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Governance Board Open Forum FAQs
What has the Governing Board been up to?
After our first few months together, we are pleased to report that the new model has been working well and is moving us towards the vision of streamlined decision-making, clear lines of authority, and most of all promoting agency and action at the committee and ministry team levels. In addition to getting our feet underneath us and handling our fiduciary and Disciplinary responsibilities (including a significant amount of time dealing with the legal claim brought against the church), the Governing Board has focused on several open questions which are vital to the congregation and ministry efforts underway at Asbury First. We have paid special attention to how the pandemic has shifted our mission and ministry as a congregation. Similarly, we have focused on how to honor our commitments to diversity and inclusion, both on a local and a denominational level. Additionally, we have provided oversight for the Finance, Pastor Parish Relations, Outreach Center, Property Stewardship, Investment, and Nominations Committees, all of whom have been doing outstanding work. If you have specific questions that you’d like for us to answer at our Open Forum, please submit them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When will we return to our pre-pandemic worship schedule?
We are carefully monitoring the changing realities of the pandemic and doing our best to make decisions that consider the health and safety of all. Thank you for your patience. We are so grateful to finally be worshiping together in person again, but we also recognize that not everyone is back. Our current plan is to continue with one service at 11 am during this fall, after which we will reassess.We also recognize that this last year has permanently changed the way that some people will worship with us, and we want to be open to adapting to the new reality faithfully.
How has the Rev. Jackie Nelson's position changed?
In August, the Rev. Jackie Nelson accepted a new position as the Director of Student Support Services and Coordinator of Spiritual Care at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. The good news is that the Rev. Nelson did not leave us fully! Jackie graciously agreed to stay on in a very part time capacity (5-10 hours a month) in a new re-imagined position we created called the Minister for Social Justice. While she does not have regular weekly pastoral responsibilities, she continues to provide pastoral leadership to our social justice ministries, be a monthly presence in our worship, and preach occasionally. We are so grateful that we will remain in ministry together.
Are we planning to fill the Minister for Outreach position?
Yes! However, because outreach is such a vital part of our mission and ministry together, before we hire a new person, we first want to make sure that we understand all of the staffing needs of outreach in the present moment. This is particularly important as we begin work on the new Outreach Center. To that end, we are currently working with representatives from our Outreach Center Committee as well as the Mission and Service teams to assess our needs
and plan for our future outreach staffing needs. We have already met several times and are in the process of
Do we still have volunteer receptionists?
Yes! Some have already returned and we anticipated others returning soon. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Deb Bullock-Smith at email@example.com. We are also looking for volunteers that might be willing to sit at the welcome desk in the Welcome Hall during the weekdays to help monitor flow and direct people appropriately.
What happened to the trustees?
The Governing Board serves as the official trustees of the church. Most of the traditional tasks of the trustees, which include managing of the fiscal and physical assets of the congregation, is committed to the Investment Committee and Property Stewardship Committee of the Board. Those tasks not delegated to these committees remain with the Board.
What's the difference between a team and a committee?
The traditional and often lost meaning of the word “committee” is “those to whom work has been committed.” In any healthy congregation, there should be very few committees and many more teams. Committees serve a specific purpose in aiding the Board with making policy. Their primary function is to prepare reports for the Board so that it can better articulate policy. Teams are the life-blood of the congregation and are the place where ministry happens. Any group whose main function is something other than a report for the Board, is a team. That said, many teams interface with committees frequently (consider the way the Storehouse or Dining and Caring Center teams interact with the Outreach Center Committee), and are no less important than the articulated committees, but their primary role is the carrying out of the mission and ministry of the church, not recommending policy or providing reports.
What are the Committees of Asbury First?
We currently have six committees of the Board: Finance, Property Stewardship, Pastor Parish Relations, Investment, Outreach Center, and Nominations.
When will we receive another Visitor?
Thank you for your patience in this unprecedented moment. We are glad to have had regular weekly emails with updates about various aspects of the life of the church, slides with information during our Sunday morning worship, and several issues of “The Visitor @ Home” during the pandemic. Now that the office has re-opened and volunteers are beginning to return, we are looking at how we can continue to send print materials to those that prefer them. At the same time, we recognize that the cost of printing, preparing, and mailing the Visitor bi-monthly to many who prefer a digital medium is not good stewardship. As with so many things right now, we are in the process of re-envisioning the Visitor in light of the changing needs of the congregation. Stay tuned for more!
I prefer updates in the mail, what do I do?
We are happy to send our weekly email updates (along with other digital communiques) out via the US postal service. Simply let us know and we will add your name to our list (you can call the office or email firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are attending worship in person (or know someone who is), know that we have begun printing all weekly emails and leaving copies at the welcome desk and entrance to the Gathering Center for those who might like them.
How was our Director of the Outreach Center hired?
Working with our Minister for Outreach, the Outreach Center Committee created a job description and posted it on several local job boards. They received more than three dozen applications, conducted phone interviews with twelve, in-person interviews with eight, half-day marathon interviews in our outreach ministries with three, and then unanimously decided to hire the Rev. Pat Dupont.
Is the Rev. Pat Dupont related to the Rev. Rachel Dupont?
Yes, they are married.
How is the Rev. Rachel Dupont's position funded?
The Rev. Rachel Dupont’s position is made possible through a special gift from the Petherbridge family in honor of Shirley Petherbridge. The Petherbridge family first came to Asbury First through small groups and her family felt that a gift toward this special effort would be a wonderful way to honor Shirley’s life. While the gift covers most of her salary and benefits, the small remainder was able to be covered by the overage in our budget caused by the forgiveness of the PPP loan earlier this year.
Can the Rev. Rachel Dupont stay beyond this year?
Having already seen the amazing work that the Rev. Dupont is doing within our small group ministries and recognizing that one of the greatest needs coming out of the pandemic is connection and re-connection, it is our sincere hope that the Rev. Dupont will be able to stay beyond this appointment year. Our plan is to add her position into the 2022 AOP (budget) and encourage our community to support this vital ministry.
How can we help care for the congregation at this time?
The pandemic has been hard on all of us. The pastoral staff has done their very best to reach out and stay in touch with our members and community, but we recognize that we have unintentionally missed people along the way. We could use your help in reaching out to people and sharing the love of Christ with them. If you learn of needs that we could or should be addressing, please let us know.
How many times has the Governing Board met since its formation?
Since the approval of the nominations slate by the Church Conference in January, the Governing Board has met seven times.
How was the Governing Board selected?
As per the Discipline, the slate of seven nominees for the Governing Board as well as the six standing committees of the church is selected by the Nominations Committee and approved by the Church Conference (we hold ours in January).
Who is on the Nominations Committee?
Paula Kuempel, Jessica Burdick-Giordano, Patti Crawford, and Beth Rice. As required by the Book of Discipline, the committee is chaired by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady.
When does the Governing Board meet?
The Governing Board meets on the second Monday of the month.
What communication has come from the Governing Board since it has begun meeting and how does it intend to communicate moving forward?
In this organizational year, the Governing Board has worked hard to try and understand our role and to design a sustainable and transparent process for informing and receiving feedback from the congregation about our work. Thank you for your patience. In addition to our recent letter by US mail to our full congregational list, we have created a permanent presence on the church’s website where we hope to regularly post updated information and respond to frequently asked questions. Our prayer is that the Open Forums will become a regular means by which individuals can share their thoughts on how we are living out our mission and vision together and weigh in on the open questions we face as a congregation. Additionally, we have created a permanent email address email@example.com where people can share their questions and have them answered personally, on the FAQ section of the website, or in the next Open Forum.
Can anyone attend a Governing Board meeting?
By Discipline, our meetings are open except when in executive session (discussing certain personnel, legal, or financial matters). If you are interested in attending a meeting as an observer, please let us know. If you would like to speak at a meeting, please be in contact with the chair about getting on the agenda. Currently our meetings are still over zoom.
Is it true that the church is being sued?
Yes. As was announced in an email on June 9, 2020 (the day that it was filed), a claim has been filed against the church under the Child Victim’s Act dating back to 1975 and involving the Senior Minister at the time, the Rev. Dr. Raymond Fedje. Due to the ongoing nature of this lawsuit, we regret that we are not able to share more information at this time. As soon as we are able to share more information, as advised by our legal team, please rest assured that we will do so. In the meantime, we ask that you continue to pray for the survivor and for the leadership of this congregation.
Will there be members of the Governing Board leaving this year?
Yes. At least one member of the current Governing Board will be stepping down this year to make room for a new voice. As per the Discipline, the new nominees to the Board and committees will be put forth by the Nominations Committee and voted upon by the full congregation at the Church Conference.
How are members of the Governing Board engaging with members of the congregation?
In addition to serving on the Governing Board and at least one Board committee, every member regularly attends worship and participates in the life of the church from volunteering for outreach to being a part of class meetings, to serving on the altar guild. Each of those experiences affords our Board members regular connections with members of our community.
What changes to the Board Policy Book have been made since its approval in December 2020?
This being our first year in this new model, we felt it important to live into the new reality before we make major changes. We have noted the concerns and questions that a few raised prior to the vote on this model and fully intend to respond to them with updates in the future.
What is the Board Policy on the transparency of its actions?
We are committed to transparency as a Board. This is why we are hosting an open forum and dedicated a permanent section of our website to Governance reporting, questions and concerns.
What has been the role of the Board in staff changes this year?
All processes regarding staff transitions outlined in the policy book and dictated by the Discipline have been followed this year. The Governing Board oversees and speaks into any hiring of the pastoral staff (as well as a few key roles like Church Administrator and Director of Music Ministries) and delegates the responsibility of the management of rest of the Asbury First staff to the Senior Minister. When there is a change in the budgeted amount for any staff position, it is brought to the Board for a review of the missional and financial implications and for approval. To that end, we approved the special appointment of the Rev. Rachel Dupont for the year and created a new very part-time position for the Rev. Jackie Nelson. Every other staffing change fit within the framework of the 2021 AOP.
What decisions have been made by the Governing Board this year that would have been made by the trustees in the past?
The Governing Board, as the formal trustees of Asbury First, have handled the receipt of bequests, the approval of investment policies, the management of legal matters, and set policies for capital improvements. The Property Stewardship Committee handles most of the capital improvement recommendations and the Investment Committee handles the oversight of our endowment.
When can we get a new directory?
Thank you for your patience! With a transition into a new database system and the pandemic, we have been delayed in getting a new directory together. We are working on it now and hope to have it available as soon as possible.
If we have questions or concerns about a particular situation in the church, is the Governing Board willing to listen?
Yes! That is why we are hosting these open forums, creating a permanent section of our website dedicated to Board and committee updates, and have an email address where people can share:firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, any of us stand ready to speak with any member of the congregation about any concerns they might have, as does any member of the staff. We are only a phone call away!
With the construction of the new Outreach Center beginning at 1010, is there a place for the Fifty Plus Fellowship to meet on Sunday mornings?
Yes! When you are ready to meet again, we are ready to help you find the place that works best for you! The same is true for any other group that is ready to begin meeting again.
Looking forward to 2022, what do you see as our goals and what will be the "new normal"?
This is why we are hosting the open forum (and plan to do so regularly)—to discover together who God is calling us to be in this new creation. We know that we will need to invest in new connections, re-establish previous connections, and support the work that our Outreach Center will allow. We want to return to a more regular worship schedule, renew our youth and children’s ministries, support our adult classes, and find ways to enhance our communications. At the same time, we will be responding to the changes in the denomination, the continued reality of the awakening to racial injustice of the last couple of years, and finding a way to speak into the brokenness of our world as disciples of Jesus Christ. The only way we are going to be able to do it is together.
Are we getting rid of Sunday School classes?
No. We continue to have Sunday School as always. We are adding new small groups calledClass Meetings through the Discipleship Project.
Have there been any COVID-19 outbreaks associated with worship at Asbury First?
To our knowledge, there have been no COVID-19 outbreaks associated with worship at Asbury First. We continue to remain diligent about mask wearing and ask for people’s continued patience as we try to find our way through this moment.
When will we ratify the votes that we took over the last couple of years?
Because there is no Disciplinary provision for virtual voting, all of the votes we have taken over the last year (December 2020 and January 2021) during our two official Church Conferences will need to be ratified the next time we are back together for an official in-person Church Conference. The next scheduled one will happen in January of 2022 with the specific date still to be confirmed with the District Superintendent.
How is income/pledging tracking to expenses/budget?
Our financial position remains strong as a church, though not without its challenges. Our income is a little lower than we anticipated for this point in the year (roughly $70k lower than budgeted through September), though within a reasonable margin of variation on a ~$2.2M budget and not entirely unusual. This deficit may well be made up for by the end of the year (that is often what happens), but it could also represent the lingering effects of the pandemic. We created the budget with the assumption that we would be back open more fully by June and, therefore, would begin to receive plate offerings and special gifts similar to years past. We also anticipated more space usage income than we have received. The delta variant and the delay of our full return has limited those anticipated income streams. On the expense side, though we have had some unexpected expenses related to maintaining our live stream, we have seen savings in other areasand expect to end the year on track. Overall, we continue to be grateful for the faithfulness of this congregation and want to remind you that every gift matters! We will continue to update you over the next couple of months and encourage everyone to pledge for 2022!
Have we selected a contractor for the Outreach Center?
Yes! We are very excited to announce that we have selected DGA Builders LLC as the General Contractor for the Outreach Center. DGA is a Rochester based firm with over 40 years of experience in commercial construction management. They have done extensive work on religious and historic structures, as well as projects at places like University of Rochester. Their church work includes St. Paul’s Episcopal, Incarnate Word and many others. The Building Committee were all very impressed by their organization and detail of their presentation.