One of the very best parts of being at First Church is learning the stories of so many wonderful people. It is a veritable feast! We do, indeed, find Christ through the relationships we build with one another. As we cultivate these relationships, and hear each other’s stories, we discover one another’s gifts for ministry and making a difference in the world. Frederick Buechner is fond of asking, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” In this church, we seek to help people find their answer to this question.
How we organize and work together is ultimately rooted in imagining how to use these gifts to help us all serve and live into our passion. Tuesday, October 14, 2014 marked a milestone in Act II: Experimentation of our ReVisioning process, where we began our exploration of our church family’s gifts and how we might become more deeply involved in our mission. Towards this end, more than forty members representing most of our church committees participated in the first ever Collaborative Tuesday at First Congregational Church.
To begin, individual committees met over a shared meal to carry out their regular agendas. Next, we began the experimentation phase of our reorganization process. After breaking into pairs with a new friend whom they did not yet know well, participants spent the next 15 minutes sharing their most important involvements outside of church, as well as their most fulfilling activity within church. Many people reported how they learned new things about others — even from people they had known for some time but only on a surface level. We then made plans to have many more of these conversations within our congregation.
Following these interactions, discussion centered on how our respective committees might identify an initiative or opportunity to work with another committee. This pursuit was informed by four broad goals for the church that were identified last spring, which include:
- Build stronger relationships and connections among us.
- Broaden our invitation to many different people, within and outside the Church, in many different ways.
- Strengthen our ways of working together.
- Find the right person for a job or activity they will enjoy and feel committed to.
Next, we endeavored to brainstorm ways to pursue these goals before the next Collaborative Meeting on January 13th.
We concluded the evening with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of an accelerated search for a settled Associate Minister. From the data collected through this discussion, there was a perceived consensus among those gathered that it may make sense to speed up efforts to find a settled full time associate minister; provided, of course, that the congregation can increase their financial commitment in 2015 to 2016 to pay for the full time position. The Board of Trustees will make a recommendation to the Congregation for a vote at a Congregational Meeting on November 16. At that time, we will also look together at an aspirational budget and begin the campaign to raise funds. We are in the process of receiving nominations for the Associate Minister Search Committee that will begin its work in late November at a pace determined by what the congregation authorizes. Nominations for the committee will be accepted up to November 2.
Overall, we realized a very productive first collaboration across committees. Going forward, we would ask all the committees and task groups who did not participate to please join us. Anyone who is not currently serving on a committee is especially urged to participate. An inclusive, transparent, and open approach to communication and decision making is at the center of our communal process.
As we continue to work together, experimenting with our church governing structure, it is important to get feedback from participants about each experience in order to evaluate the efficacy of these explorations. For those who participated in the recent collaborative meeting, please send your feedback to Bob Wolf, who is tracking our adherence to themes and goals during this time of experimentation. This information will be important as we prepare for our next Collaborative Meeting, scheduled on Tuesday, January 13th.
May the peace of Christ be with all of you!
Louise Brewster, Church President and Peter Cook, Senior Minister