by Barbara Crotty, 2017 Board President
Greetings, friends. I want to share with you what has transpired in recent weeks and what your Board of Trustees is working towards at this time. On February 25th about 65 members gathered in Westwood Hall for a workshop called Shaping our Future, considering the throes of change in which we find ourselves. The death of Mark, one of our co-ministers, just five months before, was the main thing that prompted this. The Southern Region office of the UUA sent their Lead Executive, Rev. Kenn Hurto, to help guide us in assessing where we are and where we want to go. In his letter to us reflecting on the workshop, he first stated that we are a healthy congregation. He wanted us to know how well we are doing, and that our challenges are to be better, rather than to fix something that is broken. He had some suggestions about how we might relieve some of our financial anxiety with different approaches to our stewardship campaigns, which we will be considering. He also suggested some ways we might help encourage and retain membership. Revision of our mission/statement of purpose to better animate our goals is another recommendation he offered.
He noted that we have an excellent staff, but that they are overstretched. Each member of our small staff does more than her job description requires. Becky has made it clear that she wants to continue to serve Emerson until she retires and she says she thinks she has quite a few years of ministry left in her! But without Mark, she is left with the workload of two ministers, which is not reasonable for a church of over 350 members. Her colleagues have been pitching in and are serving in the pulpit some Sundays this year, but that will not continue forever. Like many churches our volunteer pool is smaller than in decades past, and the staff has to pick up tasks that members used to manage. Being staff dependent is not just a strain on the staff, but it allows disengagement of the congregation – in other words, we don’t get as much out of belonging to the community when we don’t pitch in.
The Board held its spring retreat to discuss all of this on March 11th. We brainstormed goals and prioritized 4 areas of focus for this year: staffing, membership, mission and stewardship. It was a productive meeting that generated the following goals:
- Membership – to reach a total of at least 500 members by 2022, increasing total church membership by 6% per year.
- Staffing – to establish an ad hoc committee to propose solutions to Emerson’s staffing issues to the Board, in particular the development of a job description for a part-time assistant minister with the intent to have the position filled by September, 2017. We will hold a meeting to share information about the plan to hire an assistant minister after the service on April 9th.
- Stewardship – to recruit new members to the team and try creative new approaches. It is possible that a UUA consultant will be engaged.
I am excited about the energy your Board of Trustees has to move ahead with changes to make Emerson ever more vibrant, effective and fun. Please think about how you would like to be part of it. And mark your calendar for the services auction on Saturday, April 29th! Submit your donations now!