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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rexford

Forward Chats #15 - July 28, 2019

Forward Chats, July 28, 2019 (Meeting #15)

What’s Next with Forward Chats?

Since no urgent topic of discussion had been brought forward for the July 28th Chat, we decided to use our time to take stock of issues brought up in the past and see which ones were resolved and which we still wanted to talk about. Twenty people were present at this meeting.

Back on April 7th, at the second Forward Chat, we created the following list of topics that were on people’s minds at that point, very soon after Fred’s resignation. The topics listed at that time were:

1. Why/How decisions re Fred were made

2. Accept change

3. Realistic expectations of the pastor

4. Future of CE, young people in church

5. Focus on spiritual nourishment

6. Keeping God in church

7. Unhappiness expressed in many ways

8. Turn negativity into positivity

9. Constructive criticism

10. Honoring differences, mutual respect

11. Patience with process (both search & healing)

12. Avoiding burnout

13. Developing objectives for team building

14. Focus on community, inhouse but especially wider

15. Process of pastoral search

16. What is discipleship? (added to this list a couple weeks later)

The revised list we created today has fewer topics but they are broader:

Planning for the future and the process of choosing a pastor - related topics and still of urgent concern

  • The details specific to Fred’s resignation, central to the original question, are mostly dealt with now, at least for regular Chat attendees. Some of those concerns will be resolved by changing the bylaws.

  • The topic “realistic expectations of the pastor” logically falls under this category, but people felt we might as well get rid of the word “realistic.” We just have to engage with the topic of what we expect from the pastor.

  • The search process going forward is still clearly an issue

o There are few interim candidates available and as of 7/28 it was looking likely that no one would be free to come to us until late fall or even as late as February 2020.

o Some people are anxious to get things settled quickly so we can get back to normal

o Others feel the need to take time with the process so that we can feel confident about both the church’s direction and the specific pastoral choice

o It is easier for the people who feel impatient to tolerate the longer process when they understand what it is designed to accomplish, what the steps are, and why they matter – which verges into communication

  • The choice of the next pastor is closely linked to figuring out our direction for the future, which links to issues like “accepting change”.

  • Understanding this church and its needs and finding an appropriate pastor ends up being a rather circular process: We need to understand who we are in order to identify a settled pastor that fits our needs. To help us understand who we are, we are supposed to rely on the skills of an interim pastor, but to find an interim well suited to help us through the process, we need to understand ourselves well enough to make a good choice.


  • Turning negativity into positivity

  • Constructive criticism

  • Honoring differences, showing mutual respect

  • Patience with process (knowing the reasons we go through a long process)

  • Communication in general is still a live topic, but we don’t need an entire Forward Chat on each one of the above subtopics.

Spiritual nourishment

  • Participants expressed an interest in having some sort of spiritual conversation or educational series available

  • Wendy is interested in re-starting Spirited Women with Melanie Dineen, maybe better to have at church rather than in homes – people got burned out doing the hosting

  • George (?) recollected that Pizza & Prayer had been conceived as a family-friendly event that might substitute for Sunday School for kids involved in sports on Sunday mornings. As it was carried out, however, it never really took hold – though it wasn’t advertised either.

  • Fred’s Thursday evening Still Point service attracted even less attendance

  • Incidentally mentioned – idea of opening up the kitchen for community cooking (but no one came), also attempt to have childcare at bean suppers.

  • Some of these ideas might work if tweaked or better advertised but --

  • Patty noted that a lot of people really don’t want to come out yet another evening. Alternatives might be after church (like Bob Wright’s “Second Hour”) or before church (though that interferes with choir.

Discipleship, focus on community (inside and out):

This topic still clearly needs more discussion. Serendipitously, Marty Brandt shared an interesting fundraising letter she received from the Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint Paul on Tremont Street in Boston. The letter began by talking about:

the holiness of borderlands . . . where cultures come together and people step to the edge of what is familiar to encounter what is new – this is a place the Spirit is powerfully at work. Rather than fearing or closing borders, God calls us to be present in them.

The letter went on to talk about the communities that geographically abut that church, the literal “borderlands” of that church, and how the church tries to connect with the life on their doorstep:

  • Rallying on the steps before marching to the State House to speak up for justice

  • Gathering on the Common with the Presiding Bishop to witness to the Way of Love

  • Inviting local shop owners, musicians, and law enforcement officials to share their hopes and concerns with us at a series of “listening meals.”

  • Having staff stand outside on the front steps where they can talk to people passing by

St. Paul’s mission is to “engage the world,” and these are the creative ways it has developed to do that. Marty thought this letter might give us some ideas about things we could do here. At the very least, it suggests how a clear and brief mission statement can help a church focus its activities – and its fundraising.

This inspired us to get organized to have a table at Lobsterfest Day at Lynch Park on Wednesday, August 7. When this was brought up at Deacons, no one was prepared to take it on (in part because it is the same week as Star Island), but at Forward Chats, George Haile stepped forward and said he would take a day off from work to be there. Following his lead, quite a few people are now collaborating to make sure that will happen, which is a testament to the power of one person to be an influence for good, and the power of this church to cooperate and get things done even when we don’t have official leadership.

Below is a picture of the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in which you can see their portable canopy set up at the foot of the church steps, right beside the sidewalk.

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