Category Archives: Communications and Evangelism

Posts for the Communications and Evangelism Ministry

C&E: Early report on Racially Diverse Families

Most of the attention of C&E over the last couple of months has been given to the development of the Pilgrim Encounters: Racially Diverse Families event that was held in the parlor on October 25, 2014.

We had originally planned for 100 people to meet in the dining hall for an all-day event that included lunch. When our registrations indicated that we were not going to get that many folks and that we had only a couple of youth signed up we decided to shorten the event to just the morning.

We had a bit more than 20 present. It was a really good discussion that was strongly supported by the presence of the photo display, “Of Many Colors.”

We have crafted and distributed a survey to evaluate the event. We will report further when we get those results.

Mark

New Communication Strategy

Meeting of the Communications and Evangelism Ministry on June 22 recommends to the Council the adoption of a new communications strategy. The details and rationale for the new approach follow.  The bottom line is that:

Each person in leadership at Pilgrim is asked to consider what information about the area of their responsibility is important to communicate to the friends and members of Pilgrim and to give a commitment to what they will communicate and when.    Specifically: when will articles for the various communications strategies of Pilgrim [newsletter, bulletin, Web site] be presented to the church office,  and who will be responsible for getting this information to the office?


Rationale and Details

We have been clear for a good many years now that we need to have a robust web presence if we are going to get the message out in this new Internet age.  We have a Facebook page, a Web page, and we have an email service that can do lots of great things for us.  We are in a position to get our tell our story.  We have everything but content.

We have tried taking turns posting to the Facebook page and I have routinely offered to help get content onto the web site.  Nevertheless we still sometimes go a few weeks without anything new.   We need content.

Valerie has to beg for articles when it is time to produce another Pilgrim’s Progress.  We are about to scale back the printed newsletter in favor of more web-based content, but this only means we have a problem without a deadline to motivate people.  We need a clear strategy which makes it clear who does what and when do they do it.  This strategy will not be able to rely on the staff to do most of the work.

  1. Each person in leadership is asked to make a commitment as to what should be communicated to the congregation and the community, when it should be published, and who will write it.  This means that the Officers and the Chairs of each of the Ministries will determine what information it is important to share with the Congregation and will prepare a calendar or other schedule of when they will have material for the web site.  Thus the Treasurer may commit to a report every quarter and Member Care may commit to report one month before major events.  The professional staff will also identify what and when they will have content available.  The Pastor will have sermons to post but also other reflections.  The Office Manager may have news of other organizations that are sent to her for publication.  But each person will decide for themselves what they will report on and when.  We each set our own deadlines.
  2. Each week or two the Pastor will determine the content that should be promoted and will notify the e-Newsletter editor who will put out the email.  As soon as the content comes into the office it will be posted to the web site (or folks can just post it themselves if they want).  Once each week or two the whole congregation will get a newsletter by email which highlights the most important stories and offer links to more information on the web site.  The decision about which content to highlight will fall to the Pastor.
  3. Part of the production of the e-Newsletter will be the inclusion on the Facebook page of the relevant articles from the web page.  When the e-newsletter editor (currently Mark but Valerie will be trained to take this over) creates the email he or she will also post articles to the Facebook page.  [These may be spaced out so they don’t all land there at the same time and they may include other social networking.]
  4. At times determined by the Pastor and Office Manager, a printed newsletter will be prepared and mailed combining the most relevant content from the web site with a calendar of coming events.  For those who want something on paper that comes in the mail, Valerie will produce a document by cutting and pasting from the web site and by printing out the calendar.  We will not do any fancy layout with this so it shouldn’t take but an hour or two every other month or so.

Putting on the Mind of Christ

I am really excited about the insights and energy I brought home from the five-day meditation retreat I attended a couple of weeks ago. It was a deep immersion into a Rinzai Zen Buddhist tradition as expressed within the Hollow Bones Order under the leadership of Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi. I am inviting you to join me in conversation about this event and possible implications for the future of Sacred Soup. Unless we have too many express an interest it will be at Joan’s and my home at 6454 Alamo Ave., 63105.

We will gather at 6:30 and at 7:00 I will begin by sharing details of the retreat and its immediate impact on me. A part of this presentation will be my interpretation of the 13 koans that provided a structure to the teaching content of the retreat. A koan as you may know is a statement, usually in the form of a question, that challenges how we normally look at the immediate reality of our experience. In this regard they are similar to parables.

Then we will take a short break for refreshments and in the second half of the presentation I want to explore some implications for the Church broadly, for Pilgrim Church in particular, and for Sacred Soup most especially. Let my show my hand just a bit here by saying that I was keenly aware during the retreat of two important observations. One was that the structure of the retreat was a powerful vehicle for supporting spiritual insight and transformation. The second was that I know of no parallel in the mainline Protestant Church of which we are an expression. I kept finding myself wondering what such an event would look like if we were speaking, not the language of Zen Buddhism, but the language of Progressive Christianity?

If you are interested but unable to attend on that evening, please let me know and I will look for an alternate time. If you are interested and able to attend, please register by following this link. I ask you to register so I have an accurate count and so we can notify everyone if we should need to move it to a larger space.

Honoring our resources

Meeting after church on September 19, we had the fourth of the four conversations sponsored by CnE to consider ideas that Pilgrims have for revitalizing the church.  We discussed the resources we have been given by our forebears focusing especially on the building and the investments.  We lamented that the Ministry of Building and Grounds chose to meet at the same time and thus those persons were not able to attend this discussion.

With regard to the building: we also noted that the Council has voted to suspend any further conversation about moving out of our building.  We can’t sell what we have for anything close to what it is worth to us.  We don’t have another place to be.  It costs us a lot, but so would another building.  We do have some prospects for sharing the building with organizations whose mission is compatible with our own [as with Afriky Lolo’s interest in using the third floor] so we may well become better stewards of what we have.

We continue to see a need for a Facilities Management Committee.  It has been dormant and would need a refreshed mandate from the Council to begin to function again.

With regard to the investments: we appreciate the willingness of the Woman’s Association to come forward and make grants for specific purposes and we understand that well has a bottom.  We don’t want to do with any of our investments what we did to the Kitty Murray Fund and spend it down without a clear sense of purpose or direction.  We note that we could access even restricted endowments with the right legal intervention, but we are afraid that is both a temporary solution and a statement that “we are only buying time… in fact, we are really dying.”

We would feel much better about raising the necessary money by doing a capital campaign.  We think having a specific list of projects and programs which are clearly aimed at revitalizing the church would get a strong response.  Most of those things we identified had to do with cosmetic or structural changes that can be easily seen [replacing the front sidewalk, painting the front doors, sealing and striping the parking lot…] but we also noted that some of the funds should go to supporting specific programs that will reach out to and touch those around us.

 

Worship Space

Since acquiring Big Boy, the matter of the wobbly modesty panel has become more pressing.  We will need to make a couple of decisions very soon.  To expedite the decision process I want to offer a suggestion.

Renovation of the Chancel and Sanctuary can be done in at least three steps.  The end result is intended to be a beautiful space that invites and supports the kind of use that we envision at Pilgrim for the next many years.

The sanctuary as it presently stands is very similar in design and function to the original building from a century ago.  It was built to host people sitting in pews and hearing music and accompaniment from a glorious pipe organ.  Contemporary musical expression in worship involves many more instruments.  We want to continue to care for and enjoy the organ, but we also want to make space for other instruments.

At some point as we included a piano in the chancel we changed the south modesty panel so that it could be moved.  We have needed to move that panel as we have swapped out pianos and sought the right instrument for the space.  We have just secured a marvelous piano which will not only provide gloriously for our worship but will also attract other music to our auditorium.

One of the reasons that this piano is so much more appropriate for our big hall is that it is big. While it fits in the space for the piano, it makes an already tight space even more cramped.  We need to expand the space to allow room around the piano and to make room for other instruments.

The most immediate way to make more room is to remove the modesty panel.  While it is heavy, it can be moved.  But moving it creates other problems.

  • If we remove it from where it is there is an exposed part of the riser that is open and ugly and the floor under where the panel is now is not tiled like the rest of the platform.
  • If we remove the south panel then the chancel is out of balance with the north panel.
  • Without the panel we won’t have a place to hang the pine rope in Advent.

There are a couple of other structural issues that impose themselves on this consideration. One is that the current placement of the choir doesn’t lend itself to being engaged with the musicians, especially with Fred O.  Not only are the modesty panels a physical barrier, they pose a psychological one as well.  Additionally, the choir doesn’t face the congregation.

The other is that the sanctuary is showing its age.  The wood is finished in a style that was very 50’s and doesn’t match the rest of the sanctuary.  The carpet is stained and worn and the tiles are cracked.  At least with the tile we have a fairly simple and solid alternative.  Under the tile is oak flooring.

Considering all of this I am recommending a process in three steps.

Step One: Remove both modesty panels and place them out of the way in the narthex.  They won’t really be in the way there and we can replace them in the chancel if we decide we don’t like the change.  We will need to craft a small wooden panel to cover the exposed end of the piano riser.  All of these changes can easily be undone.  If we decide we like them, we can then consider the next steps.

Step Two:  Remove the interior pews from the chancel and take out the lowest riser.  [The back pews and the higher riser would remain.  They form the wall on either side of the chancel and to remove them would be expensive.]  Remove the tile from the floor and steps and have the hardwood floors refinished.  Refinish the “pickled” woodwork to match the rest of the sanctuary.  This would be relatively inexpensive as it doesn’t require new construction, only the refinishing of what is already in place.

Step Three: (if we decide to go forward) would include repainting the sanctuary, replacing carpet, perhaps relocating pews and even moving the lectern and pulpit.  This would more dramatically change the design of the room.

We should move quickly on this.

 

Connections

My notes of the meeting on 8/29/2010 for CnE about how Pilgrim connects to which other organizations.

We began with a review of many of the relationships we enjoy with other organizations.  They are with

  • other UCC churches and institutions,
  • other religiously based organizations,
  • other public benefit corporations, etc.

In addition to specific local congregations, there are easily a hundred associations or corporations with which we have had some interaction around a shared interest.

A small number of these are formal affiliations in which we have elected or appointed representation.  These are delegates to meetings or people who represent Pilgrim on Boards or committees of other organizations like UCM.

Mostly the connections come from individual members who have an interest in the activities of a given organization, attend meetings, or supply Pilgrim with information about the organization’s activities.  In some cases the interest also drives a donation from Pilgrim through the work of the Community Partnership Ministry.

Clearly there are many more organizations which we have common interests with than we can support or even follow closely.  We must set priorities.  There are a couple of ways we do that.

  • We elect representatives to help us connect to certain other bodies [like Union Council,]
  • We vote money into the budget to support certain organizations [like OCWM,]
  • We ask Community Partnership to provide leadership in our support by authorizing them to use their budget according to their discretion, and
  • We invite members to promote the activities of organizations they support through announcements in PP and in worship.

Some aspects of this system are working about as well as we can expect them to.

  • We have delegates to meetings of the Association and Conference.  We recruit members to serve on the Boards of UCM and Union Council.  We really have to do some arm twisting to fill those positions.  It is not likely that we are going to get more members to come forward for those sorts of tasks unless the organization in question is one the member has some passion for.
  • We set budget numbers for the big ticket items and allow CP to make smaller decisions on our behalf.  This allows us to be intentional as a Congregation and still have some flexibility to respond to the needs of the community as they arise.  We are not likely to come up with more money anytime soon.

If we are going to do much to clarify and intensify our relationships to other organizations, we probably won’t do it by appointing delegates or funding projects.  The only resource it seems we have not fully tapped is the enthusiasm and creativity of our members.

During the initial stages of this conversation we heard from several people about their ideas for what we “should” be doing. Paul Sonderegger has a vision of a program for families in the neighborhood who have young children and are looking to do family activities that communicate and teach spiritual values.  Mark Barnett thinks we should be more active around improving the quality of education.  Sara Coffin is concerned about food insecurity and sees options for a more robust community garden.  Velma Hunt is concerned about the physical security of the neighborhoods and thinks we can build stronger alliances with municipal workers.  These are all excellent ideas which are completely consistent with Pilgrim’s mission as I understand it.  But how are we going to get these off the ground?

Let’s look at the project Paul initiated–which I have taken to calling Second Saturday–as an example of the problem.  The project was named in these conversations and is aimed at reaching out to our neighbors so it seems to fall to Communications and Evangelism, but it is a program that looks more like something Christian Education would do.  So who owns it and how do we keep from stepping on each other’s toes?  Who will staff it?  Is this something that the new CE person will administrate?  Who decides?

I don’t think we want members going off on their own to create programs in Pilgrim’s name without some clear lines of accountability, but we also don’t want to stifle people’s enthusiasm and creativity.  What this suggests to me is that we can up the voltage on these sorts of projects by:

  • Actively engaging each other about just where our passion for ministry lies.  Can we make it an assumption of membership that we are each called to ministry and can we make it a task of the church to identify, support, and authorize that call.
  • Building an incubator for ministry such that members can identify other members with similar passions and interests and can build constructive alliances.
  • Clarify the administrative process for getting a project authorized by the Congregation so that everyone knows they will be supported and how they can collect that support.

This is not something we have in place at this point.  If we were to create it, who would make it happen, and how would they get the authority to do so?

 

 

Conversation Framework

There are several issues which Pilgrim should be addressing over this next year. They include:

  • Identification of what we are doing or could be doing and prioritizing them in a manner that everyone can participate in.  That is; we want anyone who so chooses to be part of the prioritization process so that, no matter what we decide, everyone can feel a sense of ownership.
  • Christian Ed issues: we are without a director and we are short of lay leadership.  We should figure out what we have energy for and what we believe is most in keeping with the Pilgrim mission and put our chips there.
  • Building issues:  We have a parking lot that needs striping but should first be resurfaced.  We have front steps that are going to collapse into a void beneath them.  Plaster is falling from the ceiling in the sanctuary.  Not all of the AC’s are working.  We need tenants but we can’t act quickly enough to respond to requests for building use to close the deal.  The Facilities Management Committee has crumbled.
  • Worship issues:  We have a new sound system and are making more use of the projector each week but the projection doesn’t have enough power to show video.  The placement of the choir has it singing to the wall rather than the congregation.  We are sitting scattered throughout the big hall.
  • Financial Issues:  we are falling bit by bit into a greater financial crisis even as we have huge endowments.   It is possible that we can tap into the endowments but we should have a clear set of policies in place if we do so.  We could do a capital campaign.  We could go after grant money.  We could restructure the staff again.
  • Outreach and Evangelism:  We could be reaching out in new and different ways.  We can create content for the web and really work the Facebook page.  We can establish a program of spiritual nurture for families with young children or for young adults without kids.  We can develop and promote a concert series or a lecture series that creates traffic for Pilgrim.

 

C&E 3/28/2010

United Church of ChristCommunications and Evangelism met after worship in the Library and reviewed this new site.  The feedback was mostly positive.  We decided on a series of actions including:

  • We encourage all committees and ministries to identify a member to be responsible to publish information about the group to this site.  Each meeting should have some form of report.
  • We will train those persons in the use of this site and will gather computers to use as a sort of “computer lab” for the training.
  • We should turn off comments by default so that they are only on for those posts that are designed to get member feedback.  In that regard, only those registered and signed in will be able to post comments.
  • There will be a link in the member section to a document which lays out how to do a post so that those who do it infrequently will have a place to go to for guidance.

We did not set a next meeting date.

Communication and Evangelism is developing a new web site for Pilgrim

A major thrust of C&E’s work this year is on enhancing Pilgrim’s Internet based communication. In line with this we are completely overhauling our Web Site. You can follow the redevelopment by logging on to PilgrimUCC-Stl.org.

My daughter, Lee, is a 30 something graphic designer who does extensive work on the Web. She doesn’t attend a new event or even go to a new restaurant without first checking out its Web Site. She is typical of today’s young urban professionals. When she is posed a question she can’t answer she whips out her iPhone and looks it up.

The current Pilgrim Main Page, (http://www.pilgrimuccstl.org, the same as the new one except for the dash) is a static page that is cumbersome to edit. As a result, it almost never changes. We can add information about a new event but then we have to remember to go and change it as soon as the event happens so the page isn’t out of date.

The new site will be one to which everyone is invited to contribute. Anyone who has author privileges (strangers and spammer will not be able to add content) will be able to go to the site, log in with a unique username and password, and then add a post to the site as with a blog. The author will set the category for the post which will determine where on the site it will appear. Each Ministry and Committee will have its own page and news for those groups will appear there. There will be a calendar with links to entries about the events so that, for example, the calendar entry for the Mother’s Day Breakfast will link to an invitation for men to join the preparation team. Every time you go to the site it will be different as new events arise and Pilgrims add posts and comments to each other’s posts. It will be a vibrant way to see what is happening for Pilgrim.

There is no substitute for being in the physical presence of others. We will never find looking at a screen to be as intimate as looking into another’s eyes. Passing the Peace will never be a matter of sending someone a tweet on Twitter.

Still, while we don’t live in the same physical village, we are in the same virtual village. By maximizing the ways we can be connected electronically, we can minimize the barriers to human interaction. Instead of handing an audio tape to someone who is physically unable to attend worship, that person can go to our site and see a video of the sermon. Instead of only telling a friend about the upcoming Service Sunday, we can send them a link and they can see details about what will happen and pictures of last year’s event. We can harness the tools of modern communication to reach out to each other and the larger community to tell them what Pilgrim is all about.

Mark Lee Robinson, Secretary