Vestry minutes - August 2021
St. Matthew’s Vestry Meeting
August 16, 2021
The meeting was held via Zoom.
Present: Penelope Boardman, Connie Conley, Charlie de Kay, Damon Doucet, Kristin Jacobsen, Karen LaBranche, Bob Purse, Bill Siegfriedt, Steve Steiber, Melissa Warden, Deborah Williams, Rick Worden
Absent: Penny Whiteside
Present for FaithX presentation: Steve Carr, Mary Frances, Terri Morrissey, Christina Padilla, Ann Searles, Corky Siegfriedt, Jennie Woodring
Charlie opened the meeting with a prayer.
FaithX Demographic Report
Kristin introduced Mary Frances from FaithX. At Mary’s request, Kristin and Charlie summarized the reason the vestry had contacted FaithX: We want to find a focus for our mission that reflects our energy and passion, and to do so we need to better understand the local community we will reach out to.
Mary reviewed the demographic profile generated from FaithX’s data sources (as provided in the vestry meeting materials). Each of the three geographic sub profiles is based on a driving time radius from the church (5, 10, or 15 minutes). In general, the community was characterized as predominately white, consisting mostly of younger families, middle or upper middle class, and well educated.
The group agreed to focus the discussion on the 10-minute radius. The data show that the various age groups are well balanced. The largest age group is 20–24-year-old males, the smallest is 80 to 84 years old, and the median age is 40 years. The population is not growing. There are many school-aged children and vibrant families. Ideally a congregation should mirror its community in age and diversity, but this is not true of St. Matthew’s.
Among the possible issues that emerge from the data are a need for affordable childcare and affordable housing (38% of households spend at least 50% of income on rent). Also of interest is the fact that 40% of households within a 5-minute drive time do not own cars, and 30% within a 10-minute drive time do not own transportation. Poverty is low but still there for 5,600 households. Of concern is the fact that 10% of homes are vacant.
Vestry members were asked to identify points that particularly struck them from the data presented:
· The population skews younger.
· Data from the 5-minute and 10-minute radiuses are quite different; there are more households in poverty within the larger radius, and 30% do not own a vehicle.
· Does the number of children in the schools’ free or reduced-price lunch program reflect the high cost of childcare and/or housing?
· Are the disparate groups well represented by median figures? More granular data on race, age groups, and income would be useful.
· Is there any information on time available for charitable work and/or the distinction between daytime and evening lifestyles?
· How do we make church important enough that people will make time for it?
Kristin asked: What do we focus on first? What is the most important information from the report? Mary responded that in general the needs do not jump off the page for our congregation. The pieces that do jump off the page are:
· The lack of generational and racial diversity (i.e., vital congregations look like their community). We could ask young families about their spiritual life and what they look for.
· The high cost of childcare. Who are the people who are paying so much for rent, and why? We could talk to a school principal to better understand the needs of students in the free or reduced-price lunch program (e.g., a need for backpacks with food for the weekend).
Melissa stated that data on regular church attendance would be helpful. Who is inclined to go to church? Mary replied that declining attendance is occurring across all Christian denominations, as well as in Jewish groups. It is a broad cultural trend extending to all types of membership organizations. There is a question as to how many people will come back to church after the pandemic, although livestreaming capabilities will provide access to those who cannot attend in person.
Mary stated that the question is not “How can we get people to come to our church?” Instead, it should be “What will attract people? Does our church care about and participate in its community?” Churches do have the capacity to thrive. For example, a Lutheran church in a sleepy farm town revitalized the entire community by opening a coffee shop, a childcare facility, and a brewery.
Mary will put together a proposal for a deeper analysis of the data.
ACTION: The minutes of the July 19, 2021 meeting were approved as submitted.
Report on mission passion meeting
Melissa showed a chart generated from a recent meeting, in which the top nine ideas were plotted into a matrix to show the cost-benefit ratio of each. These ideas are oriented toward meeting the needs of our neighbors and community. The meeting participants were invited to join tonight’s meeting for the FaithX presentation. Melissa particularly likes the idea of asking nearby school principals what their students or schools need.
Vote on signing petition of support for District 65
Kristin stated that the antiracism task force has endorsed the petition, which was sent to vestry members earlier. She believes our endorsement as a religious organization would carry some weight in the community. St. Mark’s and other religious organizations have signed on.
The subsequent discussion included these points:
· The petition may be essentially meaningless because it addresses a legal matter that is for the court to decide.
· The intent of the petition is to support the curriculum.
· The petition is similar in intent to an amicus brief in support of one side in a legal matter.
· Support of the petition technically could affect being accepted for jury duty, but this is highly unlikely.
· Although some vestry members do not live in Evanston, the action would be taken by the vestry of St. Matthew’s, which is an Evanston organization.
· One member abstained because they felt empathy for the teacher at the center of the lawsuit.
ACTION: A motion to endorse the petition as the vestry of St. Matthew’s was made, seconded, and carried with nine affirmative votes and one abstention.
Counting/welcoming at 11 am service
Bill reported attendance of 25 people (or screens) at the August 1 Zoom service. When we begin livestreaming it will be possible to get a more accurate count.
Tools for Mission: Parish Business
The committee is meeting this week and will address concerns about virus spread in the indoor space. It is likely that proof of vaccination will not be required but that masking and social distancing will be required. The vestry will be asked to help set up before the party and clean up afterward.
Charlie asked the vestry members to be present to bid Susan and Don Cherco farewell at approximately 11:30 am during the Zoom service on Sunday, August 22.
Charlie closed the meeting with a prayer.
The meeting was adjourned into executive session at approximately 8:40 pm.
Submitted by Deborah Williams