September/October Letter from Coordinating Team

Coordinating Team September/October Letter

Dear Follen,

We are delighted to welcome you back to church. This year, Follen’s Coordinating Team will continue to provide regular updates on the work of Follen’s lay leadership to support and guide our faith community.  We are writing today to share important news about Follen’s music program, outdoor/hybrid Sunday services and Religious Education, and how we will live into our commitment to be an anti-racist Congregation.     

This year’s Coordinating Team is Program Council (PC) President Sophie Evett, Vice President Nick Hart, Parish Board (PB) Chair Lisa Snellings, Vice Chair Trapper Markelz, Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn and Business Manager Linda Hein. The Coordinating Team meets monthly to set the agenda for PC and PB monthly meetings (planned for October 18 and 25, respectively, on Zoom at 7:30 pm). Follenites are welcome to attend PC and PB meetings and can request minutes from past meetings, by emailing     

Sunday Service, RE and Safety Team updates

This fall Follen’s incredible staff and energetic volunteers have worked hard to create a welcoming outdoor space for in person and Zoom worship and outdoor religious education, navigating the vagaries of changeable New England weather, under the trees next to our beloved sanctuary.  Please join us in expressing gratitude and appreciation to Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn, Director of Religious Education Beryl Aschenberg, Shaylor Lindsay and our soloists and choir, and the great sideline support of Jimmy McFeeley and the tech team, Meagan Cox, Linda Hein, and all the ushers and hospitality helpers and volunteer teachers .

It has been so good to be together as we love and support each other in uncertain times.   

We began the church year with Ingathering Sunday September 12 (just 3 weeks ago!). So far, the weather has allowed us to hold outdoor services. We will continue with this hybrid  approach through at least October 10. Our Safety Team will meet October 4 to discuss next steps, in consultation with our in-house experts. 

Music Program Steering Committee members announced

As we have shared in the newsletter and at Sunday services, this fall Parish Board is convening an ad hoc Music Program Steering Committee (MPSC) to coordinate the creation of a clarified congregational vision for Follen’s music program, before beginning a hiring process for a music director (and/or assistant director) early in 2022.  

We are delighted to announce the members of the Music Program Steering Committee: David Jacobson (WMAT), Jen Vandiver (Parish Board), Ching Lai (at-large) and Maureen Markelz (at-large). 

Here is some information about each of them.  And please join us in extending our thanks to them for agreeing to steward this important process.  

David Jacobson, his wife Amanda Agee and their daughter Isabelle Agee-Jacobson (now at college) have been attending Follen for 7 years. David has been on WMAT for 6 years, and was co-chair for the past 3 years.  David brings a strong commitment to the overall worship experience at Follen.  Through his work on WMAT, David is familiar with the recent history of the music program, including strengths, challenges, and the diversity of opinion at Follen. He also brings deep project management and facilitation experience to the project.  

Jennifer Vandiver, her husband Ben Vandiver and their children Ian and Sierra have been attending Follen for 7 years, and Ben grew up in the Follen community.  Jen has been part of the adult choir for the past 3 years, Sierra has been in the children’s choir for a few years and the whole family enjoys the Follen music community. As a new member of Parish Board, Jen brings an open mind, a fresh perspective, and her industry experience understanding and documenting stakeholder needs along with creating processes and procedures.

Ching Lai (McKee), her husband Andrew McKee and their children Alyssa and Nicholas (now at college) have been attending Follen for 4 years. Ching has been a RE class volunteer since joining Follen, and Alyssa sings in the youth choir. Ching brings her own diverse background and perspective, and her professional experience working with diverse teams on global financial institution and technology compliance, to the important work of the committee.   

Maureen Markelz, her husband Trapper Markelz, and their children Hannah, Lucy, Jack and Alice, have attended Follen for 12 years.  As Chair of the RE Action Team during Follen’s transitional Interim DRE years, Maureen helped explore Follen’s history, listen to stakeholders, and then craft a new charter and mission statement. Maureen strives to be a thoughtful listener who balances care for the individual with the broader needs of the group.  The Markelz family has been part of the Follen’s children and youth choirs for many years.

The MPSC will engage the congregation in small groups, one-on-one conversations and a survey to answer these questions: Why do we have music at Follen? And how do we do music at Follen? The MPSC will oversee a congregation-wide process to gather information, share back, and prepare a music program vision, mission and goals document for consideration by Parish Board and Program Council in January 2022. 

To this end, the Coordinating Team felt it was important to have people who could serve as “Ears” to listen to the many “Voices” of the Follen Community. We sought members who would: 

  • Be good listeners 
  • Be good compilers of information 
  • Approach the process with an open mind 
  • Bring different perspectives and experiences within the church membership

It is important that the MPSC members not be seen as people with a strong agenda or commitment to a particular view of music at Follen, so that Follenites will feel heard, and can have confidence in the integrity of the process and the outcome. 

Some who either were nominated or nominated themselves to serve on the MPSC have strong “Voices” and great professional experience with and passion about music. It seemed most appropriate to allow those people to contribute their Voices in the development of the vision rather than have them play the role of Ears.

Some who were nominated or nominated themselves may be needed to play a role in the later search and hiring process for a music director (and/or assistant director) and so were not considered for the MPSC role.  Some who were nominated were approached but declined for various reasons such as  other commitments, or awareness of their own strong opinions or of the  possibility of a perception by others that they have an agenda for the music program. 

We feel very good about this team. And they know that they can and will need to ask for help from many members of the Follen community to assist with different aspects of this significant task, whether it be small group facilitation, compiling of themes, survey design, report writing, and many other tasks. We hope you will say yes if asked to help!

More information about the work of the MPSC is included in the charter document approved by Parish Board.  Watch for regular updates about this important project in these regular letters, the newsletter and at Sunday services. And please reach out to Coordinating Team (, or any of us as individuals, with any questions, concerns or ideas about the project.   

Living Into Our Commitment as an Anti-Racist Congregation

This year we will continue to work on living into our 2017 resolution to be an intentionally anti-racist UU congregation. 

Reverend Claire will be preaching about and coordinating monthly spiritual exercises focused on anti-racist themes, Parish Board, Program Council and our action teams will engage in exercises and focus attention on anti-racism in our congregational work, Follen Responds to Racism and the Social Justice Action Team will continue coordinating the monthly book group, and educational opportunities on anti-racism topics as well as alerting us to events in the broader community. Keep an eye out for the many offerings in our weekly newsletter.

  • With gratitude from the Follen Coordinating Team:  Program Council President Sophie Evett, Vice President Nick Hart, Parish Board Chair Lisa Snellings, Vice Chair Trapper Markelz, Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn and Business Manager Linda Hein