task force are Andy Clark, Jane O’Rourke, Ray Shepard, Jeani Welsh, Margit Griffith, and Jenny Rankin, with Deanna Laferriere and Sarah Andrysiak consulting.

We are in close consultation with Lincoln town officials, including Trisha McGean, Public Health Nurse, and Superintendent Becky McFall. You can read their respective letters to the Lincoln community here: http://www.lincolntown.org/1169/Coronavirus-Covid-19, and here: https://www.lincnet.org/covid19.

As we work together to keep our community strong, the Safe Congregations Task Force have made the following recommendations, which the Parish Committee voted to approve on Wednesday, March 11:

  • We will not hold “in-person” worship on March 15, 22, and 29. Staff are working to offer a “live stream worship” option on these Sunday mornings. We will re-evaluate after 3 weeks.
  • The Parish House and Sanctuary/Stearns Room will be closed until April 1 for the safety of our community and staff. Staff will work remotely from home.
  • Other classes, workshops, committee meetings, and small group ministry will meet off-site or online at the discretion of their leaders.

We ask for your help in following these recommendations, as we all do our part in working to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our vulnerable friends and members.

However, at First Parish we are concerned with both the physical and emotional safety of our congregation and community. This is an opportunity for us to get creative in thinking of how we can care for one another, connect with one another, and serve the wider world. Being mindful of this we offer the following information and guidance at this time:

  • FPL Phone Tree: We are creating a phone tree for our First Parish community. If you would like to volunteer to make calls, please email the Care Committee at fplcares@fplincoln.org.
  • Deacons Check-In: As part of their mission to provide spiritual care for the community, the deacons are setting up a way they can be a “listening ear” for you during this time of uncertainty and anxiety. They are still working out the details, but they aim to create a phone line which you may call during certain hours to speak to a deacon. You may also email them at deacons@fplincoln.org
  • Social Media: We encourage everyone to stay connected by following the church Facebook page and Instagram account. These are both useful tools to share announcements and encouraging words.

Be watching for more updates on our website; you will find a link to our latest messages on the homepage. We encourage everyone to be in communication with other members of the community (friends, small groups), and with church leadership.

I (Jenny) need to tell you that I am so heartened and appreciative of the hard work of our staff this week, and the collaboration and partnership of the Deacons and Parish Committee as we worked together to get to this point.

I’m also so appreciative of the close bonds that exist within this community.  I know these are not easy times, but if we reach out and stay connected to one another, I am confident we will join together to help buoy this community through these turbulent waters.

In faith,
Rev. Jenny M. Rankin, Interim Minister 

and 

Safe Congregations Taskforce
Ray Shepard, Jeani Welsh, Jane O’Rourke, Andy Clark, Margit Griffith, Jenny Rankin

Safe Congregations Task Force appointed to address COVID-19

March 11, 2020

Dear friends,

As news continues to evolve on the COVID19 situation, I wanted you to know I’ll be meeting tonight with the Safe Congregations Task Force, appointed by the Parish Committee, to consider next steps.

In addition to decisions on holding worship and other gatherings, we’ll be considering how we can best be a community during a time of uncertainty when we may not always be able to physically gather together. To that end, we are collecting the names of those who would like to make “check in” phone calls to some of our members; please email Kathy Huber or Kim Buell of the Care Committee if you would like to help with that effort: fplcares@fplincoln.org.

We’ll also be considering how best we can serve our wider community during this time and are in active consultation with local schools, health officieals and town departments.

As always, I’d love to know how you and your family are doing. Please email me at: jenny@fplincoln.org.

In faith,

Jenny

Support during COVID-19 concerns

March 5, 2020

Dear Friends,

As we continue to monitor news on the coronavirus, I wanted you to know I’m consulting with staff and lay leaders to consider how we can best support one another in our community as this changing situation evolves. I’m aware that some of you have family and friends in the most affected areas, as do I, and I know you join me in holding them in our hearts.

Common sense health advice is everywhere; as one of you expressed it to me, “Keep calm, and wash your hands.” Gratitude to Gert and Margit for finding hand sanitizer for us; you will find it at the back of the sanctuary, in the Stearns Room, and in all the RE classrooms and public areas of the Parish House.

As always, my door is open, and I’d love to hear from you. Email me at jenny@fplincoln.org. I’m particularly mindful of those who cannot always physically join us on Sunday and ways we can be reaching out by phone. Let me know if you’d like to be part of that effort. 

In faith,
Jenny