November Letter from Coordinating Team

November 3, 2021

Dear Follen Members and Friends,

As the leaves fall and the wind has a little more chill, we are grateful to be able to move back indoors. For the first time in 18 months, on October 24 we held services in our beloved octagonal sanctuary. What a joy to see the space filled with familiar faces, and our minister speaking from the chancel with that beautiful organ as backdrop. We have introduced technology that allows our remote community to experience the service live and to allow those in the sanctuary to experience remote participation. Our Program Council President, Sophie Evett, gave the welcome via Zoom, showcasing the opportunities for different forms of connection that our new technology allows.  

A special shout out to Follen’s Tech Coordinator and Sexton Jimmy McFeeley and past Program Council President Howie Bernstein for many hours of set up and system testing to create this integrated experience.

Please take time to reach out and thank our talented and dedicated staff for working with creativity, patience and flexibility to meet the multiple demands of changing COVID circumstances and protocols. We are deeply grateful to our Minister Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn, Director of Religious Education Beryl Aschenberg, Music Coordinator Shaylor Lindsay, Business Manager Linda Hein, Communications Coordinator Laura VanderHart.      

The church is beginning to bustle in ways not seen for a year and a half:

  • East Village Fair was a tremendous success and looked almost normal with children’s games, delicious food, fine wares, and even the familiar flea market in our Community Center.
  • Renters are now filling the space with classes and meetings and recitals, and soon students from the LABBB Educational Collaborative – a nonprofit organization delivering special education services in Lexington and other local communities —  will be using Follen as a gathering space before or after they head off to their community vocational activities. 
  • Religious Education has been meeting outdoors, but as things turn cooler, there will be activities indoors as well.

Recent news from Program Council and the Parish Board:

  • The Music Program Steering Committee (David Jacobson, Ching Lai, Maureen Markelz, Jen Vandiver) and group of skilled Follen facilitators and notetakers, have been hard at work coordinating small group listening sessions.  More than 80 people signed up for 12 listening sessions, with sessions for staff and FUUY planned as well.  The MPSC is developing an all-congregation survey for later this year, as we discern what we as a community want for our music program, before beginning a music director hiring process next year.  (See the MPSC’s update in today’s newsletter).
  • Follen is joining the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave program so that our staff can be effectively supported when life events necessitate time away from their work.  
  • Program Council and the Action Teams were introduced to the concept of an Equity Pause. As we consider our activities, policies, and decisions, we are encouraged to pause and reflect to ensure that we are considering the impact on different constituencies, ensure that multiple voices have been heard, and that we are not excluding some through our actions. This Equity Pause allows us to continue to commit to our identity as an intentionally anti-racist community and an LGBTQ+ welcoming congregation.
  • Similarly, in its capacity as the entity with policy oversight responsibility at Follen, Parish Board is piloting a process to review and update select policies from an explicitly anti-racist and LGBTQ+ welcoming perspective, to ensure that these and our other shared UU values are reflected in our policies.   

We value your input and perspectives. Please do not hesitate to reach out. 

With gratitude,

Sophie Evett, President of Program Council
Nick Hart, Vice President of Program Council
Lisa Snellings, Chair of Parish Board
Trapper Markelz, Vice Chair of Parish Board