Join a Listening Session!

Entering into Holy Conversation with Fellow Follenites
Having reviewed the responses to the long term planning online survey, we now want to widen and deepen the conversation with the congregation. Specifically, throughout the month of April, we will be hosting listening sessions that will focus on the aspects of our community we hold most dear, as well as our aspirations for Follen’s future.  The format of these sessions will allow participants both to share their views and know they are heard, and to give the gift of genuine listening.  Both online and in-person sessions will be offered—you can sign up here. The number of people per session will be limited to ensure adequate time for all voices.  We are confident these sessions will be both enlightening and uplifting!


In the spring of 2023, Follen’s Parish Board announced the appointment of a team of 6 creative, thoughtful, and committed members to lead the development of a long-term plan for Follen Church, to be approved at the May 2024 Annual Meeting.

The members of the long-term planning (LTP) team are:  Brian Cali, Jane Spickett, Jose Trevejo, Julianna Stockton (Chair), Kyle Johnson and Margot Tracy.  You can see their photos and brief bios below. You can email the entire team at future@follen.org.    

We are grateful that these members have agreed to honor the Follen community by bringing their experience, gifts and perspective to this project.  During the 2023–2024 church year, with the support of Rev. Claire and the entire Follen community, the team will engage the congregation in a process of discernment and dialogue to consider important fundamental questions, for example: Who are we as a faith community? What does our faith call us to do? 

Parish Board is not prescribing a particular structure, process, or methodology that the team must follow, based on our appreciation of the discernment options that Gil Rendle and Alice Mann describe in their book Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations

Planning is conversation because it is truly dialogue. People explore their differences and their perceptions. People risk saying what they believe to be important. The talk is full of stories, memories, and hopes — the kind of conversation that strengthens and transforms people.  

The team will use Holy Conversations and other resources they identify to create a discernment process that works best for the Follen community at this moment in our history.   

The team will create the process, frame questions to consider, provide opportunities for discussion and discernment within the congregation, and determine the content and form of the plan to be approved at Annual Meeting in May 2024. You can see their charter here

 

A Time to Dream

Follen’s bylaws require a periodic “long-range plan” to guide our annual and longer term governance and decision-making. The last plans were adopted in 2009 and 2015. After study and discussion this church year, Parish Board decided the time is right for an updated plan a lot has happened since 2015.  Exciting developments and some clear challenges have emerged:  

  • Our stunning new building presents new opportunities
  • We have a talented staff bringing new vitality
  • 2023 is the 10-year mark in Rev. Claire’s ministry 
  • Our adoption of the antiracism 8th UU Principle supports breakthrough ideas and practices
  • We are experiencing transformation within the UU denomination 
  • The known and emerging impacts of Covid, other external threats, and existential challenges present opportunity and challenge to us as individuals and as a spiritual community

What a fertile time for us to think big and to craft a vision of who we are and who we aspire to be that will serve as a touchstone for our spiritual community now and in the years ahead. 

This coming church year, the team will plan and lead the congregation in a discernment process that we hope we will find to be spiritually engaging, challenging, exciting, and joyful.  The conversational journey will be as important as the ultimate destination. All members of the congregation will be asked to help with this exciting community project in a variety of ways, sharing your gifts of spiritual thoughtfulness, facilitation, conversation, exploration, hospitality, and artistic expression.  When asked to participate, please say yes!

 

Meet the long-term planning team

Brian Cali.  This is the 19th year I have attended Follen with my wife Sophie Evett. Our three adult children, Abby (29), Maria (27) and Jessie (22), all grew up in the Follen community. Over the years, I have served in a variety of roles, including  as a lay minister, chair of the Finance and Human Resources Action Team (FHRAT), running several stewardship campaigns and the Auction, being an Our Whole Lives (OWL) teacher, Coming of Age (COA) teacher and mentor, and currently I am a Follen UU Youth (FUUY) adult advisor. Follen continues to have a profound impact on my worldview; our collective intergenerational quest for meaning, connection, and justice inspires me, challenges me, and helps me stretch into living out my values. I am excited to be part of the LTP team, and to share this journey with the congregation as we collectively seek to create a vision of what Follen could be in the future. 


Jane Spickett. 
I grew up between rolling hills and pebbled beaches in the south of England. Although formed in a Christian tradition (Church of England), it was in the hills that I experienced being one with Creation. Today, my spiritual practices are diverse, and Follen is often where I’m challenged to keep them real. Grateful for that!  My work is balanced: hands, heart and head –  contemplative and relational: I’m an organizer working with people who are overwhelmed, a spiritual director, and an artist.  I’ve been a Follen member since 1996. I was probably around for a year or so before that. I’ve served in a variety of ways, including as the Program Council president as well as being on Parish Board, and have been a Coming of Age mentor – I’m just now stepping down from being a COA advisor. Currently, I chair the Gallery Committee and co-chair the Interiors Committee of the Building & Grounds Action Team (BGAT), co-chair the Welcoming Congregation Committee of the Social Justice Action Team (SJAT), am part of the Worship & Music Action Team (WMAT), and serve as a lay minister.  I’m looking forward to seeing what and how we can co-create, and dead chuffed to be in such good company!

Jose Trevejo.  I lived as a child in West Africa, then moved to Southern California at a young age where I was immersed in a diverse culture. I moved to New York City to study medicine and settled in the Boston area following my medical residency and specialty training. I live in Lexington with my wife Elmy and sons Sebastian (14) and Alex (12). I work as an executive at a biotech company that is developing treatments for eye disease and infectious diseases. For fun I like to play tennis, cycle and listen to jazz music as well as gathering with others to enjoy tasty food and wine. I started attending Follen in January 2022, and signed the membership book in November 2022.


Julianna Stockton.
 I joined Follen shortly after moving to Lexington in summer 2017, and signed the membership book that same year.  My spouse Adam Stockton and I were members at the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut before moving here.  I sang in the adult choir for one year when Vivian was the music director, but stopped when childcare and work logistics got too hard. I was briefly on the Interiors Committee of BGAT (pre-Covid), and am now on the Anne Smith Gallery Committee. This year I served as a visiting steward for the first time as well.  In my professional life, I serve as the Associate Director of Certification and Competency-Based Education at the University of Kansas.  Adam has taught RE for the last 2-3 years, and is currently on the Religious Education Action Team (REAT).  Our son Arthur Stockton is 9 years old, in 3rd grade, in the “middles” RE class, and started children’s choir this year thanks to Chris Eastburn’s wonderful welcoming energy.  Our daughter Eleanor Stockton is 7 years old, in 1st grade, in the chalice kids RE class, and also started children’s choir this year.  We are big fans of wiki stix and coloring pages in the “quiet bags”, Claire’s sermons, the fabulous range of musical styles and talents Chris brings to services, and the support + friendship of families we’ve met through Follen. During coffee hours you can usually find us at the big library table or out on the playground out back. 


Kyle Johnson. 
I believe we’ve been attending Follen since either 2006 or 2007.  I do not know when we signed the membership book. My family members are my spouse Lex, and children Isaiah (25), Rebecca (22), and Caleb (19). At Follen I currently serve as a Trustee, member of the Music Committee of WMAT, church musician, and I just finished serving as a Coming of Age mentor.  I’ve previously served as a member of one of our prior long-term planning committees, as a lay minister, as a Parish Board member, and as a Trustee and COA mentor in prior years. (I also recall spending a little time as an RE volunteer.) Regarding my broader background, I serve as an outsourced Chief Investment Officer for several endowments and foundations, so I have a finance background. However, I also got my Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and studied comparative religion undergrad (at Harvard College) after a brief stint studying physics and astrophysics. My studies in religion originally led me to think I’d become either a Unitarian or UCC minister, but I pivoted in Divinity School to focus on applied ethics, which led me into investing. I have an abiding love of music, am a committed guitarist and enjoy singing, am passionate about wilderness survival skills, and am a runner. Hopefully some of the above will have some relevance as we engage in the long-term planning process!


Margot Tracy.
 With my husband Burton and our two children, Calla (13) and Beatrix (10), I have been attending Follen for 10 years. We signed the book about 5 years ago, the same time we dedicated our daughters.  I’m a long-time member of the Religious Education Action Team (REAT), have taught RE and OWL and been a Coming of Age mentor. My initial reasons for joining were my children, but it was during the pandemic that Follen became my home. To borrow from Hemingway, it happened gradually, then suddenly. And this is the closest to grace I’ve come. Looking back, it was through relationships that Follen shifted from the periphery to something more meaningful in my life. This is one perspective I hope to bring into the Long Term Planning process—how can we ensure more people can feel at home in Follen? 

 


Tentative Project Timeline & Tasks

Summer, 2023

  • Team project planning meeting
  • Background reading
  • Review of past long-term plans

Fall, 2023

  • Team project planning meetings
  • Development of key questions / data gathering strategy

Winter, 2024

  • Facilitated small group conversations 
  • Review of data/input from conversations

Spring, 2024

  • Development of DRAFT report/vision/plan document
  • Presentation of DRAFT for feedback by congregation, Coordinating Team, Parish Board and Program Council

May 2024 – Adoption of report/vision/plan at Annual Meeting