- Sunday Service
Gardens are often used as metaphors for a peaceful sanctuary; where all is good and right and beautiful – a garden of paradise. For many Christians, salvation is achieved by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and Heaven is their eternal garden of paradise. What do Unitarians and Universalists say about salvation? What is our garden of paradise?
Marianne DiBlasi, Worship Leader
Marianne DiBlasi has been a member of First Parish since 2004. She recently completed her first year of seminary at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. In the Fall, she is excited to transfer to Meadville-Lombard Theological School, a Unitarian Universalist seminary in Chicago to complete her Masters of Divinity degree. With Meadville’s distributive learning model, Marianne will continue to live in Winchester and travel to Chicago once each semester.
Guest musician will be Sarah Hager.
- News from the
In this my second post as your new chair of the Board (I’ll never do one this long again!), I want to recap for you just one portion of last week’s Board meeting—to reveal both a consequential decision made that night and also how the Board reached that decision. Both may tell something about the directions this new Board is likely to take, directions that, certainly at this early stage, you may want to encourage or discourage by communicating with us.
First, some background. As you may already know, the FUSE program, which occupies a large portion of our space during the week, is suddenly moving to new quarters, causing, among other consequences, a deficit of $26K in the budget for next year. The resulting substantial hole in our operating budget will be difficult either to fill or to work around. With that in mind, let me try to capture briefly the Board’s discussion of this particular problem and its potential meaning for the upcoming year.
We began by considering this question/concern: How should we fill the hole in the budget left by the FUSE program?
Fortunately for our discussion, some members of the Board have already been in sub-groups examining how we could optimize our space and the revenue we might derive from it. Briefly, they revealed that we are amateurs at being landlords: we have a maze of historical relationships with various tenants (for-profit and not-for-profit) that are not optimal either for revenue or for mission. Conversations among that group and with professionals in the congregation confirmed that we would have to develop significant new managerial capacity to become an effective commercial landlord, including the capacity to recruit and manage new tenants.
Our discussion moved to the relative costs and benefits of renting our space to outside organizations or companies of any kind. Fundamentally, we wrestled with this question: is trying to increase rental income an optimal use of our energy and our resources?
The primary benefit of renting our building is clear: the $26K from FUSE is a lot of money to plug into a budget that is already too thin.
We also discussed the costs of capturing that income. Acting as landlords for unrelated businesses requires considerable management, maintenance, cleaning, conflict resolution (a lot of that this year), wear and tear, negotiating to handle special events, etc. etc. And in this case, there would be the additional costs (in time and energy) of marketing, recruiting, contracting, adapting space, etc., for a new and appropriate tenant, in short order.
Further, our discussion revealed the costs of lost opportunities. Committing our space to other organizations (especially unrelated businesses) for three to five years reduces our own options for enlarging the congregation, increasing its visibility and impact, expanding its own programs and services to the community, incubating new partnerships with social justice organizations, etc. etc.—all food for thought and good discussion.
At the outset of the meeting, probably most Board members (including me) expected that we would immediately try to find a new tenant. By the end of the meeting, however, we reached a different conclusion. We decided to pause, to use this next six months to examine, experiment, and reflect on how we can best use our precious space (and other resources as well) to serve our mission. During the meeting, our ministerial staff suggested some ideas they desperately want to try with our space, experiments designed to expand our reach in religious education, music, and ministry. You may have other ideas, and we look forward to hearing them. We also want to pause long enough to revamp the way we seek and manage rental income in order to optimize our returns on that as well. This seems like a good time to reconsider and experiment.
I think we reached that conclusion for several reasons. First, we each came to feel that we could absorb the financial loss for this year (not easily, but nonetheless) to invest in our future. Careful reports from the finance committee revealed an upward trend: the annual canvass exceeded expectations, the Mayfair haul was higher than ever, the capital campaign is way over our original goal already. And we have an endowment to back us up. We can sustain a deficit for this year.
Second, earlier discussion about the capital campaign had focused us on the future. With the early signs of success for the first phase of the campaign, we are sure that our building will be safe, strengthened, and even beautiful again. For phase two, we can begin to focus on how to best use, adapt, configure, or modify all of our resources, including the building, in order to expand our congregation, our ministry, and our mission here on the green.
Third, the members of the Board recognize and share the energy and optimism of our congregation and the confidence we have in our ministry and staff. We want to reflect and amplify that optimism. We want to invest in our future.
We hope we made the right decision, and we hope that you will tell us what you think.
- Building Update
It’s exciting to see progress being made on this summer’s renovations to our lovely church. Beautiful, energy efficient windows have now been installed in Parker Hall and all of the other rooms on the east side of the lower level, replacing 10 badly deteriorated windows and sills. Two of the tall sanctuary windows (the ones facing toward the Battle Green) have been restored, although additional work will be done later this summer primarily on the small awning windows inset into them.
The first phase of renovating the women’s room on the lower level has now been completed, with the installation of new windows, new toilets, new partitions with grab bars, and new floor tile. Thanks to Bob Coughlin and Toni Tasker for replacing the old tile with new, a tough job carried out on ones’ knees.
Behind the green screening that covers the scaffolding, work has been completed on removing the flaking paint and rust-colored stains from the spire atop the steeple. Unexpectedly, several of the eight wood, scroll-shaped ornaments located just below the spire have substantial rot and others are deteriorating. Addressing this problem will add some time and expense to the project. The plan is to repair and repaint the steeple, the clock tower, and the front façade this summer, as well as paint the east side of Parish Hall where flaking paint has been removed. The scaffolding will then be taken down, most likely in August.
The sides of the church, including the six, tall sanctuary windows facing east and west will be repaired and painted at a later date, probably next summer, although work on this second phase might begin this fall. Stay tuned for future updates as work progresses this summer and possibly into the fall.
- UU Denominational News – GA Recap
General Assembly Highlights
General Assembly (GA) 2017 took place in New Orleans last week. At this annual meeting of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), 4,000+ UUs gathered for important business, inspiring workshops, amazing lectures, wonderful worship, beautiful music, and to be in loving community. Through the miracle of live-streaming, it was a joy to know members of First Parish were worshiping together on Sunday morning across time and space.
Each year, rites of passage for ministers are celebrated at the Service of the Living Tradition. This year, Beth Walsh’s father, Rev. Robbie Walsh, was honored as one of the ministers who died this past year. This beautiful and poignant service can be viewed at http://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2017/worship/slt
First Parish members, Beth Walsh, Deb Weiner, Ben Soule, and Marianne DiBlasi attended GA as delegates and Elisabeth Jas was an on-line delegate. As a delegate, we voted on business issues and for the next UUA President. It was a momentous moment in our history when delegates elected our first women president – Susan Frederick-Gray – into office. Visit, http://www.uuworld.org/articles/susan-frederick-gray-elected-president
In addition to electing the UUA President, a lot of other things happened at GA. The following is a summary of some key moments and discussions with links to learn more.
Considering the state of the nation and the world and recent hiring controversy turmoil within the denomination, the overarching conversation was about justice, spiritual growth and the evolution of governance and how all three are intertwined. The overall experience was thoughtful, caring, and soulful as we were invited to look more deeply at our UU culture and systems of oppression. An article in UU World reports on a message delivered by the three interim co-presidents that provides background, learnings, and actions taken during their 11-week interim presidency. Visit, http://www.uuworld.org/articles/co-presidents-report-2017-ga
One key action taken during the interim period is, the UUA Board of Trustees appointed six people to work for two years on a Commission on Institutional Change to analyze structural racism and a culture of white supremacy within the UUA. Visit, http://www.uuworld.org/articles/commission-institutional-change
Although it may seem that systems of racial oppression have just come to light recently, a pivotal moment in our UU history is the Black Empowerment Controversy in 1969 when 1500 black members of our UU denomination walked out of General Assembly and left Unitarian Universalism. Systemic racial oppression has continued and has brought us to this moment – a moment of opportunity to do the transformative work of shifting our UU culture to Beloved Community for all. At General Session III, Dr. Sanyika talked about what happened in the late 1960s. http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga2017-303-dr-sanyika-presentation. FYI: “BLUU” refers to Black Lives of UU Organizing Collective.
A significant part of GA is engaging in our democratic process of proposing, discussing, amending, and voting on UUA business. Visit http://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2017/business/alerts
- Combating Escalating Inequality
- Making the “Standing on the Side of Love” Campaign more inclusive
- Appointment of Study Commission to consider adding an 8th Principle to UU Principles and Purposes.
Finally, if you want to see what else happened at GA, here are two more resources:
- UU World’s coverage of GA, https://www.uuworld.org/ga
- GA 2017 Online: On-Demand Video, Transcripts, and Workshop Materials, http://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2017
- Summer Services 2017
Please join us for summer worship services! Summer services begin at 10:30am in the sanctuary. The worship leaders and guest musicians are listed below. All are welcome!
Date Worship Leader Musician June 25 GA livestream worship 10am in Parish Hall July 2 Marianne DiBlasi Sarah Hager July 9 Bethany Russell-Lowe Sarah Hager July 16 Lisa Perry-Wood Yukiko Sekino July 23 Lisa Perry-Wood Yukiko Sekino July 30 Lisa Perry-Wood Yukiko Sekino August 6 Lisa Perry-Wood Yukiko Sekino August 13 Rev. Anne Mason Yukiko Sekino August 20 Joe Foster Yukiko Sekino August 27 Lisa Perry-Wood Yukiko Sekino September 3 Mandy Beal Hannah Shields
- Staff Summer Schedule & Office Hours
The office hours will be reduced beginning June 26 through August 18. The office will be open Monday through Thursday from 8:30am to 1:30pm.
Rev. Anne Mason: Beginning June 26, I will be on vacation through the month of July. Lisa Perry-Wood will be on-call for pastoral emergencies and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-883-3411. In August, I will be on study leave but available for ministerial support. Please email me at email@example.com or leave a message at 781-862-8200 x2.
Lisa Maria Steinberg: I will be on vacation the weeks of June 20-26 and July 22-29. Throughout the summer, I will be working both offsite and in the office planning next year’s children, youth, and adult programming. I’m available by appointment any time outside of vacation by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rip Jackson: Over the summer, I will be offline enjoying vacation and comp time. I will also be in the office at the end of July. I will be attending three continuing education workshops between late July and early September. And finally, I will be doing some work offsite beginning to prepare and plan for next year’s music and concerts. Please leave me a message at email@example.com.
Jane Foley: I will be on vacation the weeks of June 20-23 and August 7-11. Voicemail will be monitored during those weeks, and email will be answered when I am in the office. Messages can be left at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-862-8200 x1.
Bob Coughlin: I will be on vacation from June 30 – July 15. For building emergencies, contact Jane Foley in the office at email@example.com or 781-862-8200 x1.