Heard it at Council: July 2023

By Kate Silfen, Church Historian | July 11, 2023 Council Meeting Report

Council gathered for a busy, discussion-filled hybrid meeting on Tuesday, July 11th. Rick opened the meeting with a word of prayer and quoted a line from William Carlos Willams’ “The Botticellian Trees.” Rick noted that while “in summer, the song sings itself,” he offered prayers for our neighbors in the north who are not singing due to the heavy rains and flooding. 

After doing a round of check-ins, Amelia introduced Council members to Old South’s administrative assistant, Alex Pickering.  While Alex has been at Old South for two years, now, they have never had the pleasure of meeting members of Council.  Amelia praised Alex for running many aspects of our daily lives at Old South, and their work has included recording monetary contributions, preparing bulletins, setting up for Jazz Worship, ordering flowers, and keeping track of worship attendance.

Council took-up several items of special business. Leadership Committee Chair David Becker presented nominees for the Grace Speaks Committee and the newly formed Human Resource Committee. Council members voted unanimously in favor of approving these nominees. Ashley had good news to share about some recent hires. Madison Chau will be our Seminarian this fall. She is a third year BU student working on both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Social Work.  Rachel Barton will be Old South’s inaugural Taylor Fellow. She is eager to work with our unhoused neighbors. Rachel will also be serving as our Youth & Young Adult Ministries Leader. In another piece of exciting news, Ashley reported that she is working with June Cooper to plan Middle Passage Sunday. She introduced a motion to approve donating our Sunday offering on Middle Passage Sunday to the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Marker’s Project. Council unanimously approved this motion. 

Rick offered a reflection on his 14 months of ministry at Old South. When he first arrived, Council identified three priorities for the interim period. These included establishing a human resources committee, improving the sound system in the sanctuary and Gordon Chapel, and steering the church back to its pre-pandemic vitality. Old South now has an HR Committee with newly appointed members. A consultant has been working on a set of recommendations to improve Old South’s sound system; Rick expects to receive an assessment and formal recommendations within the week. Restoring Old South’s vitality is a harder question, but Rick does feel that Old South’s member engagement has been stable in the past year. One Council member noted that having one service at 10am has allowed the congregation to re-engage with one another, and that this is helping us restore our pre-pandemic vigor. Rick also noted that the past fourteen months have brought an unusually large number of staff transitions. He offered special praise for John Braught, who has done so much to manage these staffing changes. Rick said that he knew this interim ministry would be a grand adventure and that he couldn’t have asked for better company. He offered that the important, difficult work of the (G)RACE Speaks Committee should be supported and emphasized, as it forms a “locus of our ministry.”

Phil and other members of Council thanked Rick for the gift of his fourteen months with us.  Many members of Council agreed that Old South has been richly blessed by Rick’s presence. Phil said that he has been in awe of Rick’s ability to step into this role with such wisdom, humility and good humor. Rick was entirely committed to our success. Katherine praised Rick for his eager participation in major initiatives such as the Climate Crisis Task Force, the Winter Walk, and the GBIO gathering in June; he was never content to stay in the beautiful Senior Minister’s Study. She gave thanks for Rick’s ministry and blessed the Council with the closing Gaelic Blessing: “Deep Peace of the Shining Starts to you.”