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