Why the Pastor Voted As He Did, Part 1

Why the Pastor Voted As He Did, Part 1

Before the Annual Meeting, one of our leaders mistakenly thought that as a staff member, I didn’t have a vote in the proceedings. Haha — typical UCCer: trying to disenfranchise and otherwise disempower the clergy. We, the ordained, are so big and bad, you know that we’re actually a threat to congregational democracy!

I explained patiently that UCC polity requires us to hold membership in the congregations we serve (as opposed to Presbyterian clergy who are not members of their local church, but set aside as members of the Presbytery), and as such, we have all the other rights (and a good deal of extra responsibilities, but we also get paid) as other members.

After the meeting, it occurred to me that maybe it would have been better, had I not had a vote!

In case, you didn’t notice, I voted against the motion to change the agenda in order to decide up or down on the Approach suggested by the Renewal Team. It turns out that many did notice, and told me so later. And then people saw that I abstained on the actual vote for or against the Approach. It’s not exactly that I lost my head. Rather, I was in the moment, and voting what I thought was best. Ok, maybe I did forget that people watch to see where I stand.

So, let me clarify:

I am deeply thankful for Geneva’s leadership and for the rest of her Renewal Ministry Team’s faithful and productive service. I believe they covered an amazing amount of conceptual “territory” and property detail in order to provide us with a very sound approach to our capital campaign property work. I actually think “money invested vs. the mission effectiveness” equation they articulated is should be applied to all we do in ministry.

Their task was to come up with a practical way to move ahead in light of the cost of needed work on our property being many times more than our available resources. They suggested we balance the money we dedicate against the ‘mission usefulness’ of the service it will make possible for us. As I said, I think that’s a helpful… no fundamental! …formula for evaluating all ministry: are we getting the mission bang for our bucks we need, or should our money be used in some other way?

Why then was I against voting for their Approach?

Because, from many discussions over the last few weeks, I knew, people were just getting their minds around the Renewal Team’s proposal. And I worry that misunderstanding and / or inadequate support for this way forward could down the road come back and “bite us.” Even the vote to amend the agenda only passed by a little better than 2 to 1. And Mark W.’s two questions, for example, about 1) there needing to be alternative space for classrooms, service camps and offices if we didn’t have the Fox and CE buildings as such, and 2) about whether or not the 1810 Fox building could be altered or demolished… while both right on, concerned me — our leaders have not had the opportunity to explain all the questions and issues — many of them as yet unanswerable — or share all the information they have, however, clearly foreseen as needing to be part of any investigation into the possibility of alternative uses of the 4th Street parcel.

Thank God, I do feel confident that after the Annual Meeting, everyone present was clear that we will investigate — only look into and gather information on… no decision near yet being made — whether or not the parcel roughly comprised by the front and back parking lots, the Fox and the CE building might not be used in some way to better provide for our mission.

In other words, despite my voting record, I agree completely with the Renewal Team’s conclusion — that the limited effectiveness of the spaces provided in the Fox and CE buildings, both because they are too many small and unalterable rooms stacked in multiple-story inaccessibility — make too much investment of our even more limited renovation and maintenance dollars inadvisable. Therefore, we should investigate alternatives for those buildings or the land on which they sit. And with that decision, the way is cleared to focus our initial efforts on the Sanctuary building.

In other words, my nay vote and my abstention were not because I’m unsupportive of the Approach we passed. I just thought that since we’re not “shovel ready” on any of the projects, perhaps a few more weeks to make sure everyone at least understood, even if we didn’t end up all on the same page, would be good for the community moving forward and not delay us significantly.

Now, the Elders at their Feb. 8 meeting will take up creating two Ministry Teams:

~ one to take the work of the Renewal Team to the next step, translating the items on Project List # 1 to an order by which they should be undertaken and to the degree of detail that will translate into work plans and vendors; and
~ another one whose task will be to figure out how to investigate possibilities with the Fox and CE Buildings and the land along 4th Street.

It was not spoken of, but perhaps the Elders, in light of the Approach approved, also need to prompt the Capital Campaign Committee or some other group of leaders to begin thinking about how we as a congregation can begin raising more money for the property work we have set our sights on.

And in next week’s E-pistle, “Why the Pastor Voted as He Did — Part 2,” I will try and raise a sensitive issue based on the Renewal Team’s formula — monetary investment verse mission effectiveness.

See you in church,

Michael