Strategic Implementation Team (SIT)

November 3, 2023

Dear Members and Friends of First Church,

Last Sunday in worship, the congregation said a very heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to our Vision Team, who was officially released from its charge, after a 3+ year process in which many of our dreams, hopes and VISIONS were turned into tangible goals and plans for the future of our congregation and our community.

For these past few years, we have dreamed with faith, hope and love. We have dreamed well. And we have dreamed BIG. Our dreams have now been synthesized into a Strategic Implementation Plan, which serves as an initial blueprint of next steps in our church’s future mission and ministries, based on the Vision Process.

The Strategic Implementation Plan, linked HERE, provides a multifaceted, detailed and very faith-filled approach on how to use our time, talent and resources over the next few years to bring these goals to fruition. To oversee this process, last Sunday we also commissioned our Strategic Implementation Team to oversee the next steps and carry our visions forward. It is with much joy and gratitude that we welcome Charlie Church, Donal Dugan, Kristen Elder-Connors, Michelle Hobbs, Bob Phillips, and Doug Viehmann into this ministry and work.

We hope you will join the Trustees, Strategic Implementation Team and fellow members at a Special Congregational Meeting that has been called for Sunday, November 12th after the 10 am service.  This will be a time to hear from the Strategic Implementation Team as they answer questions from the membership about the plan and our next steps.   Please join us as we move forward together.
In faith,


Susan Ellwood, President
First Congregational Church UCC


To: First Church Members
From: First Church Board of Trustees
RE: The Strategic Implementation Team (SIT)
August 2023      

HISTORY & CONTEXT: We are just finishing up a multi-year visioning process, and need to finalize our next action steps, in order to determine what is and is not possible. Then we need to do it!

With the economic effects of the pandemic still unfolding, and the sale of the parsonage to the Ronald McDonald House completed, we must have a solid understanding of how to best use our resources, personal, financial, and structural in the next few years. With many transitions in the last 10 years, it is essential that our Strategic Plan, and its implementation, be focused, achievable, and contribute to a stabilizing understanding of our core purpose and mission as a congregation.

CHARGE from our FirstChurchBTV Trustees: Given the above, the first and primary task of the Strategic Implementation Team will be to guide First Church in the process of finalizing and implementing the Strategic Plan, as discerned by the congregation over the past 2.5 years. The Strategic Plan contains congregational priorities and actionable goals for First Church to consider and act on over the next decade.

  1. With, and under the guidance of the Lead Minister and staff, use the information from the Vision Team to sequence our Strategic Plan, to be presented to the Trustees and congregation in the fall.
  2. Determine assets and obstacles to the implementation of various congregational goals and use this information to define actionable next steps to move us toward implementation.
    1. This should include environmental and building assessments.
    2. These assets and obstacles should include data about the wider local community, to assess the ways we are serving the needs of the City.
    3. By necessity, this will involve guiding the congregation in understanding how we will leverage the proceeds of the sale of the parsonage to further our Strategic Plan.
  3. Define actionable next steps to move us toward the implementation of congregational goals. Congregational consultants may be necessary.
  4. Using the Trustee-approved plan, determine and delegate roles and responsibilities for each of the action steps outlined.
  5. Guide and support the execution of action steps, providing frequent reports to the Trustees and congregation, and involving the congregation as much as possible.
  6. Determine measures of success for each congregational goal. How will we know when we have fully implemented our Strategic Plan?

The Strategic Implementation Team (SIT) will be comprised of six to eight individuals, chosen by the Minister and Trustees. At least one member of the SIT will be a member of the Board of Trustees.

Given the sensitive and prayerful nature of the undertaking, the timeframe will remain open, with work expected to begin in the fall of 2023. A member of the SIT will gather with the Trustees to provide a progress report every month, beginning in September 2023. An annual report, including the progress to date as well as strategic vision-related 2024 budget requirements, will be provided by December 2023.



Charlie Church: I am a looooong time church member, past Church president, served on many Church committees, co-chair of the last capital campaign and co-clerk of the works, retired 37-year IBM employee in Financial Planning. Currently, I volunteer in the Memorial Garden and provide audio assistance on Sunday mornings.

Kristen Elder-Connors: I grew up at First Church and am excited to participate more fully in the workings of First Church as an adult. I’m excited and honored to accept this position and look forward to serving you in this capacity as we realize our collective vision for the future of our church community. When I’m not working—either as an attorney here in Burlington, or on my many, many, home renovation projects—I can be found biking or hiking with my partner, reading, crafting, and spending quality time with my family…many of whom are well known to this congregation.

Donal Dugan: I’ve been a First Church Burlington member for 20+ years. I’m currently co-chair of our Deacons. My summertime passions are sailing and my 2-year-old granddaughter Yuzuha. I’ve been married to the love of my life – Nancy Owens for 35 years. I’ve been in the construction and design industry for 40 years. My day job is as a Construction Project Manager for Champlain Housing Trust.

Michelle Hobbs: I’ve been a First Church member for just over 10 years. Fun fact, I worked with Lucy and First Church to design the church logo before I became a member! Professionally, I’ve been a graphic designer for over two decades, and am currently working as a consulting partner at Reframe Lab, specializing in team and group facilitation, utilizing design techniques to help organizations solve problems, set strategy, organize work systems, and imagine future products and services. I’ve volunteered as a Sunday school teacher and have participated in various committees, most recently with the Building Projects and Renovation Vision Team. My husband Paul and I are about to be empty-nesters, casually keeping tabs on the college endeavors of our sons Ethan and Davis from afar.

Bob Phillips: I relocated to Vermont in July 2021 to a home that we built in Colchester thirty years ago, after the death of my wife of 55 years in December 2020. I retired from Unilever in 2020.  I received a Master’s in Gender Studies from Columbia University in 2003. Since then, I have been an investor in start-ups and have owned several small companies and have engaged with several colleges including the Grossman School of Business at the University of Vermont where I have lectured on sustainable innovation.

Doug Viehmann: I have been practicing architecture in Vermont for over 40 years designing buildings that will (hopefully) be around for a long time. I find it much more exhilarating to design and build theater sets with Lyric Theatre, which are here today and gone tomorrow; demolition is so cathartic! At First Church I serve on the Board of Trustees as a representative of the Building and Grounds Team, which is where I find myself most useful to this organization. I also serve on the Lyric Theatre Building Committee, making repairs as needed there. Outdoors, I love to sail, ski, putz in the garden, hike, and bike. I also enjoy Sunday mornings with my church friends. I even (sometimes) enjoy church meetings.

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