Sight Lines

Happy Fall! This is my favorite season and October my favorite month. There is still daylight after work. I enjoy the palette of colors on my walks in the woods. The water is still warm for swimming and kayaking; the air is cooler, perfect for long bike rides.

And it’s a busy time of year for the church.

Activities associated with the Love Beyond Belief™ program (October 3–7) will dominate the first week of the month. Beth Armstrong is our program manager. The program, led by UU minister Rev. Thandeka, it will provide our minister, staff, lay and church leaders with tools to revitalize congregational life, increase member interactions and participation, and help us to achieve our short- and long-range goals. This is an important event for First Unitarian and your participation and the knowledge and insights you gain can be instrumental during our transformation. So, I encourage you to attend as many activities as you can.

The following weekend (October 12-14), the Transylvania Partner Church Committee will host a series of events as part of Partnership Refresh Weekend, designed to reenergize our relationship with our partner church in Szentegyhaza, Transylvania (Romania). This continues to be an important partnership for us and we need your support during Refresh Weekend.

The external renovations of the church are winding down. The final bill is due at the end of October and thanks to your generosity, we will complete payment on schedule. The hands of the clock are in motion again, and Nancy Weiss-Fried and Fred Jodry are leading the efforts to propose a design and budget to landscape our property.

You may have noticed members of the Prudential Committee looking around the pulpit and sanctuary as if in a treasure hunt. We were looking for three of the four “panic buttons” that were installed as part of our security improvement plans. Sandy Schacht has been working with the staff, members of the Sanctuary Host Committee, our security vendor, and the Providence Police to address our security vulnerabilities. A video camera and recorder have been installed. The basement entry door is being reinforced. We are vetting options to better secure the windows on the ground floor of the Parish House, and members of the Providence Police will be on site to train the staff, ushers, and greeters on how to recognize suspicious activities and persons on church premises. (And, in case you are wondering, that fourth panic button is on a lanyard in the church office.)

Our sound system team is working with a sound engineer to address the myriad of sound problems in the Sanctuary that affect our worship experience. The team includes Kathi Fisler, Roberta Grouch, Ralph Mero, and Neil Bartholomew (chair). Addressing our sound problems will take some time, so I ask for your patience as the team does its due diligence and determines the best solution that meets our current and future needs and is affordable. We are investigating the use of credit cards and other electronic payment options for paying pledges, and work on repaving the parking lot and increasing parking lot lighting will begin soon.

We had a lively discussion during our last Prudential Committee meeting about committees within the four Ministries: How can we encourage more interactions among committees within each Ministry? Should we bring back the Council on Ministries? Most of the discussion focused on social justice. How can we reduce the number of social justice initiatives without volunteers leaving or becoming discouraged? We learned that social justice efforts fall into three categories: advocacy, learning, and service. We wondered whether issues approved by the congregation should carry more weight, and once we vote, do the issues really matter? We reflected on Black Lives Matter and what has and has not happened since we voted. We talked about the impact of doing too much, acting independently, working in silos, and how much more we could accomplish if our resources of time, talent, money, and energy were channeled toward fewer initiatives that support common social justice goals within our overarching mission. Our discussion was illuminating and passionate at times. We made no decisions. The discussion will continue. Enjoy the fall foliage!

John Simmonds
President, Prudential Committee