Church Council Meeting: October 30, 2019

Meeting Highlights

1. Committee chairs created a brief overview of their priorities for 2019-20. These are available for the interested reader.

2. The Shared Ministry Review was represented as a document that offered some important direction for First Parish. A brief summary of that document is available as well.

3. Responses to the question: “How is the transition is going?” varied. A number of members felt that the tone and tenor of the parish is much more relaxed and optimistic. Opportunities to contribute to parish life seem very present as is a greater sense of liveliness and fun. The Transition Team finds people willing to talk openly about their aspirations and the congregation seems to be engaged in the process of change. The awareness of the need to make changes around accepting and supporting more diverse points of view seems to be present.

On the other hand, some feel that there remain some challenging conversations to be had and differences of opinion within the congregation. These are particularly around spiritual values and congregational priorities. In addition, there is a sense of urgency regarding membership numbers and church finances that some feel, and others do not, but which need attention. These will be priorities for discussion by the Transition Team.

It is fair to say that the group had initial difficulty embracing this topic from a personal point of view. Eventually there was more open and personal discussion of how each member viewed their experience of the transition. The congregation will depend on this type of personal reflection to continue its preparation for the search for the new minister.

4. Opportunities for FPL to increase its engagement with the Greater Lincoln Community in order to increase membership are critical to identify. There was a sense of sadness and loss among a number of those present as they talked about those who have become disconnected or disenfranchised. With this, the group again addressed the challenge that FPL has with creating opportunities to encourage discussion and to resolve differences of opinion. The ‘centrifugal force’ noted in the SMR that invites members to spin off from the church in the face of disagreement seems to be a part of the church’s history from walking down the street to a new building to leaving Concord. Nonetheless, there was a sense that this dynamic doesn’t serve us well. Some thought will be given to how the church can reach out more to the diaspora to reconnect and, hopefully, to invite them back.

A good model for community engagement exists in the OWL program; it provides a necessary service for parents who enroll their young people. While this is not worship nor, exactly, religious education, the program engages the community around a need that they have in their family. There are more opportunities for this kind of engagement to happen around family life and parent concerns that could be developed into a regular series. Likewise, activities such as the music program, adult lectures on social and justice topics can be grouped into appealing series that could draw new people to the church. Some of these activities are happening, but they would benefit from greater organization.

5. This group agreed to convene again in early January and in the spring.

Nick Covino for the Parish Committee