Standing Committee Notes: Have you seen the new bulletin board across from the Alliance parlor? There is a timeline of what's happening with the Accessibility Building Project (ABP), the discussions and decisions that the congregation has made, events that are planned for the future, and the latest project plans. There is also blue tape on the floor marking where the elevator will be. I invite you to stand there and imagine using our future elevator. We are making progress! We have much more to do of course, but it is fun to see how far we have come.
Next up from the ABP are more decisions about our short-term financing options. The ABP Finance Team will be hosting a series of three cottage meetings, where they will present the options to cover the gap between when money will be needed for construction and when the money pledged to the project comes in. We will be considering a bridge loan with the endowment as collateral, a loan directly from the endowment, and a mortgage on the church property. Other topics to consider include a spending cap, options to reduce cost, and contingency plans. All the options have been vetted as financially sound and viable; a large portion of the decision making now comes down to what the congregation feels best fits our values. This is your opportunity to discuss this in depth and shape the warrant items that will eventually be presented for vote at the upcoming congregational meetings. The first cottage meeting in particular, the one on Sunday March 12th, will be two days before the March Standing Committee (SC) meeting where the SC will be discussing the warrant for the Congregational meeting on Sunday April 2nd. The congregational input from this cottage meeting will figure heavily in the SC process. I know there are people in the congregation with questions and opinions, please come share at a cottage meeting, the SC meeting, or with one of the members of the SC or the ABP teams. The amount of money pledged to the project will also figure into the decision making, so please remember to return your pledge form. Communication is key here, in both directions, and the ABP teams need to know about YOUR plan to contribute in order to best understand and calculate our options. A little or a lot, each pledge helps, and we appreciate it all.
Speaking of appreciation, I have so much appreciation for all the hard work from so many people who are lifting us up with this project. It's inspiring. There are volunteers doing everything from creating logos on stickers and bulletin boards, to setting up receptions, asking people for money, and pouring over spreadsheets. There are incredibly generous pledges that have gotten us so far already. Wow! And beyond the intense focus on the ABP, thank you to all the volunteers who have stepped up to fill holes left by people concentrating on other things. It is activities like choir, Faith Formation, and social hour that build the fabric of our congregation and that continue the daily life of the congregation. When people are pulled in so many directions, this stability and source of love is immeasurably valuable.
A lot of what we do is on display in the vestry after the service on Sunday mornings. There are generally tables for child and youth Faith Formation, social action and signups for the next big volunteer event, currently that is the auction. If you haven't checked the tables out in a while, stop by and visit. There are pictures of past events, signups for volunteering, books to take home and read, and other interesting stuff.
Standing Committee meetings are the 2nd Tuesday at 7pm in the Alliance Parlor. The next is March 14th, and as always, everyone is invited and welcome. I dream that someday we will have to find a new room because all the attendees no longer fit into the Alliance Parlor!
Love and Peace to all,
Sarah Manning, Chair of the Standing Committee
Calendar Scheduling Reminder: As you count the pages here … please note just how busy we are! Lately we have been bumping into each other meeting-wise because people are assuming they can always find a room somewhere, and that just isn’t true. This is a good thing (sort of), and it does mean we need to at least follow the basic rules of scheduling space.
- Book your space in advance, and recognize the fact that odds are against you finding space, if you don’t .
- Only Leila or Cindy write on the downstairs calendar next to the office, unless you have specifically spoken to Leila .
- DO NOT schedule your meeting to begin before 11:30 on a Sunday morning, and do not assume you can just start if the room is briefly empty.
- Last but certainly not least, the High School room is not available on Sundays. Period. Our young people need to have a room that is THEIR space on Sundays. Again, even if it’s briefly empty – they need somewhere to come back to without worrying about dislodging the adults that have taken over their space.
Annual Stewardship Drive begins Sunday, March 19th In a year of many changes, where do we find refuge, understanding, and support? Our theme this year is: “We are family – This is our Spiritual Home.” We will share what First Parish means to us and how we can ensure a future of exploring truths in a cherished meeting place through joyful contributions and full participation.
Our goal this year of $265,000 will build a budget that reflects our values – recognize our excellent staff, support our ministries, maintain our historic building, and address the needs of our communities and the world. Pledges need to increase by 6% to meet our goal.
Pledge forms will be mailed to you, provided in the church pews, and available at the Canvass table during social hour. Please complete the form and join our “family” bringing them forward to the pulpit after the sermon. If you are unable to join us for Kick-Off Sunday, please drop off or mail your completed forms.
Canvass Committee members will be available during service and social hour every week of the drive to address your questions. We will work hard to update you weekly on the progress of the drive and host a table each week during social hour. Then we celebrate with a delicious closing luncheon on April 30th. Let’s do this together! – In faith, the Canvass Committee
SAVE the DATES Accessibility Building Project (ABP) Meeting Schedule
- Cottage Meetings: Sunday March 12th 1130am, Tuesday March 21st 7pm or Sunday March 26th at 1130am. Attend one of more to discuss overall project status, latest capital campaign amount and financing options.
- Congregational Meeting #1. Sunday April 2nd at 1130am. Vote #1 on a possible loan from the endowment or using the endowment as collateral for a bank loan. Discuss specific project items, costs vs budget.
- Congregational Meeting #2. Sunday May 7th at 1130am. Vote #2 on a possible loan from the endowment or using the endowment as collateral for a bank loan. Discuss specific project items, costs vs budget. Vote on specific project items.
The Evening Service is back! Actually it never went away, we just haven't been telling about it lately. So this is a reminder that we do offer a lovely worship service in the Chapel on Sunday evenings at 5:30 PM. Over the next few months we will have explorations of Soul Matters themes, a series of Lenten Services, a celebration of the Spring Equinox, and a Music Extravaganza - watch for postings with more details. And please join us!
SUNDAY EVENING LENTEN SERVICE SERIES: March 1 is Ash Wednesday, beginning the Lenten Season in the Christian Calendar, leading up to Easter on April 16th. Lent is a season of introspection, reflection, and contemplation. In Pagan spirituality, it is the second half of winter, the slow return of light, and the mystery of what is growing underneath that cannot yet be seen. In Christianity, it is the journey of Jesus: from his time in the desert to his gathering of a community grounded in healing and justice, from his dark night of the soul as he faced the reality of his death, and his charge to his disciples to embody his love in the world. Through music, readings, and ritual, Justine and Rev. Ellen will lead worship on the themes of this season— mystery, doubt, healing, abandonment and betrayal, the renewal of hope and the return of light and life, at the evening services from March 5 through April 9, 5:30 pm in the chapel. Some highlights of what is to come in the first couple of weeks: March 5: “Preparing for the Journey” Lisa Calvo will provide harp music March 12: “For Healing” Steve Zocchi will provide the music for a service focused on healing March 19: Ami Hughes will lead a pagan celebration of Mabon, the Spring Equinox Please join us!
3/7-The next meeting of the Women's Discussion Group will be on Tuesday, March 7th at 7:00 pm at Uta Musgray's house (80 Elene Street, Lowell). The February meeting was cancelled due to bad weather. The topic is: Forgiveness from the viewpoint of the person who is being forgiven rather than the one who is extending the forgiveness. Call Uta at 978 441-2060 to RSVP.
3/11 – Saturday, 6PM in the vestry - Please join the Multicultural Ministries for a Vegetarian Potluck with a focus on traditional American foods. Bring that special comfort food from your youth (Mac and Chees anyone?) or your favorite cake that made your family get-togethers special. We will be hosting Dr. Ahmad Raaid, a Fulbright scholar working on his Masters in Public Health degree from UMass Lowell’s Department of Public Health. Dr Raaid will be giving a presentation on his home country, Afghanistan. The purpose of the Fulbright program is to foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Please come and learn more about Afghanistan and help Dr Raaid learn more about the United States. Dr. Raaid is an ethnic Pashtun from Kabul and follows Islamic dietary laws (so we are encouraging vegetarian options with clearly stated ingredients).
3/26 - Join the Multicultural Ministries and GRACE team members in the Alliance Parlor at 11:30 on Sunday March 26. Meck Groot and Cora McCold from the New England Region GRACE (Growing Racial And Cultural Equity) Team will be joining us. They plan to attend the service and visit with people at coffee hour. More details later.
WANT TO CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS? There are so many calls for action these days! If you'd like to be able to contact your legislators, at Federal or State level, CFAM has an updated list of contact information at their table.
Multicultural Monday: Take the test As much as we would like to think we do not discriminate against anyone, and do not harbor racist thoughts, do we have unconscious (implicit) bias? Social scientists say that everyone does, to some extent. All Americans have been exposed to racist ideas and stereotypes, some of which we unconsciously absorb. It is called implicit bias. We can’t help it. Except we can become aware of it, and work consciously to negate our implicit bias. Take this 10 minute test to learn about your own implicit bias. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html. The link will also be posted on our Facebook page on Monday for easy clicking. Look for our videos posted every Monday on our First Parish Chelmsford Facebook page and twitter feed.
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in The Story of Race by Debby Irving Multicultural Ministry has several copies of this fascinating, honest, and often cringe-worthy description of the author’s journey from selfdescribed “white oblivion” to white awareness. The author, who grew up in Winchester, MA and now lives in Cambridge describes the disconnect between feeling like a ‘good person’ and her growing awareness of racial injustice. We will be hosting a workshop using excerpts from the book later in the Spring, and reading the entire book is not necessary for that.
Rowe’s Summer Youth Camps The Rowe Center holds one-to-three week summer camp sessions for young people ages eight through 19 from June until mid-August. Rowe Camp is a unique and magical place. Nestled into the side of Mount Adams among maples, oaks, and hemlocks, the summer camp is a place for fun, exploration, and acceptance of oneself and others. Youth at Rowe are honored and empowered through programming that embodies and balances individual freedom and responsibility to the community in a fun, relaxed, creative environment. The goals of Rowe Camp are to create a sense of community and safety, to use the environment as a learning tool, to let campers explore who they are and their relationship with others, to use art for expression, and to develop spiritual awareness and appreciation. We hope you will join us! Camp Fees are figured by sliding scale and camperships applications are available. To learn more about the youth camps, please visit www.rowecenter.org.