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