February/March Letter from Coordinating Team

March 21, 2024

Dear Follen Community,

February flew by, and March is mostly gone.  We are looking forward to the many fun events planned for the Spring such as the FUUY “Fancy-Pants Dessert Auction” during coffee hour after the Easter service on March 31, the Goods and Services Auction Saturday on April 6th, Membership Sunday April 21st, and Music Sunday April 28th.  Follen is doing a new thing this year and there will be a community breakfast on Saturday April 13th for the whole community to help ‘send off’ the teens on the FUUY service trip. And, don’t forget about the Follen Annual Meeting to be held on the evening of Thursday, May 23rd.

The Follen coordinating team would like to share updates from the February and March meetings of the Program Council (“PC” – the operational governing board of the church) and Parish Board (“PB” – responsible for church policy and financial oversight.)

Following the fabulous Fellowship Dinner and a strong start to Follen’s stewardship drive, a combined meeting of Parish Board and Program Council was held on February 12. Meagan Cox, our Membership Director, rolled out a new tool to help manage Sunday morning logistics that would be an “all in one place” google doc for people to sign up for roles on Sunday morning such as coffee crew, set up and clean up, ushers and greeters as well as allow people to reserve table space for coffee hour. Look for an announcement about this tool coming soon.

David Reishus (Follen Treasurer) and Trapper Markelz (Head of Finance and Human Resources Action Team) initiated the budgeting process, and Rev. Claire presented her vision for Follen. She spoke about being “proactive, curious, and planful” about the future and how to balance what we want versus what we can afford. Membership is up but donor units are down. It is difficult for one minister at a church of Follen’s size–over 350 active adult members–to be all things for all members. Therefore, there is a need for additional staff resources that can help manage holistic strategy and help communication across the organization.  

At the following Program Council meeting on March 12, Trapper offered a draft budget for the next fiscal year with the following goals:

  • Support our staff by providing raises in line with UUA guidelines
  • Invest in a growing music program 
  • Invest in membership and stewardship by increasing Membership Director’s hours from 20 to 30 per week.
  • Maintain our ministerial intern position due to its value to Follen and value to the UUA in place of a higher pledge.
  • Support growing operational costs of the building 
  • Prepare for impending budget requirements 2025-2026 

Follen’s financial health is strong, and our membership has never been higher, but our income has been consistently less than our spending because the costs keep going up every year more than the amount of pledges. To remain in a strong financial position, we will need to spend time thinking of new ways to address future budget concerns this coming year. Next year’s draft budget is balanced through negotiated reductions in religious education spending, changes in building maintenance, and a planned increase in rental income, among other things. FHRAT will create the final version of the budget with input from leadership, stewardship, and the action teams and will present the final budget for a vote at the Follen Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 23rd.

Regarding rental income, the Program Council also discussed a potential proposal from a local organization that had been evicted from their space in Waltham, Grow Native, to rent room 213 from Follen for a trial one year period.  Over the past thirteen years, Grow Native Massachusetts has built a network capable  of creating, restoring, and protecting sustainable landscapes by educating individuals and communities  about native plants and their ecological importance, and providing resources to land owners,  landscapers, and community members.  In addition to providing significant rental income for Follen, this group could contribute meaningfully to Follen Church’s community  engagement and environmental conservation goals through key elements of their work.  Negotiations are still underway.

The Parish Board met on March 18 and continues to support the Long Term Planning team who will be kicking off some congregational listening sessions shortly.

Yours in Faith,

Coordinating Team: Jen Vandiver, Melissa Howe, Beth Bernstein, Anne Kelly, and Rev Claire Feingold Thoryn