CE Director Report – 2019

This year was one of transition for the CE program in the church. The spring saw the retirement of our long-term CE director, Tom Stevens. We celebrate his guidance and thank him for his years of dedicated and creative work with our children and families.

While the director position remained unfilled for a few months, the CE program was far from directionless as our incredible board members — Harriet Grenier, Kristin Wolf, Ben DeJong, and Dan Senning — did a great job running things. I cannot thank them enough for their service.

As church school started up again in the fall, our children dug deeply into the biblical story of Noah and the ark, and participated in activities related to animals and our stewardship of them. A number of children and their families visited the local humane society as part of their study. During December, we continued to focus on animals, particularly the feathered kind, as our well-attended Advent craft activity centered on making bird feeders. (As I write this, I’m sitting on my couch watching the chickadees at the feeder I made that day!) At Christmas, the children brought the story of Little Robin’s Christmas to life, complete with masks, costumes, and a second generation baby Jesus actor. Special thanks to Harriet Grenier for adapting the book into script form. The calendar year ended with many families putting their new bird feeders to use as they participated in the national Christmas Bird Count.

As I begin to fulfill my new role as CE director, I look forward to working with Peter and the board. We will continue to use the Progressive Christianity curriculum as we plan engaging and relevant activities for our children, ones that help to cultivate in them an understanding of what it means to be vibrant members of our church. I appreciate the opportunity.

Respectfully Submitted,
Lori Morse, CE Director

Lay Reader Rotation

We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing.

Vladimir Nabokov

I delight in reading, but even more in reading aloud to you on Sunday morning. I love letting the miracle of a few written signs lead you somewhere you never expected and then feeling that new world take shape. It is a powerful thing. But I don’t want it all for myself.

Over the past several months I’ve had a couple of different people inquire about participating in worship by reading one or more of the texts for the morning, either scripture or poetry. It could also be a litany, a prayer or a children’s story. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about this too. It would do me good to listen, instead of always speaking. And I suspect it might do you well too to hear fresh voices giving a reading. So much comes from the voice.

So, I’m going to give it a try. The first step of course is to get a pool of readers. If you’re interested you could send me an email or speak to me on Sunday morning. I’m envisioning this to be completely flexible — no set schedule required. Readers could be in conversation with me about what you want to read, and suggest readings you’d like to do. Let’s see where this goes!

Board of Outreach Report – 2019

It was a busy year for the Board of Outreach and the following is a summary of the work accomplished, thanks to your generosity and support.

In March of 2018, the Board voted to invest money in the Vermont Community Loan Fund. We currently have $4,170 invested in the fund.  The Fund is a mission driven, community focused alternative lender. It provides loans and other resources to local businesses, community organizations, non-profits and other organizations that do not qualify for a loan from a traditional lender.  The term of the investment was ten years which capitalized on an interest rate of 3%.

One Great Hour of Sharing was held on March 31st.  Through the generosity of the congregation, $1,040 was raised.  Funding through OGHS provides help for communities around the world who suffer from the effects of disaster, conflict and economic hardship.

In May, our church was the collection point for Church World Service kits. Our church constructed 27 hygiene kits.  We also collected 16 blankets, 147 school kits, 316 hygiene kits, 6 emergency clean up buckets and 251 rolled bandages from about 12 other churches.

The CROP Walk took place on October 6th.  The walkers raised $238 which went to support the Waterbury food shelf.

On October 21st the Neighbors In Need collection was taken during the service and totaled $273.  Neighbors in Need is a special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that supports the ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States.

The human food chain was attempted on November 10th, to bring donated food items to the food shelf.   Although there were not enough humans to form the chain, a generous amount of food was delivered! We continue to encourage food shelf collections.

The Board held a SERRV sale in late November and again in early December.  The organization’s mission is to promote the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by marketing their products in a just and direct manner.  The sale raised $438 of which $86 was deposited in the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

In early December, the congregation generously donated items, including socks, gloves, toothpaste, toothbrushes, a gift card to the Village market and shampoo.  The items were delivered to the residents of the Kirby House a couple of days before Christmas.

Through the Board of Outreach budget, these additional donations were made during 2019:

  • $200 to the Good Samaritan Haven
  • $150 to the Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council
  • Throughout the year, we continued to collect loose change to support the Heifer Project, and 2 animal banks continue to receive your pocket change.  

The Board would like to thank the congregation for your generosity and continued support of our many projects.

Respectfully submitted, Polly Sabin, Chair

Carla Lawrence, Deb Utton, Alice Durkin

Board of Deacons Report – 2019

The deacons meet monthly (except the month of August) to discuss the weekly deacon schedule, church events such as baptisms, holidays, communion, & specific parishioner concerns.    Every Sunday one deacon assists with the service by lighting & extinguishing candles (Ned graciously performs this when he is present), taking attendance (discussed further below), taking the collection, passing the microphone during Community Matters part of each service, and tidying up the pews after each service.  In addition to these routine duties, this year:

We continue to take electronic attendance in an effort to help realize if someone is out for an extended period of time.  Diane Leavitt continues to add photos to each parishioner’s name in the Breeze software so that it is easier to identify people and to remember names of newcomers. Guests 1-10 were added into the software account for additional visitors to the attendance roster.  We have also added the feature to group family members to our attendance list, to make Sunday attendance more efficient. During the first hymn of Sunday Service the Deacon on Duty locks the side door and post a sign to inform anyone trying to enter that door to please use the front door during service.  

We did not do Laity Sunday this year.  We held a blessing of the animals. For the last couple of years, we have been alternating Laity Sunday and blessing of the animals.

We coordinated a fire drill on May 12th.  In planning this fire drill, we also revisited general fire safety issues not only for those in the sanctuary, but for the children’s education usually upstairs & the nursery care in the basement.   The fire department did not attend this fire drill. This year’s drill was a smoother transition then in the past. Jill Loewer created a fire drill instruction document (Deacons and Peter approved) to be placed in the pews of the sanctuary. 

We assisted with communion and special services as needed.  On communion Sundays Deacon(s) are responsible for obtaining the bread and juice, setting up the table and assisting Peter with the distribution of the elements. We had one baptism this year.

We assisted a Guest Pastor when Peter was out of town. 

The Deacons (with a lot of help from Polly) hosted a welcome back breakfast in September.

We provided coloring pages and crayons for young children attending the early Christmas Eve service.  We also purchased luminary bags and tea lights to decorate the church outside for Christmas Eve service. 

We sent cards to parishioners who may be ill, injured, welcomed a new member to the family, or who may have lost a loved one.

We reviewed Peter’s document on the ALICE Plan (active shooter).  The congregation was informed of the document. The Gun Policy and ALICE Plan was referenced during the Church Annual Meeting.  Next time Global Campuses host an ALICE Plan Training at Church the Deacons will try to attend as well as any other member from the congregation wanting to participate.

We arranged for a CPR and AED (defibrillator) training on February 5, 2019.  All Deacons participated as well as Peter and Polly. We purchased a Zoll Plus Defibrillator for the church.  The AED battery is checked monthly by a Deacon after our monthly meeting.

We purchased a ladder for the third floor for emergency evacuation.

We edited the Deacon Responsibility document and added Peter’s usual Sunday morning preparations for service in case he is not with us.

Many thanks to all the deacons: John Bollard. Tom Leavitt, Diane Leavitt, Jill Loewer, Rebecca Noyes and Cindy Senning.  June Hibbs and Pat King will be joining us as a Deacons in January.      

Respectfully Submitted, Diane Leavitt, Chairperson & Secretary

Trustees Report 2019

World markets began January 2019 in the throes of a significant market correction that began in October of the previous year. As reported last year, the church’s assets were somewhat insulated from these events putting us in a somewhat enviable position of only being down 5.5% from 2018. However, as world political and social events stabilized, the market began to recover and ultimately surpass its high point of 2018.  In doing so, the bull market continued to defy the market pundits’ negative outlook. The Dow Jones Index ended 2019 up 22% and the Standard and Poor’s index ended the year up 29%. National and world gains translated locally to the Waterbury Congregational Church as its collective investments, being slightly more conservative, increased by nearly 20% ($207,252).

Given this good fortune the decision before the church is how to distribute these gains among the portfolio to best support the church’s many functions. Maintaining the church’s physical stature both in outward appearance and its infrastructure is essential if this 200 year old structure is to continue to be used as the important meeting house that it is for its parishioners and the larger community. For this the trustees recommend that 45% of the gains ($93,263.40) be added to the Firm Foundation account. Recognizing that economies ebb and flow and the current bull market will come to an end at some unknown time, the trustees recommend that 45% of the 2019 gains be added to the Endowment account to further strengthen the church’s financial position for when those down economic times arrive. However, in the short term, given the relative prosperity of the church’s current investments, the trustees also recommend the remaining 10% of the 2019 gains ($20,725.20) be applied to the Enrichment fund to further support and enhance the church’s mission beyond its basic and daily needs. Examples of past uses of this fund include youth puppet shows and mission trips for both youth and adults. Distribution recommendation appears in Table 1 (next page) and below.

Endowment: 45% ($93,263.40)
Firm Foundation: 45% ($93,263.40)
Enrichment: 10% ($20,725.20)

Table 1. Illustration of 2019 gains distribution to Endowment, Firm Foundation, and Enrichment  accounts.

FundPrior Balance%Designated IncomeExpensesNew BalanceAllocation of GainsNew Balance with GainsDesired Allocation
Endowment$497,989.8354.20%$0.00-$17,000.00$480,989.83$93,263.40$574,253.2445.00%
Housing$194,733.0421.20%$0.00$0.00$194,733.04$0.00$194,733.040.00%
Firm Foundation$179,010.7219.50%$400.00-$6,680.00$172,730.72$93,263.40$265,994.1245.00%
Amy Bingham$4,639.220.50%$0.00$0.00$4,639.22$0.00$4,639.220.00%
General Enrichment$11,952.301.30%$317.89$0.00$12,270.19$20,725.20$32,995.3910.00%
Somerville$4,526.370.50%$0.00$0.00$4,526.37$0.00$4,526.370.00%
Goodwill$3,594.630.40%$0.00$0.00$3,594.63$0.00$3,594.630.00%
Graves$9,258.981.00%$0.00$0.00$9,258.98$0.00$9,258.980.00%
Memorial$7,500.530.80%$0.00$0.00$7,500.53$0.00$7,500.530.00%
Music Instrument$5,159.470.60%$0.00$0.00$5,159.47$0.00$5,159.470.00%

Budget Proposal for 2020

Approved 2019Actual 2019Proposed 2020
Income
Bertha Joslyn Fund$4,410.00$4,409.00$4,410.00
Christian Education Fund (E. Joslyn)$3,800.00$3,743.00$3,800.00
Donations & Special Offerings$1,500.00$1,352.00$1,000.00
Loose Offering$2,500.00$1,588.21$2,000.00
Pledged Envelope$140,000.00$135,113.31$133,000.00
Rents (Church)$5,900.00$4,337.50$5,000.00
Special Events$9,000.00$10,556.27$10,000.00
Church Endowment$0.00$17,000.00$19,558.71
TOTAL INCOME$167,110.00$178,099.29$178,768.71
EXPENSES
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
Bibles$35.00$0.00$35.00
C.E Director$7,033.23$4,391.60$7,033.23
Children’s Ministry/Camp Scholarships$200.00$0.00$200.00
Child Sponsorship$336.00$364.00$336.00
Curriculum$100.00$203.39$100.00
Curriculum Enhancement$500.00$0.00$0.00
Food$100.00$0.00$100.00
Nursery Attendant$960.00$740.00$880.00
Supplies$200.00$203.43$200.00
Youth Ministry, Workshops, Retreats$500.00$0.00$500.00
Youth Mission Trip$250.00$0.00$100.00
TOTAL CHRISTIAN EDUCATION$10,214.23$5,902.42$9,484.23
DEACONS
Candle Supply$50.00$0.00$50.00
Choir Director$8,117.15$8,116.16$8,947.02
Choir Director Substitute$800.00$0.00$800.00
Coffee/Tea$75.00$113.28$100.00
Communion Supplies$50.00$0.00$50.00
Floral Arts Ministry $100.00$0.00$100.00
Gifts$100.00$222.47$100.00
Guest Preacher Program$300.00$0.00$0.00
Miscellaneous$100.00$75.00$100.00
Music Programs / Supplies$100.00$536.29$100.00
Organist$8,117.15$8,116.16$8,947.02
Organist Substitutes$800.00$200.00$1,000.00
Piano Tuning$350.00$470.00$400.00
Pulpit Supply$215.00$0.00$215.00
Sound System$25.00$0.00$25.00
VT Conf. Annual Meeting $500.00$302.91$600.00
White Meeting House Arts$50.00$0.00$50.00
Youth/Bell Choir Director$0.00$0.00$300.00
TOTAL DEACONS$19,849.30$18,152.27$21,884.04
OUTREACH
Discretionary Fund$150.00$0.00$150.00
Good Samaritan Haven$200.00$200.00$200.00
Local Charity$100.00$0.00$100.00
Mission Trip$500.00$0.00$500.00
OCWM$13,792.29$13,792.29$13,670.15
VT Conf Per Capita Dues$2,405.00$2,162.16$2,405.00
Washington Assoc. Per Capita Dues$143.00$0.00$143.00
VLIAC$150.00$150.00$150.00
TOTAL OUTREACH$17,440.29$16,304.45$17,318.15
PARISH ADMINISTRATION
Administrator$10,845.97$10,900.96$11,008.66
Copier Service Contract$2,000.00$1,704.55$2,000.00
Office Supplies, Paper, Bulletins$1,000.00$890.25$900.00
Postage$200.00$160.00$150.00
Website Admin$675.00$686.34$650.00
Secretary of State$20.00$20.00$0.00
Computer$0.00$0.00$700.00
TOTAL PARISH ADMINISTRATION$14,740.97$14,362.10$15,408.66
FINANCE
Fundraising expenses$1,000.00$564.54$600.00
Payroll Services$880.00$1,509.42$880.00
Bank / Service Charge$50.00$10.00$50.00
TOTAL FINANCE EXPENSE$1,930.00$2,083.96$1,530.00
PASTORAL EXPENSE
Annuity (retirement)$9,109.73$9,883.18$9,255.49
Book Allowance$100.00$220.33$100.00
Continuing Education$100.00$20.00$100.00
Housing$21,808.81$21,808.80$22,157.75
Life Insurance$927.36$881.54$927.36
Salary$43,260.70$43,260.72$43,952.87
Soc. Sec. Allowance$4,977.82$4,977.84$5,057.46
TOTAL PASTORAL EXPENSE$80,284.42$81,052.41$81,550.93
BUILDING ADMINISTRATION
Church Repair$0.00$417.21$0.00
Custodial Supplies$1,225.00$845.04$1,000.00
Electricity$2,500.00$2,315.96$2,500.00
Elevator Maintenance$750.00$500.00$750.00
Fire Safety Maintenance$1,100.00$587.00$1,100.00
Propane$6,000.00$8,081.69$6,252.00
Furnace Maintenance$300.00$300.00$300.00
Floor Maintenance$1,000.00$0.00$1,000.00
Employer Taxes$2,961.96$2,668.16$3,107.02
Property Insurance$5,500.00$5,208.25$5,500.00
Worker’s Compensation Insurance$1,150.00$1,277.25$1,138.00
Rubbish$1,000.00$1,005.18$1,005.00
Phone / Internet$1,761.60$1,776.92$1,762.00
Custodian$4,605.00$3,200.48$4,678.68
Water / Sewer$1,500.00$1,505.36$1,500.00
TOTAL BUILDING ADMINISTRATION$31,353.56$29,688.50$31,592.70
TOTAL EXPENSES$175,812.77$167,546.11$178,768.71
TOTAL INCOME$167,110.00$178,099.29$178,768.71
BUDGET BALANCE($8,702.77)$10,553.18($0.00)

Board of Finance Report – 2019

Board of Finance
The Board of Finance is proposing a 2020 budget which includes giving our five key professional employees a 1.6 percent cost of living raise in support of their continued good service. We are also increasing salaries for our music professionals to bring them in line with salaries for musicians of their caliber in neighboring churches. The budget does not include the funding of any capital improvements or major maintenance projects. The costs of these cannot be accommodated by the normal operating budget funded by pledges, special events, etc. As an example, the $7,000 for the spire repairs in the summer of 2019 was paid for out of the Firm Foundation Fund. A new signboard to replace the current, rotting one out front, will be paid for out of that same fund.

The proposed 2020 budget carries a deficit of $19,559 which is accounted for by increases in expenses while pledging remain flat. In order to balance the budget we will need to transfer funds from the endowment fund to the operating account. Reaching into our endowment is not a new concept. The finance committee completed a historical review of our income over the past 30 years. The record shows that in that time fewer pledges have yielded nearly 3 times more money to support this church. Very generous! However, almost every year we have had to balance the budget drawing from gains in the Endowment Fund. Even with those withdrawals, our endowment fund has increased by at least $500,000 in the past decade . It is the Finance Committee’s recommendation that we include an $20,000 contribution from the endowment fund if needed to balance our 2020 budget. Unless a significant increase in membership occurs, we may need to balance our budget with endowment money each year.

The church held three major fundraisers in 2019, raising a total net of about $10,000. The Finance Committee expects to hold the same major fundraisers: Strawberry Supper, Silent Auction and the Tag Sale for 2020 with a goal to raise $10,000. These events not only raise money and serve to bring fellowship to our members, but give us another chance to shine in this community. If you have suggestions for a new fundraiser, please contact us.

All offerings from the church Christmas Services were donated to the Good Neighbor Fund. This is yet another way the church impacts our community.

Respectfully submitted,

Charles Grenier

Minister of Liturgical Floral Design – 2019

As another year has come to an end, I am looking forward to the new year before us in regards to our liturgical floral designs. I wish to thank all who have sponsored flowers to grace our sanctuary table each Sunday. I have to thank you for giving me the freedom to use my talent and creativity in creating displays for our table and sanctuary. This is a floral designers dream.

Lent Display

As always Lent and Easter is a special event for floral designs in our church and last year was a delightful challenge with modified themes taken from The Four Immeasurables. The themes leading up to Palm Sunday were Forgiveness in the Midst of Suffering, Loving Kindness Radiating in all Directions, Cords of Compassion, Joy! Joy! Joy! and the 5th Sunday before Palm Sunday was Equanimity. Each week had a different sculptural compositions with the same base that continued to Palm Sunday and Easter.

Looking ahead to this year, our Lenten display will be returning to a design concept that I have not done since 1998, a Lenten Garden. This year’s garden will be a contemporary, progressive meditation garden with new elements being added each week of Lent. The end result will be a garden in full bloom on Easter morning.

Our Christmas display focused on the simplicity of four elements; evergreens, red ribbon, three types of cones and red berries. There were over one thousand cones used in our Christmas display. Thank you to all who helped un-decorate the previous decorations and wired cones for our display. And thank you to all who helped take down the decorations and put them away for another year.

In closing, it has been my pleasure serving you as the Minister of Liturgical Floral Design for the Waterbury Congregational Church, United Church of Christ and I look forward to another exciting year in the art of Liturgical Floral Design.

Respectfully submitted,
Ned Davis, Minister of Liturgical Floral Design

Treasurers' Report -2019

The treasurers’ job in 2019 was a combination of smooth work and occasional anxiety when cash flow was such that we did not have enough cash on hand to pay the bills. We worked with the trustees to transfer funds from the endowment to the church account and, of course, paid all our bills on time.

In order to manage cash flow more efficiently, the council has decided to include a line item in the 2020 budget that will allow for income from the endowment when and if needed. Diane and Cindy will be able to request a transfer of funds without having to go to the congregation for a special meeting. If we don’t need the cash, we won’t need a transfer.

In addition to paying bills the job also involves managing payroll, producing finance reports for the Finance Committee and Council, recording all deposits made by the Financial Secretary, reconciling our accounts with the bank, and keeping the check register up to date. As Cindy was gone for three months in the spring, Diane was appointed co-treasurer by the council to manage the work during that time. It is not only helpful having a co-treasurer on board all the time, but it is financially sound practice to have two people managing the books and cash so Diane continued in that role for the rest of the year. We are continuing the practice of having co-treasurers all the time.

We both want to end the report with what we call the treasurer’s mantra: “Your financial support of the church is admirable. Please keep those pledge commitments coming in on a regular basis. Having a clean, sufficient cash flow makes this job doable and keeps our church on a sound financial footing. Thank you all!”

Cindy Senning, Co-Treasurer
Diane Leavitt, Co-Treasurer

Pastor's Report – 2019

My daughter came home from school last week and told me that she had to write a paper on a bible verse, from some book that began with an ‘E’. She said it had something to do with knowledge and grief. Ach, I am regularly chagrined . . . . “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 1:18. I am looking forward to reading her paper if she’ll share it with me!

Ecclesiastes is a curious book, and a good one to read now given the political and ecclesiastical landscape. Many have labeled it a depressing book and they quote — “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity and then we die.” (My paraphrase). But Qohelet (the author) returns again and again to more optimistic thoughts before concluding: “The end of the matter — everything has been heard. Love God. Keep God’s commandments. . .” Qohelet’s overall concern seems to be about being in the real world without giving up. He suggests that in order to be prepared to hope in what does not deceive, we must first recognize all that does in fact deceive and get rid of it; in the end, it’s worth it.

On the political/news front, it’s been a trying year, without much apparent wisdom and certainly with great vexation. Nevertheless, I trust that for you, as for me, this church and all of the lovely people associated with it stands in marked contrast to the vexatiousness of the news. Sure, we have our problems, but we have learned how not to let them become insurmountable because we have internalized this most basic lesson of wisdom: it is a gift, and it is not a gift. It is freedom and it is not freedom. We learn, day in and day out, over and over again, the virtues of moderation, and with moderation, understanding, and with understanding, patience, kindness, humility, and gratitude.

Here are a few things which this past year have been beautiful gifts — the fruits of your loving spirit. First, we have hired a new Christian Education Director! We are so grateful that from our own ranks comes such a qualified, interested and interesting person ready to take on the challenge of telling the old story to our children and making it accessible, interesting and meaningful to them. Lori Morse has been involved in the life of the church since early adulthood. She has served on just about every committee or board there is to serve on and has sung in the choir for that time too. She has led youth groups and been with them on mission trips. She stated during our interview process last October, “My teaching career and my life in the church have both been focused on one thing: the strong belief that people have a responsibility to make the world better. . . [I look forward] to helping the youth of our church understand how to do this themselves.” We are so delighted to have you at that helm, Lori!

Another thing for which to be grateful: for a little over two years, once each month, someone volunteers to go down to the Waterbury Laundromat and help folks, who would otherwise forgo laundry perhaps for another month, get it done. This program proposed on Mother’s Day, 2017, has taken a little while to take off. We weren’t allowed to advertise and it takes years sometimes for trust to develop with this community. But now we serve several families each time. I am wondering, as it continues to pick up steam, if we need to increase our hours! It is a little noticed gem and I encourage you to volunteer for a shift some month.

We continue to be good caretakers of this building, which is an architectural treasure of great historical value to this town and state. It is not inexpensive. But thanks to the wisdom of church members many years ago, we’ve invested good money as the result of a “mini-capital campaign” into a fund, called the “Firm Foundation” which allows us to stay on top of maintenance issues before they become huge renovation projects. Last year saw completion of work on six of our distinctive gothic spires which had been rotting because of water damage. This year, as part of the Main Street reconstruction project, we’ll be replacing the falling apart marquee/sign board and planting new, less unsightly rhododendrons. Again, all paid for out of the Firm Foundation Fund.

No list of the good gifts of this past year would be complete without highlighting the magnificent contributions of our artists: Ned Davis, Mary Jane Austin and Erik Kroncke and our choir members who work hard each week to bring us music brimming with love and joy.  Ned’s creative vision continues to inspire. Thank you all so much!

In the spirit of Qohelet, let me note a little frustration! You will notice a few slight differences to this report from previous versions. Both have to do with the fact that a few of our boards are not fully staffed with volunteers. The most important of these is the Nominating Committee. You will notice that instead of a report from the Nominating Committee this year, you have a Slate of Board Members and Officers, prepared by me. It is a vital committee to have fully staffed so that they can work, to make sure the other boards and committees are equipped with the people who want to do that work and can with the right people around them.

You’ll also notice that there is no Business Administration Committee report. It was a committee of one. Gary Winnie and I did stay in touch about building needs. On one occasion, Gary Winne and I tried (not too successfully!) to power-wash the front of the church. Gary has provided help with organizing spring and fall cleanup, and with helping out with a little oversight during the spire reconstruction — along with Russ Snow who was really the clerk of the works. (All of that construction happened while I was on vacation. Thank you Russ and Gary.)

A new project that I am hoping to see take shape early this year is a volunteer liturgical reader rotation. A few people have expressed interest in being a reader during worship. This reading could be anything from the gathering poem, scripture reading, litany or even a children’s story. If you are interested in being a liturgical reader, please let me know, and I’ll add your name to the list. I have no doubt it will be good for you and me to hear other voices besides mine give fresh expression to our texts.

Speaking of other voices, let me conclude by thanking you for your wisdom. I continue to learn and grow in this community of religious seekers. Many years ago, one of you wisely counseled me to stop fretting about the numbers of people in the pew from week to week. “Do what you know how to do, and let us be who we are, and you’ll be happier.” Yes, we struggle to make ends meet. Yes it is frustrating that we have such good things to offer and they are not being more widely experienced. But I can tell you two things: 1) we are fortunate that the struggle continues to be manageable because of your continuing generosity on the income side and careful diligence on the expense side. Many progressive churches are finding the going more difficult and not a few are closing their doors. 2) I am happier. I delight in who you are and am honored to be your pastor.

“Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to the one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) As I write this, the first day of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump is underway. It’s not fun news to read about in the papers, listen to on the radio or watch on TV. As legal scholar Cass Sunstein, puts it, impeachment is “a national nightmare, a body blow to the republic, even if it is also the best or only way to keep it.” We are a republic — and despite the many differences we have, we will not let our differences make us fail. We’ve invoked the impeachment mechanism only rarely for precisely this reason. So, yes, even here in this sacred space, it becomes our responsibility to be vexed a little and find in each other hope for the future. It is worth it.

Respectfully submitted, Rev. Peter Plagge