Dear First Parish:

The Parish Committee (PC) met on July 31 and invited the FPL Deacons to discuss our common work.

Present were Nick Covino (Chair), Chris Andrysiak, Priscilla Damon, Karin Levy, Carrie Marotta, Tim Moynihan, Jean Welch. John Krzywicki (Treasurer), Peter Watkinson (Secretary) and Gert McDermott (Parish Administrator) were also present, along with seven Deacons including the Chair, Deanna Laferriere. Dwight Gertz and RL Smith were unable to attend.

What follows is a summary of some of the discussion.

Among the strengths of FPL is the energy that individual members are willing to invest in supporting the parish community. The discussion was divided between a focus on strengthening the Deacon’s role and increasing FPL’s investment in community engagement.

As is the case with many of the committees and positions at First Parish, there is little written information to orient, direct or guide the work of the Deacons. The ‘job description’ is only a few aspirational sentences in the By Laws and the functions are, largely, transmitted through oral tradition. While the lack of structure is appealing to some and much of the work can be intuited or managed, it leaves newcomers without a sense of direction and an absence of ‘process’ when challenges present. The members feel a responsibility to ‘support the minister’, but there is no ‘contract’ for that relationship nor are there policies and procedures in place to resolve differences when they emerge.

Some deacons expressed wish to serve First Parish in a more pastoral role. Several reported that the position can, often, feel limited to event production and providing impressionistic PR reports to the pastor, rather than engaging in something spiritual. While this role needs some definition and, perhaps some funds for training, they point to the significant demands on a solitary minister in a sizeable parish, and the opportunity to add value to the spiritual life of the church as opportunities to rework the Deacon’s role.

The Deacons will take these issues up within their group and with Jenny for further development. The Deacons remained for the PC meeting and their input on Community Engagement will be included below. The minutes from the Deacons monthly meeting will now be shared with the Parish Committee.

The Task Force on the church playground (with membership from the YPC, Facilities, PC and RE) has decided to pursue a “repair” option rather than an expansive and expensive rebuilding effort. Appraisals to refurbish the space are being gathered and they are scheduled to be presented to the PC at its August 28 meeting.

General Business
The Parish Committee has appointed each member to be a liaison person to the larger of the church committees and organizations. Anyone with business that should come before the PC or who wants a consultation from it should work with the following:

Church Committee PC Liaison Church Committee PC Liaison
Finance Chris Andrysiak Youth Programs Jean Welch
Personnel Carrie Marotta Facilities Tim Moynihan
Generous Giving RL Smith Deacons, Music Nick Covino
Outreach Priscilla Damon Transition Team RL Smith
Governance Task Force Dwight Gertz Membership, Communications Karin Levy

The PC voted to:
a. Endorse the appointment of Becca Fasciano to the Transition Committee;
b. Allocate up to $1,000 to procure free standing air coolers for parish offices.

The Transition Team hoped that Becca would serve the term of a departing member and she has agreed. Since the request for office air-conditioning was not included in the budget and it would require significant construction to account for the inability of the office windows to accommodate a unit, approval was given to obtain a few free-standing cooling units from the limited general funds. The Governance Task Force has been collecting information, reading and meeting through the summer. In a brief report to the PC, it noted plans to bring a Draft Document on Revised Parish Governance to the August 28, PC meeting and to hold listening sessions with the parish in September. This Task Force has lost a member due to time demands from other sources, but since its work will be completed in a month, a new member was not appointed. The Personnel Committee has interviewed several excellent candidates for the Adult Education and Community Engagement Coordinator and it expects to have a person in place to begin work by the end of this month. [Ed. Note: An announcement about the hiring of Sarah Klockowski for this position went out with the August 7th News Brief.]

The Parish Committee will meet monthly at 6:00 PM in the Stearns Room and it will hold a telephone conference call in between sessions as needed. The schedule for the regular meetings for the upcoming year is:

August, 28

September 18

October 16

November 20

December 18

January 15

February 26

March 18

April 15

May 20.

The PC, and an occasional committee partner (e.g., Deacons, YPC) will meet after Sunday services at 11:30 on September 22; November 10; January 26; March 22 and May 17 (with Finance Committee).

Community Engagement
The balance of the meeting was given to discussion of Membership. There was agreement about both the need to prioritize Community Engagement as the path to increasing membership and that this effort will take several years to be successful. Several themes emerged from an hour’s discussion:

• How can the church increase the happiness of our member families?
• Can the Touchstone Services return with more frequency, structure and an accessible schedule?
• There are several opportunities to attract people to the parish (e.g., Live at Lincoln Center, Family Dinners, METCO/MCC function) and it would be optimal to have a strategy for more successfully ‘engaging’ those who come.
• Can FPL’s ‘story’ and ‘offerings’ be better told to the community?
• Can FPL both become better about sharing its benefits within the community (e.g., small groups, Outreach) and renew its energy to join and partner with existing town organizations and causes?
The PC will continue this discussion with leaders of the various committees in early September.

Volunteers Needed
Two or more leaders are required to head the Touch of Christmas Fair. There are experienced ‘coaches’ available to provide direction. Most standing committees, especially Facilities, are in need of help from those who wish to serve.

The next meeting of the PC will take place on August 28 at 6:00 in the Stearns Room.


Nick Covino for the Parish Committee

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