Welcome Letter from Parish Board

September 9, 2020

Dear Follen Friends and Members,

Greetings from Parish Board and welcome to the new church year! We hope you are well and that your summer has been enjoyable so far, even in the midst of these challenging times.

Follen has just concluded a series of wonderful summer services. Thanks to all our guest preachers, lay ministers, staff and volunteers who made them possible. You kept us connected and inspired all summer long.

Now, our new church year begins with offerings we have come to cherish over the years. Reverend Claire has shared powerful themes for each upcoming month of worship. Religious Education is providing a wide-range of meaningful programs and Follen’s interim music year begins with familiar faces guiding the way. As in the past, Follen staff, lay leaders and volunteers are engaged and ready to serve the needs of our community and beyond.

With gratitude for what remains constant, it’s also abundantly clear that we step into this church year with many changes to fundamental aspects of our communal life. We are being challenged to co-create our Follen Church experience during a time of great transition. Church consultant, author and coach, Susan Beaumont, has much to say about transitional periods, or liminal seasons, in the life of a congregation. As you may know, liminal seasons are in-between times when an aspect of community life has ended and what wants to begin is not yet ready to emerge. Uncomfortable and disorienting, many find liminal seasons challenging (sometimes downright excruciating) even while liminality offers potent openings for creative and positive transformation.

As an organization, Follen has experienced recent change on several levels:

  • Creation and completion of our new building
  • Retirement and hiring of a new Business Manager
  • An interim music year with new roles and staff
  • The need to create entirely new ways of conducting service and community in the era of virtual church

Any one of these changes would have ushered in a liminal season for Follen, and that isn’t even including the multi-layered cultural, political, environmental and economic challenges unfolding in our country and around the world.

Our intention during this time of extreme liminality is to make space for listening and tending to what emerges, especially during the first half of the church year. As a Board, we will stay focused on what is essential or deeply meaningful. In January, after the election and the holidays, we will revisit this orientation. For now, we will focus on making space to take care of each other, support our staff and learn to be a community in new and uplifting ways.

Going forward, Parish Board will be more visible, accessible and communicative with you. We are prioritizing regular and substantive updates throughout the church year. Since we can’t bump into you in the hallways or chat during coffee hour, we feel it is more important than ever to keep you informed, hear from you and stay connected. We will focus on monthly updates in the newsletter and forums for listening and connecting. We look forward to learning what is important for you in the coming church year.

In our desire to keep you informed, what follows is a summary of two Board projects from last year:

  • Governance: Parish Board began last year with a charge to examine our governance structure. You can find an update on our 2019-2020 governance work here.
  • Reflection and Review: Toward the end of last year, Vivian Montgomery, Follen’s former Director of Music resigned. Reverend Claire and Follen’s lay leaders hosted nine listening sessions in the wake of her departure. Afterwards, Parish Board created a framework for reflection and review based on insights from the listening sessions. You can find Parish Board’s reflection and review framework here.

In addition to making space, tending to what emerges and staying connected with you, this fall Parish Board will begin working on:

  • Support for our Covenant of Right Relations (Area 5 of the reflection and review): With staff and volunteers under pressure from the demands of extreme liminality, our process may move slowly. However, Parish Board is committed to formally initiating Area 5 (Covenant of Right Relations) of the reflection and review framework this fall. We look forward to engaging the congregation in this effort and will reach out again soon. For Areas 1-4 of the reflection and review, Follen’s Worship and Music Action Team and Human Resources Committee are aware of the framework’s observations and are incorporating some recommendations into their work this fall. We will revisit Areas 1-4 in January.
  • Antiracism: Last month, Follen Responds to Racism initiated discussion with key staff members and lay leaders at Follen about the UUA’s new report on ten areas related to systems of oppression, bias, and white supremacy culture found in the association and UU congregations. You can find the report here. It is a powerful resource for the work it will take to ensure Follen embodies the moral imperative of our time and our 2017 resolution to be an antiracist congregation. Recommendations in the report align with our work to support Follen’s commitment to our Covenant of Right Relations.

As a reminder, all Parish Board meetings are open to the members and friends of Follen Church, and meeting minutes are available upon request. Our next meeting is Monday, September 21 at 7:30 on Zoom. If you are interested in attending, simply email a Board member to receive the zoom invitation. As we move forward into the church year, please do not hesitate to be in touch with any questions or concerns.

Yours in faith,

Parish Board 2020-2021
Lex Johnson (Chair)
Trapper Markelz (Vice-Chair)
Reverend Claire Feingold-Thoryn (Parish Minister)
Sharon Cerny (Trustee Rep)
Jim Fesler (Rep at Large)
George Grady (Auditor)
Jackie Hawkinson (Clerk)
Anne Kelly (Rep at Large)
Herman Marshall (Rep at Large)
Harvy Simkovits (Treasurer)