At our February meeting, the Board took action on two different fronts, both of which are intended to strengthen the church’s capacity for future success in achieving the congregation’s mission.
The first front focused on governance – how can we become more effective in making decisions, in managing our resources? The Board heard recommendations from our Governance Task Force and voted to implement them immediately.
The second front focused on mission: What are the priorities that we will hold ourselves accountable for and that will guide and energize our engagement with the congregation and the larger community. To prepare us for making decisions about priorities, the Board planned and initiated the “Imagination Cafés” that were held during the last few weeks. Those cafés proved to be a notable success – over 170 of the church’s members and friends participated, a huge representation of the congregation. (For comparison, only about 50 people typically attend our semi-annual meetings.)
From those 170 people, we gathered a vast amount of information about our individual hopes (and fears) for the future of First Parish, important information for guiding the Board. To make that information “actionable”, the Board formed an unusually qualified team (Mary Brinton, Harvard sociologist; Tony Seisfeld, organizational consultant; Marty Kvaal, social services administrator; and Deb Armstrong, clinical therapist) to organize, analyze, interpret, and summarize that data so that we can begin to act on it.
We will soon distribute a full report, but we asked the group to share some first impressions now. As an example, they reported on the kinds of activities that seem to be the highest priorities for the congregation:
- Intergenerational activities (including social action/social justice activities that span generations); activities that bring people together to have fun; activities that bring people together to do social action as a way of deepening spiritual practice; making our congregation more heterogeneous by age, ethnicity, and economic status.
- Additionally: People crave more opportunities to come together for spiritual growth, whether it be in church-sponsored book groups focused on a theme, crafts, story-telling (classes or actual story-telling by participants), or for educational purposes (classes taught by parishioners with particular expertise or skills).
Their full report will address other topics from the Cafés, and will flesh out the full recommendations. But we recognize (and the voice of Dan Fenn echoes in our minds) that the desired outcome of the Cafés is not in the recommendations they generated, or even in the final report of the recommendations, but in the actions we take on behalf of them. What we have learned from the Cafés should be evident in our plans for next year’s programs and activities, staffing priorities and patterns, annual budget, and in Phase Two of the Capital Campaign.
But we hope to begin to “re-imagine” our activities for this spring and summer as well. To that end, the Board agreed to hold a special meeting in two weeks that will be devoted entirely to examining the recommendations of the congregation more closely and identifying how they can begin to be realized in upcoming activities like Mayfair, Voices on the Green, the Stewardship Campaign, perhaps even our summer services.
We look forward to sharing our progress and especially to your continued participation as we begin to re-imagine First Parish not only for the people in our congregation but also for the people not yet in our congregation.