Here is where we stood at last year’s Annual Meeting in September. We had to replace our sexton and church administrator at the end of the summer. Ernie was learning his job and we finally found Vanessa after going without a staff person for seven weeks.   Our Christian Education Director, Eric Frary, also announced his leaving right after Easter. The Trustees were trying to overcome multiple venting problems to install a new high efficiency, natural gas furnace before it snowed. Church Council had scheduled a series of dialog meetings to discuss selling the River of Life Tiffany Window and we were all worried about conflict. And on top of it, Jeanne had a terrible bicycle accident and could not do many routine things on her own.

 

Today I am grateful for an excellent, mutually supportive staff who work hard and innovate. The furnace technical problems were solved and we saved $7000 in heating costs even in a very cold winter. The congregation rose to the occasion and made not just one major decision about the future of the church, but two. We gained confidence in our ability to listen and engage each other respectfully through our dialog to sell the Tiffany Window, and when the opportunity came to call Rev. Sarah Buteux to a new position of Associate Pastor, we made a major decision in just 40 days. We came to a strong consensus to sell the Window by a very strong vote and to call Pastor Sarah by a vote of 47 to 1. (And Jeanne has recovered well and I am grateful for all the meals and support the congregation offered at this time last year.) What a difference a year can make!

 

Leading worship is at the core of my work. This year was marked by a number of special services, especially several ecumenical joint services. We celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the merger between the Congregational and American Baptist Churches with Rev. Peter Ives as our guest preacher. The following week we joined with six congregations on Transfiguration Sunday with nationally renowned church historian Diana Butler Bass, along with 500 people in worship, 80 children in Children’s Church and a mass choir of 75 singers!   On Palm Sunday we joined St. John’s and Edwards Church for a Blessing of the Palms in Pulaski Park. I was especially enriched by our growing partnership with Iglasia Bautista Qechua Nueve Vida, and three joint events: the showing of the bilingual movie “The Vigil” about immigration issues, a joint worship service and potluck for Pentecost Sunday, and working on the Trust Act to support immigrant rights in Northampton, culminating in a community meeting with Mayor Narcewicz and Police Chief Sienkewicz.

 

I try to keep my community activities simple and focused. Last year I joined the board of Friends of the Homeless, since working on housing and homeless issues has been a lifelong passion. I also completed the Leadership Pioneer Valley Leadership program, a 12-hour a month commitment that was worth every minute. I also participate in the Village Hill Neighborhood Association. In the coming year I have been nominated to the Executive Committee of the UCC Massachusetts Conference and will chair the Program Committee, which will take about the same amount of time as Leadership Pioneer Valley did last year.

 

I expect a shift in my responsibilities in the coming year. My first two years have focused internally on healing, building trust and working to increase our church “infrastructure,” the necessary tools, processes, staff and systems to be effective at our mission.   The decisions we have made last year will push all of us in new directions that will focus us more on outreach in our community. Calling Pastor Sarah is a recognition that we cannot stay the same and hope to survive, but rather we are moving towards a thriving and growing church. My goals for the coming year are to work towards a thriving educational and spiritual growth ministry for all ages and to strengthen our means of outreach and welcome, to have more doorways into the life of the church. We accomplished a tremendous amount last year, and it builds a sense of confidence that we can make great strides with our new hopes and challenges. I can’t wait to see where we are next September!