Vestry Minutes - April 2021
St. Matthew’s Vestry Meeting
April 19, 2021
The meeting was held via Zoom.
Present: Penelope Boardman, Connie Conley, Charlie de Kay, Kristin Jacobsen, Karen LaBranche, Bob Purse, Bill Siegfriedt, Steve Steiber, Melissa Warden, Penny Whiteside, Deborah Williams, Rick Worden, Allison Zidek
Charlie opened the meeting with a prayer.
ACTION: The minutes of the March 15, 2021 meeting were approved as amended.
Discussion: Living into our new mission
Charlie opened the discussion by reflecting on living into our mission, based on Jesus’s teaching to love our neighbor.
Each vestry member responded to the Lenten “Stories from the Front Lines of Ministry” series, which featured different ministries within the parish: “Feeding the Hungry,” “Music and Art,” “Caring for Creation,” “Welcoming the Stranger: Refugees and Immigrants,” and “Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself: Antiracism.” The focus was on areas of particular energy and their relationship to our mission.
· Much of the energy is around antiracism activity. The St. Matthew’s–St. Andrew’s Pentecost antiracism team is doing immigration work with an antiracism focus. Attendance at the Lenten programs indicated strong congregational interest in this area and the arts.
· Our congregation likes helping people. Many of the same people attended all of the events. In the future, an intergenerational focus might bring in more parishioners.
· The takeaway message from another recent antiracism event was that racism is not to be viewed primarily as the problem of people of color but instead as the problem of the majority/white population.
· Helping people is an expression of the Christian life. It’s a matter of living with intention.
· A recent Krista Tippett interview pointed out that the term “diversity” implies the existence of a norm or separation. We are called to feed one another, not “them.”
· During the “Feeding the Hungry” program, one person stressed the importance of welcoming and caring for those who attend the weekly St. Mark’s–St. Matthew’s soup kitchen. People feel blessed to be there. As a pre-pandemic volunteer at the soup kitchen and homeless shelter, I was at least equally blessed to be the company of those we served.
· I love being a mentor for a high school student. During the Lenten programs, I was interested in learning about the St. Mark’s–St. Matthew’s lunch program and in hearing the passion around music and the arts as well as the green team’s zero-waste commitment. I’ve been reading on antiracism topics and have found much to learn. We need more insight into how much time parishioners are able to devote to mission-oriented activity.
· The limits to our resources lead to the need to focus our mission.
· I was interested in all of the Lenten program areas. My heart is in reaching out to people, without a particular goal in mind. The discussion of the lunch program touched my heart. If I had to choose a ministry, it would be that of feeding people physically and spiritually.
· I see antiracism not as a potential mission but as a personal and congregational responsibility. We can be allies in antiracism efforts without stepping on toes or venturing into cultural appropriation. Whatever we do must be intergenerational.
· In the arts session, there was a passion for what the choir members do. We need to fit their work into the overall mission. With respect to antiracism, there is arrogance behind the word “tolerance.”
· I have a lot to learn about antiracism. From the “Traces of the Trade” video, I learned that New Englanders such as my ancestors greatly benefited from racism.
· I’m reading a book by Corrie ten Boom about her World War II resistance, which was based on her confidence that the answer will come from God when people need help.
· We must look for Jesus in everyone.
Guest presentation: Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act
Phyllis Kravitz and Jeff Green of Citizens’ Climate Lobby described the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763), a bill before the US House of Representatives that would impose a fee on carbon emissions and return the fees to taxpayers in acknowledgement of the hidden climate and health care costs of fossil fuels. Jan Schakowsky is a sponsor, and Dick Durbin has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. The presenters stated that to encourage passage, representatives need to know that the bill is endorsed by faith-based and other constituent organizations. The national Episcopal Church has issued a statement in support of the bill.
A motion to support the bill was made and seconded. During the subsequent discussion, it was pointed out that the separation of church and state provision in the US Constitution forbids the government from favoring a particular religion but does not discourage a faith-based organization from taking an action that might be perceived as political. Several members expressed a need for more information. The motion was tabled for a few days, during which Kristin will distribute relevant information and organize an email vote on the motion.
ACTION: The motion to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act was carried with seven affirmative votes and two abstentions. The vote was conducted via email and reported by Kristin on April 26.
Sponsorship of interfaith service
Charlie reported that the Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church and a leader in the local interfaith community, has asked St. Matthew’s as well as other congregations to cosponsor a community service at the conclusion of the George Floyd murder trial. This action would entail the vestry’s public endorsement and participation. The service is envisioned as a time for prayers for healing and moving together toward justice and peace. Such services have been held before, usually at moments of grief. The subsequent discussion emphasized our role as an ally in moving toward justice and peace.
ACTION: The motion to become a cosponsor of the interfaith service was made, seconded, and carried.
Tools for Mission: Parish Business
Kristin’s original request was not sent to all vestry members and will be re-sent. All members have been assigned one group with which they will meet about focusing our mission. These liaison assignments may change in the future when we start keeping in touch with groups at St. Matthew’s.
Welcoming: Counting and reaching out at the service
Allison counted approximately 60 attendees during the Easter Sunday service on Zoom. Several of the names were unfamiliar, and she reached out to these people.
Rector’s report: Return to in-person church
Charlie commented that parishioners have displayed resilience, creativity, and grit during the past pandemic year and that these qualities will continue to be important as we focus on our missional identity. We must identify our core purpose in the world. This does not mean that other ministries will disappear, but their emphasis may shift toward the mission.
In response to survey results, we will begin offering a 30-minute in-person Eucharist on Sundays beginning April 25, as the weather and pandemic conditions allow. Reservations will be required. To resolve a time conflict with Don Scott’s class, the service will begin earlier than previously announced, probably at 8:30 am.
Birthday and anniversary card project
Penelope reported that there has been little feedback on the project since it was initiated a year ago and that its value seems questionable, especially in light of the expense of printing and postage. Several vestry members expressed a preference for continuing to send cards if they could be made more personal. There was informal agreement to discontinue the project at this time, with thanks to Penelope for spearheading it.
Charlie closed the meeting with a prayer.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:58 pm.
Submitted by Deborah Williams