Vestry Minutes: March 21, 2022
St. Matthew’s Vestry Meeting
March 21, 2022, 7 p.m.
The meeting was held via Zoom.
Present: Penelope Boardman, Charlie de Kay, Damon Doucet, Curt Nilsson, Molly Purse, Bill Siegfriedt, Steve Steiber, Melissa Warden, Deborah Williams, Bill Widmer
Charlie opened the meeting with a reading from Luke on the prodigal son and asked vestry to consider the question: “What will it take to faithfully live into the call to welcome all in community?” Vestry was asked to respond to the reading with a word or two in answer to the reading in the chat, which informed the second prayer offered adapted from the BCP.
The minutes of the February 17, 2022, meeting were approved with one correction.
Accessibility of Other Local Churches
Corky Siegfriedt shared with the vestry her personal experience navigating public buildings with physical challenges. To see how other churches compared to St. Matthews in terms of addressing accessibility, she visited a couple of local churches. She noted that Trinity Lutheran Church, for example, has easy parking and no exterior steps. The church also has an elevator that serves both the original building and new addition. There is also a large handicapped bathroom near the sanctuary. Northminster Presbyterian is an older building like St. Matthews. It offers a designated handicapped street parking and has an elevator near the entrance that serves all of the building’s levels. Her observations led her to ask how we can make St. Matthews more accessible. Corky explained how currently she is unable to attend weekday programs on the first floor nor access restrooms without help from the sanctuary. She asked whether the diocese might provide funds and encouraged the vestry to assess what we might commit to in terms of enhancing accessibility.
Bill Siegfriedt noted that there had been a proposal in 1990 to put in an elevator in the Hartrey coat room that would make an intermittent stop at the sanctuary level. Penelope Boardman inquired whether the City of Evanston could provide a curb cutaway alongside the handicapped parking space?
Accessibility Options for St. Matthews
In response to this issue raised in last month’s executive session, Damon Doucet had volunteered to look into a workable plan to improve accessibility. In addition to a curb cutout, Damon noted that it might be worth looking into a way to address the sanctuary’s double entry doors to make it easier to enter for those with walkers or wheelchairs.
Damon explained that a hydraulic lift elevator would be cost-prohibitive at $40,000 and would probably raise significant asbestos abatement issues. His alternative plan would place a wheelchair lift, a kind of “baby elevator” that would replace the current chair lift. For a cost of $10,000 to $15,o00 we could use these folding lifts to provide access to all levels. Access to the second floor could be achieved by repurposing the chair lift.
There is also a need to address accessibility to the restrooms on the first floor. Damon suggested that the existing lounge area of the women’s restroom be reconfigured into an accessible, non-gender specific restroom. As far as restroom access downstairs, he suggested that one of the existing restrooms be turned into a non-gender specific, accessible facility. In either case, we should expect increased costs for asbestos abatement.
Vestry members unanimously voiced their strong support for the effort and encouraged that research get underway. Corky mentioned that she believes St. Martin’s church received a grant to make their church more accessible. Steve Steiber offered that the accessibility project might provide a compelling appeal for planned giving. Curt Nilsson noted that in his capacity as an usher he saw the need for a power opener for the big, heavy doors leading into the sanctuary. Charlie felt the timing was right in line with St. Matthews clarification of mission but raised the question of whether our work might preempt our “grandfather” status and open us to a litany of ADA requirements.
Damon will consult an architect well schooled in ADA compliance and get back to the vestry in the coming months with a more detailed proposal
Back-of-Church Improvement Approval
Deborah Williams summarized the findings of two meetings with the congregation about the plan. She stressed the flexibility of the plan and encouraged implementation of parts of the plan with limited expenditures, including removal and reorientation of the back two rows of pews and outfitting the resulting open area with existing furniture. A few questions were raised about where the removed pews would be relocated and whether the votive altar should be added later once the plans for the alcove were developed further.
The vestry unanimously approved $1,100 from the Fran Tennison Angel Fund to begin first steps in the process.
TOOLS FOR MISSION: PARISH BUSINESS
Finance Team Update
Chris Motogawa reviewed the budget spreadsheet, noting that the church is doing very well from a cash standpoint. He confirmed that expenses are in line with the budget. Charlie explained that the rector’s continuing education line item was allocated on a one-time basis to sending James Janssen to the Guild of American Organists convention. Chris will continue to track a slight but not unexpected deficit.
Letter of Agreement St. Matthews/Deacon Terri Morrissey Approval
Charlie explained that the agreement letter was newly developed by the diocese, which recognized that it didn’t have one for deacons. The letter of agreement received full approval from the vestry.
Race against Hate
Noting that St. Matthews had previously been a sponsor for the Race against Hate in 2019, Charlie turned the discussion to Kristin Jacobsen who reported that the Anti-Racism team was eager for St. Matthews to once again become a sponsor of the race. Although there had been discussion for co-sponsorship with other local Episcopal churches in Evanston and Wilmette, it was decided that St Matthews should be the sole sponsor. The vestry voted unanimously to grant the $2,500 needed to do so. Although not a budgeted cost, the amount could come out of the budget according to Chris.
Charlie opted not to go through the report as it was included in the meeting’s packet and there was nothing to add. Melissa Warden inquired as to whether anyone had come to the Ash Wednesday service at 6:00 am and Charlie responded that there wasn’t much attendance.
Charlie offered a closing condensed compline service from the BCP.
The meeting was adjourned into executive session.
–Submitted by Ginny Voedisch