Updated: Apr 8
The March 29 Session meeting was our first hybrid meeting, with about half of us together in the St. Andrew's Room and half on screen in the Zoom grid squares. Technology is beneficial, but of course, there is a learning curve as we figure out how to mute or unmute our microphones or make sure not to overlook a raised hand for a vote or a comment. We'll get the hang of it. Dr. Craker started us off with a reflection question: what are our fondest Holy Week memories? Many individual stories were shared, usually centering on joyful aspects of family and belonging, being welcomed, and enjoying the beauty of springtime. Some shared how Holy Week has often been a time of ecumenical cooperation, as churches come together to celebrate Palm Sunday with a parade of palms or Easter Sunday with a sunrise service. Amid the ephemeral aspects - flowers that eventually wilt, companions that eventually have to part ways to resume 'regular' life, even dawn that can't remain poised in one moment but which must proceed into the day - there is solidness about Holy Week: It comes every year, no matter what else is happening in your life or your world. God's joyful reminder that we are God's people, now and forever, breaks through whatever upheaval, confusion, sorrow, despair, exhaustion, and war is ravaging your present to remind you that your future is assured.
We dove into our many agenda items, hoping to squeeze in the entire list in the allotted time so that our promised 9:00 adjournment could be delivered! Minutes from prior meetings were approved, and it was noted that our membership stands at 252 with the passing of Betty Stewart and Bob DeVore. The assignments of various elders to specific committees were ratified: TJ Putman and Debra McAninch for HR, Kyle Bonn and Michael Lamb for Nominating, Diane Bolen for Worship, and Rebekah Borah for Communications (not yet formed, but coming eventually). On the legal side of church officers as positions within the corporation, Larry Wood was already ratified as Treasurer, as was Michael Talbert as President.
Larry Wood reported much activity in the property sphere:
● The Somerville building is nearly ready for the return of State of Oregon employees after a year and a half of being empty. Only a few projects remain on the "someday soon" list: carpet replacement, fixing a wall, and a new fire system (which will be done by April 30). The new lease will run for 2 1/2 years, with a 3% yearly increase, and starts April 1.
● The church building's heating system required some pricey maintenance: around $1500 for a valve piece and around $4000 for a new blower motor (to move the air warmed by the boiler around the building). However, the system is very solid and will last a long time with continued care and timely tuneups.
● The parking lot is waiting on an estimate.
● In the financial arena, we received $10,000 from Presbytery, which, along with supplies, was donated to various people with fire recovery needs (such as getting started on house repairs). Allen Brady from Presbytery told us he was impressed with how much we were able to do. TJ noted that in his role with a committee working with FEMA, he knew there were still people with unmet needs related to fire recovery and would send that info to our Impact Ministry to see what ministry help could be offered.
The "Mighty Michaels" team of Michael Lamb and Michael Talbert shared news from Presbytery. Interesting items included:
● A revised vision and mission statement recognizing that we have become more cooperative, working together with local agencies on mission projects rather than our efforts being limited to what we could do on our own
● The Committee on Ministry is looking for three employees to address conflict resolution, congregations in transition (we have 30 such congregations in our Presbytery!), and care for pastors, respectively
● COM is also looking for more people to serve on the committee, and there is a training program available online
● Overtures to the General Assembly were approved regarding
○ donations & reparations to a Juneau, Alaska native congregation that had depended on financial aid as that had withered away after being encouraged to disperse to other (white) congregations and feeling unwelcome
○ divesting money invested in fossil fuel energy companies.
Stewardship season is coming, May 1-22. The theme this year is "Everyday Stewardship," and Chuck Zemanek, Pam Morris, and Brian Craker shared an overview of what was planned for each Sunday service, including sermon topics, stewardship moment messages, and dedication of pledges. The idea they want people to receive is that although stewardship is our focus for the month of May, stewardship is not just a once-a-year event but an ongoing commitment we make. Tim Nissen pointed out that the rising inflation people see in their household expenses is affecting the church as well, and people should be encouraged to reinvigorate their financial support of the church to help meet increasing expenses: "treasure as well as time and talents." Guin Parker noted that while many people contribute to the church, a number have not pledged a set amount, which causes problems when budgeting for future ministries, programs, and maintenance.
Debra McAninch and TJ Putman shared some HR items, including plans through the summer.
Kyle Bonn reviewed the Warming Shelter season that just ended and some problems that were encountered with SFPC's partnership in this endeavor. The one really cold week which would necessitate more coordination and volunteering was the week that Kyle came down with COVID and wasn't able to help. Personnel from Arches had similar issues when many of their people fell ill in mid-January, and that issue was compounded by staffing vacancies that prevented their full resources from being utilized; they just didn't have the staff available to liaise with us sometimes. We had some good discussion about how the Warming Shelter is one of SFPC's passion ministries, an aspect of our identity that we prize. In order to keep the ministry healthy, we need to strengthen all the community connections, from city departments to non-profits to other churches, so that we can determine what our community needs and how we can help, then work effectively alongside others. Moreover, none of this ministry happens without us encouraging our members' dedicated volunteer efforts! A deeper conversation about this topic is planned for the May session meeting.
Tim Nissen, Kyle Bonn, and TJ Putman reported from the PNC that the work is ongoing, but it's hard to get a sense of how far along we are in the process. The PNC gets several good applicants each week or so, and they have scheduled some preliminary zoom interviews, but it is difficult to predict from where in the pool our best fit will come. We should continue to pray for the committee's stamina and discernment. A brief presentation to the congregation is scheduled for April 3 during worship.
Pastor Brian walked us through our church's Transition Roadmap and the recommendations from the Mission Study Report, noting all the pieces that are in progress or already completed as we get ready for the transition from an interim to a newly called pastor. We're in a good place and headed in the right direction!
From here, we switched to more mundane concerns about COVID precautions and reopening the building for increased use. Currently, we are limiting access because of our commitment to Little Friends Montessori School and the OSHA requirements they must follow for keeping their students safe, which still include some distancing and dedicated room assignments. Our building is open to a few select groups (Reach, Blood Drive, Warming Shelter, etc.) to use as available. We are not quite ready to consider making space available to all church groups and outside groups, in part because of concerns over having a responsible person on-site to open and close the building when the office is not open, janitorial needs, and other logistics. After some discussion about not wanting to contribute to any kind of virus spike that would derail our Easter celebration plans, we decided to offer building use reservations to church groups after Easter, and to consider wider reopening another time.
Speaking of Easter celebrations, Guin Parker reminded us to sign up for the Easter brunch so that we can more accurately plan food needs. Pastor Brian, who has planned to cook several pounds of bacon, piped up, "I don't want to have cooked all that bacon in vain!" to which Rebekah Borah replied, "Bacon is never in vain!"
We circled back to one piece from Admin that had been set aside in favor of more urgent topics (in case we ran out of time): the Expense Approval Procedures. Larry Wood explained: Expenses less than $2000 are preapproved so long as the group requesting the expenditure has that money available from their budgeted funds. Expenses from $2000 to $15,000 should be approved by Session. In any case, necessary repairs of any amount up to $15,000 can be approved by the Admin committee. Any expenses larger than $15,000 must have Session's approval, and that process should involve getting formal bids for the work. There was discussion about emergency repairs and whether a smaller collection of people could be authorized to deal with exigent circumstance expenditures, who those people should be, and how communication should occur, but TJ pointed out that in this age of plentiful technological options, it should be a relative non-issue to convene enough Session members, even in an emergency, to consider the situation at hand. Michael Talbert suggested that we leave off voting on these Expense Approval Procedures until next month, allowing Admin to review these concerns, by which time Larry was confident that he could formulate wording that would be appropriate about whose approval is needed in the event that Session is not available in some manner.
Our final housekeeping items included shifting the April, May, and June (regular) Session meetings to Wednesday because of a scheduling conflict for Brian (now scheduled for April 27, May 25, and June 22) and making sure there were sufficient elders who would be available to come early and help distribute the communion packets on Easter Sunday. We closed with prayer at 8:59 -- just making the projected 9 pm adjournment. Now we get to enjoy celebrating Holy Week once more!