Category: Next Steps

Apr 30 2015

Planning Study to Begin

With the support of the Congregation, The Next Steps Task Force has retained Brian Raiche and Cornerstone Fundraising, a professional religious and non-profit fundraising firm, to conduct a capital campaign planning study.

During the next several weeks, First Parish members will be contacted and asked to take part in the study. Staff from the Cornerstone team will be conducting one-on-one personal interviews and focus groups with randomly selected families and individuals of the Congregation. A direct mail study questionnaire will be mailed to every home as well and will be available to complete during social hour.

 Careful consideration and thoughtful planning are required for us to take this step. This is why feedback from members is of the utmost importance at this time. Your opinions and suggestions will enable us to form a final plan that will help meet the needs of our entire community.

All responses to the planning study will be confidential and no names will be attributed to remarks or comments made.

We are most grateful for your advice, counsel and willingness to participate in this process so that we may perform this study with your open and honest input.

Questions — see John Schneider, [email protected] or @jrsgateway


Thank you for your continued support!


Apr 15 2015

Next Steps Congregational Meeting

April Update from the Next Steps Task Force

On April 12, after the service, a special congregational meeting has been called to vote on funds that were not included in the FY2015 budget for a planning study to conduct a capital campaign.  The Next Steps Task Force is seeking $3800 to conduct the study.  I would like to give you some background as you consider your vote on this matter.

As you know, the Next Steps Task Force is charged with making a recommendation to the congregation about launching a capital campaign to improve the access to the Sanctuary, Parish House, and Chapel and to make our buildings more welcoming to all.  The proposed “Old Fashioned Way to be New” program would help us achieve these goals making our physical space more closely aligned with our covenant.  Installation of a new elevator, accessible office space, handicapped bathrooms on the second floor, and construction of additional meeting and classroom space would provide us with a facility that would accommodate all who wish to worship here and become part of our community.  It would help send a strong message that First Parish continues to be a forward thinking church.

The architect we have worked with, David Torrey, has prepared plans for a two-phased renovation program consisting of four components.  The cost for Phase 1A is $1,475,000; for Phase 1B $636,000; for Phase 2A $923,000; and for Phase 2B $299,000.  David will be presenting the plans at a cottage meeting after worship service on March 29.  A second cottage meeting is scheduled for April 8 at 7 pm in the Chapel.

Our next task is to assess our capacity to raise funds to support a capital campaign.  To help us do this, we would like to conduct a capital campaign planning study.  This study—it is not a capital campaign—would consist of individual interviews, focus group meetings, a survey, and review of our financials.  It would be coordinated by the Next Steps Task Force and conducted by Brian Raiche, the president of Cornerstone Fundraising.  Brian’s firm works extensively to help churches meet capital campaign fundraising goals and he and his firm come to us highly recommended.

Brian’s study will give us a good idea of how much we can raise to support the capital campaign.  It is a more detailed and in-depth analysis. The study is an important next step after the work we did last year with Barry, where we began the process of considering what our church could look like in the future and our capacity to get there.  With the information from the capital campaign planning study in hand, we will then work with others at First Parish on a financing plan to present to the congregation for consideration and then, together, we will make a decision on how to go forward.
Because we are still in the study phase of this project, we do not know yet the details of how a capital project like this would be funded.  Please keep an open mind about this for the time being.  A vote to approve funding for a capital campaign planning study is not a vote to approve a capital campaign.  We will have that vote once we have all the information we need and the Next Steps Task Force makes its recommendation to the Standing Committee and the congregation for a vote

I would ask that you also keep three things in mind as you consider your vote.

  • The first question is to what extent does the pursuit of a capital campaign to upgrade the accessibility and welcome of our building align with our covenant?
  • The second question is to what extent do we have the capacity—time, talent, treasure, volunteers, staff, skills—to do this important work?
  • The third question is do we have the will we need to pull this off?

These are important questions for all of us to consider.  There is no doubt that this is an expensive and complicated project with many details yet to be worked out.  But when things get difficult with figuring all this out Rev. Ellen encourages us to take a step back and to wonder and explore this project with a sense of curiosity.  We ask that you consider doing the same—what would an old fashioned way to be new really look like here at First Parish?  How will we make this happen?
Let me close with a personal note.  I want to thank the staff for their flexibility with helping this process move forward.  They have worked with the Task Force to help us reach out to the congregation.  For a number of reasons, well mainly because of the snow, we lost the month of February.  All of our terrific staff has helped us make up for lost time.  Thank you!
On behalf of the Next Steps Task Force, thank you for your consideration.  Please let any of us know if you have any questions.  You can reach me directly at [email protected]; and on Twitter @jrsgateway.
John R. Schneider

NSTF members: David Blackburn, Tom Coffey, Ron Deschenes, Joan Keane, and Chris Sweetnam

At the April 12th Congregational meeting, the congregation voted to go ahead with the Capital Campaign Planning Study.

April 12th Congregational Meeting Slides

Phased Architectural Plans

Mar 07 2015

Next Steps Task Force Update

February Update from the Next Steps Task Force

We have received the cost estimates for renovations to our Parish House (the RE wing), Chapel, and Sanctuary that will significantly improve the accessibility of our space for worship, learning, meetings and fellowship and to further add to our reputation as a welcoming and safe community. As promised, we are sharing these figures with you to keep you informed so that we can engage in a discussion, and eventually a vote, on how we move forward with this project.

Our architect recommends that we consider separating the project into two phases with each phase consisting of two components.

  • Phase 1A The first phase,  is the most expensive component of the project.   It involves significant renovations to the Parish House so that we can install a newer and larger elevator that can be operated by just a single individual wishing to access the different levels of First Parish (the Vestry and the first and second floors).   Phase 1A adds a new handicapped bathroom to the second floor, a new main entrance on Westford Street, and accessible office and meeting space for our staff, members and visitors. The cost estimate for Phase 1A is $1,475,000.
  • Phase 1B replaces classroom space that we will lose due to the elevator installation in the Parish House. The architect’s design adds classroom space to the Chapel by raising the Chapel’s roof and adding a second floor. The cost estimate for Phase 1B is $636,000.
  • Phase 2A provides greater accessibility to our historic Sanctuary to make the worship space more accommodating and welcoming to all. More space would be created in the Sanctuary, the balcony would be renovated so that it is safer, and new stairs and an elevator installed to make balcony access much, much easier for all. New stairs would also be constructed to make the trip from the Vestry to the Sanctuary less of a climb. The cost estimate for Phase 2A is $923,000.
  • Phase 2B creates a new sunspace addition to the Vestry overlooking the south or Littleton Road side of the Vestry. The cost for Phase 2B is $299,000.

One final note about the cost estimates. These estimates assume that we will begin construction in the spring of 2015.   Since that is currently not the plan, we need to assume a cost escalation to the project of, according to the architect, 8-10% per year.

With these numbers in hand, we are in the preliminary stage of talking to several fundraising experts about our capacity to undertake a capital campaign to support a project like this. As we have done with the architectural plan, we will do our research and present the information to you in a timely manner.

We know that this is a lot of information to take in. We will be scheduling several cottage meetings to discuss the plans, including a meeting with the architect, David Torrey, who will present the plans in much greater detail. Stay tuned for more information about the date and time of the cottage meetings.   In addition, the Next Steps Task Force will be briefing the Standing Committee about the plans at the February 10 meeting. The Standing Committee meets in the Alliance Parlor at 7:00 p.m. and its meetings are open to all.

Stewardship is a cornerstone of our covenant and a spiritual practice that we have consistently acted on when called to do so. We have a great legacy of making capital improvements to the Sanctuary, Parish House and Chapel as is needed and as the times demand. It is in that spirit that we ask you to keep an open mind about the possibilities before us and consider how we achieve together, as Robert Frost said, an “old fashioned way to be new.”

Please see John Schneider if you have any questions ([email protected]), or any other member of the Next Steps Task Force: David Blackburn, Joan Keane, Chris Sweetnam, Ron Deschenes and Tom Coffey.

Nov 22 2014

Sunday 12/14 is Take the Elevator to Church Day!

Ever wonder what it like to take the elevator from the Vestry to the Sanctuary? On December 14 we’ll be asking for volunteers to take the elevator up (or down after the service) to experience vertical transportation the First Parish way. Part of a series of activities to help us experience our accessibility challenges, we’ll be hosting a talking circle after the service at 12:15 pm to reflect on the experience and ways to improve accessibility to our building. For more information, contact John Schneider

Oct 22 2014

Next Steps Update

Architect David Torrey has been hired to provide cost estimates for our renovation program, what we call “Option B.”  David will be working with members of the Next Step Task Force on ways to phase-in renovation and building upgrades to address our accessibility issues.   Previously David prepared architectural plans for us, and so, he is very familiar with our buildings and concerns.  Once David’s study is completed, we’ll provide multiple opportunities for comment and review as we consider together our next steps.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks — John Schneider.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee is the Church's governing board. The Standing Committee works to ensure the vitality of our community of faith. There are 10 members of the Standing Committee – nine voting members elected by the congregation and the minister, who is a non-voting member of the Committee. Standing Committee members serve a 3 year term.

The Standing Committee meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:00pm. Time is set aside at the beginning of every SC meeting as an open forum for members to bring forward any issues they would like to discuss.

The Standing Committee is responsible for the health and well being of First Parish. This includes maintaining communication among members and committees, managing Church property, and planning for the Church's short and long-term future. And of course members of the Standing Committee develop and manage the budget approved by the Congregation at the annual meeting.
The Human Resources Committee is a sub-committee of the Standing Committee.