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