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Staff Board Report, January 2024

Staff Board Report 

Special Senior Minister Edition

January 9, 2024 



Hello Dear Board, 


Our January report, with everyone just returning from vacation, will be a bit different. 


This one will be all me, a bit of a bird’s eye view half way thorough the year. 


We will return to a report with many other staff contributing next month. 


Here in the report which follows, I will touch on our staff transition, our new Social Action Committee configuration, some blossoming partnership potentials with the Malden church around refugees, our plans around simulcasting worship for the short and long term, a celebration of the new and improved library, and finally a note on liminality and change. 



Staff Transition


As most of you know, by the time we meet we will have had two public meetings to discuss the staffing structure proposed and accepted by you all and the finance committee. 


While there have been predictable feelings around the changes, the vast majority of folks I have discussed all this with agree with the direction of the plan, even if there has been some feelings around timing and process, transparency and details. 


As people come up to you, please encourage them to reach out to me. I have had productive and helpful conversations with many people involved and touched by the plans in many different ways. I am happy to talk with anyone about this. 


I will also thank Joel and Brian and the Marthas, Courant and Read for their counsel and willingness to serve on the task force. It is a complex task before us and while not everyone loves the result I continue to believe that we have landed with a plan that will serve First Church well in years to come. 



Social Action Committee 


Exciting news from the Social Action Committee! With huge gratitude to Priscilla Cobb and Ran Courant Morgan among others! We had our first Social Action Steering Committee meeting and discussed the new structure, which I wanted to take a moment to share with you all. 


The steering committee consists of leaders of initiatives in the realm of Social Action. Leaders of UU The Vote, our Immigration work, our Climate Justice work, and more will meet three or four times a year to plan and look at our overall arc of Social Action efforts. 


Then there will be after Sunday programs to introduce the congregation to those efforts, engage them in that work and invite them into further Action. This is in response to feedback from the congregation asking for more onramps towards social action efforts. 


We will have these events coming up in the coming months. 


I love this structure and am so grateful for Priscilla’s leadership in making ti happen. Stay tuned for more details. 



Refugees and Malden


As you might have heard, we have a blossoming partnership with the Malden church around refugee support. 


Right now a huge number of refugee families are pouring into Massachusetts, the system is overwhelmed and they were asking for places to house families, many of them Haitian refugees while they find settlement support for them. 


The Malden church has agreed to make space available for up to seven families to stay at the church, but they need support, both in terms of finances, but also warm clothes for people of all ages, many of the families arrive from Haiti into the New England winter wearing flip flops. In addition they need to raise money to help with food and support. And finally as the efforts solidify they will need volunteer support as well. 


So more soon as the next steps become clearer, but this is a wonderful opportunity to meet an impossibly large need in our community. 



Simulcasting 


As we have discussed previously, this winter we are exploring simulcasting services and what kinds of tech upgrades and staff support we will need to simulcast more regularly, and what kinds of simulcasting makes sense for us to try to do. 


After our first experiment in December we learned a lot, and had some plans for upgrades for January. Ian cobbles together a system borrowing mics and cords from a number of people. All in all he spent more than thirty hours that week getting the system ready. With some dedicated expenditures we can create a dedicated set of tech just for the simulcasts, and planned on doing that after the holiday at which time Ian got very sick. 


He is almost recovered, but our planned simulcast for January will be another experiment in low tech options, a YouTube Live broadcast right from my phone, another option, less cameras and a bit more folksy and down home. 


The end goal of all this is to have some proposals for next year for us to explore as part of the budgeting process. 


Any plan will have an expenditure of staff time as well as tech upgrades. So more on all that soon, for now, 



The Library and More 


As you might have seen, the library is back. Thanks to Deb Lockett and her wonderful furniture, thanks to you all for approving the plan long ago and thanks to everyone for their patience in making it happen. 


Seeing the library back to a functional space, coupled with Tracey being in the building, I do wonder what other spaces can be beautified and repurposed. 


I look forward to the work of Ian and Tracey and the property committee helping us in the coming years return the building to it’s full functioning and use. 


Liminality and Change 


And lastly, just a quick note on liminality. 


We find ourselves now, for these next many months in a time of liminality. 


This means we are no longer what we once were, but not yet what we will be. 


This can be a stressful time. 


And it can be a very fruitful time. 


It can be a time of great exploration and creativity, a time of clarity and discernment. 


So be gentle with yourselves and one another in this time. 


Know that it can be hard. Know that I am here if you would like to talk through anything. 


And know that it does not end once the new church year begins and we have hired the new team. 


Tracey, right now, is beginning a long process of climbing a steep learning curve just to learn the system and it’s complexities.


The fascinating and fruitful time comes once she has settled in and starts to make improvements and explore potentialities. 


Similarly, we will interview and hire an assistant minister of lifespan religious exploration, and they will start and they, too, and their assistant will have a learning curve. 


And through it all, we will be exploring and reflecting on who and how we want to be as First Church, in this moment and the next. 


What is the good gift we bring to this very unique moment in history?


What are we longing to be for our neighbors and our world?

What is our hearts’ desire? 


And how do we make it so. 


I have so much faith in us. 


I have faith that we have had a solid process that has brought us to this place.  


I have faith that we have dedicated and passionate volunteers who will support this time of dreaming and discernment. 


I have faith in the core of the staff team and the new people already here and the others who will come. 


Together, all of us will answer the call of this new moment. 


We will build on this strong foundation. 


While the liminal time can be challenging, it is full of possibility and potential. 




So very much love to you all, 


Chris 


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