Wesley Memorial Church Council
February 15, 2022
PRESENT: Pastor Matt Seaton, Rick Hamilton, David Sandridge, Jenette Parker, Rosie Snow, Gabe Alencar, Maury Early, Sue Lewis, Matt Zimmerman, Cameron Pampus, Carolyn Ball, Juliana Piacentini, Monica McCormack, Sandy Staggers
OPENING: Carolyn opened the meeting with prayer.
STAFF REPORTS: Rosie provided the written report for discipleship below. She reviewed the chart also provided as steps for involvement of the congregation and steps for persons to “move along through the journey.”
The covid-19 pandemic as well as the high turnover of pastors over the past two years has of course posed big challenges in nourishing and growing the life of the Church, including Christian Discipleship ministries and small groups. It has been a time of disrupted momentum, but also a time of planting and building – of laying sturdy foundations for ministries that will allow them to grow and flourish in the future. Some examples include:
1. Sanctuary – María gained her freedom last year, a huge accomplishment. The consistent support she has received from Wesley before and after this milestone is substantial. For instance, through grants and fundraising drives, Wesley has helped raise at least $40,000 dollars for the sanctuary ministry since the end of 2020. We continue the slow-yet-effective work of advocacy, and of helping her build a livelihood by aiding her at markets, and obtaining an ITIN, kitchen certification, and kitchen management certification.
2. Garden – The raised beds on our campus have provided produce for María, our neighbors, congregants, and the C-Street preschool the past two years. This year we will move to a weekly-harvest-and-donation model, possibly partnering Early Head Start, and growing our volunteer base with help from the Wesley Foundation.
3. Bible Studies – We have offered bible studies fairly consistently since the fall of 2020, either over zoom or with a hybrid format. The Amos, Lord of the Rings, and Tricky Bits studies I led were especially popular with young adults, with about twenty young adults participating in at least one of the studies.
4. LGBTQIA – We are laying the groundwork for much more robust spiritual and material support of LGBTQIA Christians who have difficulty finding it elsewhere in the region. Our weekly Trans Defense meeting has grown to about three trans folks, plus allies, who discuss Scripture juxtaposed with issues affecting trans people personally and collectively. We have received feedback about how important this group is for community, healing, and spiritual growth. We have also started organizing with other affirming churches and student groups about better outreach to students.
5. Lay Engagement – Many probably do not have a sense of overall lay engagement these days because with the pandemic it is not always reflected in Sunday worship attendance. Currently, about one hundred people are involved in at least one ministry (including worship) at Wesley. About forty of those folks are engaged in 2-4 ministries, and thirty of them are engaged in 5 or more ministries. This is pretty healthy engagement for two years of a pandemic, and puts us in a good place for when things finally do start to open up more fully.
System and Structure Guidance:
Attached is a Christian Discipleship System & Structure chart provided through the UMC website that is meant to guide lay engagement and spiritual growth in all that we do. I’ve filled it out. It may be helpful to read through this when thinking about the future of Christian Discipleship at Wesley, especially when you reach the Lay Leadership Development portion of this report.
Ministry Growth Areas of Focus for 2022
There is currently a dynamic at UVA in which non-affirming Christian groups on campus pull in the great majority of Christian/Christian-curious students. Students spend years in these groups before they find out that LGBTQ+ folks are not affirmed (and in some cases, women are also barred from leadership!) A huge goal for this year is to change this dynamic by the Fall of 2022, and we are already initiating meetings with other affirming churches & student groups to this effect.
We are also currently the only church I am aware of that is providing consistent spiritual and advocacy support for trans people. We should continue to grow this ministry.
We also need to continue to increase our visibility as an affirming Church. Frankly, most of the new people joining Wesley in the past year or so came to us for that specific reason.
Our day and evening Bible Studies, and Sunday Morning Forum, and all in healthy shape. I hope to encourage more members of the congregation to participate in these small groups, and where possible, create a few more small group options at convenient times. Ideally, all members of the congregation should be involved in at least one spiritual-growth-focused ministry, and one service-focused ministry.
Starting in February, we will offer a parent/caretaker/guardian discussion group before worship, with childcare provided during this group and through worship. This will create a space of fellowship and spiritual growth for the families we already have, as well as for those families who are seeking progressive Christian community or are curious about it. Once this is up and running, we will work consistently on outreach to young families in Charlottesville through different means.
Since several of the young children in our congregation are musically inclined, we may also begin a simple children’s choir to contribute to worship at times.
In 2022 there will be monthly Young Adult lunches for fellowship and discussion of faith, following Sundays when the bell choir plays (since several young adults are in bell choir).
We have also met with leaders at the Wesley Foundation about working together more closely. When covid numbers allow it, they will resume their program of offering a snack before our 11am service and then attending worship as a group. They are also interested in volunteering in the garden. In addition, we have newly formed relationships with the student ministries at Westminster Presbyterian, University Baptist, St. Paul’s, and St. Mark’s, and will be cross-promoting and collaborating on student-focused events starting this February.
We need to be more intentional about inviting more young adults into lay leadership.
Our Power Team has been on a fact-finding journey, trying to figure out the best ways to reduce energy use, update our energy systems, and explore solar. Our first step is to switch out old lightbulbs for LEDs. Church Council will soon receive a report with recommendations for our energy systems.
Lay Leadership Development
There is much we can do to encourage greater involvement and lay leadership in our congregants, from the first moments someone connects with us, through to members who are lapsed or minimally involved. Below is a brief outline of strategies to help us grow lay leadership.
Engaging New Folks
We can improve our web presence, spend more time representing Wesley outside the walls of the Church, and improve our signage and church aesthetics to create a good first impression and warm welcome when visitors come. We need consistent greeters. We will mention our connect cards every worship service, and be prompt in following up with new connections
When someone has started attending worship regularly, we will offer a personal invitation to take a first step toward deeper involvement. This can include inviting them to take part in worship, and inviting them to talk w/ Matt about faith and to help them identify ways to deepen involvement. After several months of regular/semi-regular attendance, we will invite the visitor to be a member.
Prospective members are invited to take our new members’ class. We are going to stress more that membership comes with real commitments to service and spiritual growth. All members at Wesley Memorial should be involved in at least one ministry focusing on service/lay leadership and one on spiritual growth.
Minimally Involved Members
We will make direct asks of members who are minimally involved (but have the capacity to be) to lead, serve, and grow in ways that match their spiritual gifts. We will ask lapsed members if they still want to be members, and clarify that going forward we are seeking greater commitments of involvement from members.
Short-term (1 yr)
In the next year, my goals for Wesley are to double the number of young families actively involved in the church, triple the number of actively involved young adults, experience steady growth in membership of any amount, grow the involvement of minimally involved members, grow worship attendance back to pre-pandemic levels or a bit above when safe to do so, have more diversity in our lay leadership, and make Wesley much easier to find and connect with. Fixating on metrics like these isn’t the most important thing to the life and witness of the Church (read Slow Church), but I do feel that these goals are achievable.
Brief note on parental leave
I plan to take two full, consecutive months of parental leave when the new baby is born, so I will be completely absent roughly from April 8-June 8. Additionally, I will take most of my vacation time in June (in part because this is a slower time of year—I want to be fully present in the lead-up to the new academic year through the holidays).
In the coming months I will identify lay members to lead the ministries I am most involved in, while I am gone, including: sanctuary, garden, young adults/evening bible study, reconciling/trans defense, and parents/children. I will make efforts to find leaders who do not typically lead (not the same people who do everything). I will also itemize all of my regular, mundane tasks for the rest of the staff so we make sure everything is covered.
Director of Communications/Office Administrator Report-Monica presented the written report below.
Annual Conference vote on funding mechanism for BSA Settlement
A special annual conference session was held Saturday, January 29, through Zoom webinar. The sole purpose of this conference was to vote on the funding mechanism for the Virginia Annual Conference’s commitment to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) settlement. Details were outlined in a letter from Bishop Sharma D. Lewis on Jan. 21, 2022. After a time of presentations, questions and answers, a vote was taken on a motion brought before the conference by the Council on Finance and Administration. Option 1 was approved which states the entire $988,456 will be paid 100 percent from conference reserves in 2022. Wesley Memorial will not be asked to pay monies towards this settlement.
Developing a Strategy for Communications Planning
This is a four-week, online learning experience through UMCom that I signed up for. During the course, facilitators connect with video workshops, engaging assignments and discussion sessions to help me learn how Wesley can take the next steps toward visioning and implementing effective communication planning. The course started on Feb. 7 and runs March 4 with two one-hour webinars each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and modules to be completed throughout the rest of the week. This is considered a Continuing Education class.
SEO for Website
Wesley Memorial was awarded a grant for Search Engine Optimization of our website. This is not a dollar amount, but rather help from website experts at UMCom. The first thing that they are doing is a full audit of our website and then I will receive a detailed report of what needs to be done on the site to optimize it for search engines. I will also receive some training on how to optimize the site. This is completely new to me and I am excited to learn how it all works. I am talking with the rest of staff at our staff meetings about how we want to be found on the web. What words should we optimize so that Wesley Memorial comes up on the first page of searches? I would love to hear how you would like our church to be found when someone searches. Examples can be LGBTQ affirming, creation care, sanctuary etc.
I took advantage of another UMCom offer of $200 in free merchandise to advertise for Easter -Yard signs, invitation postcards, and a Facebook marketing campaign. Everything has been received and is ready to go.
A meal train was set up for one of the members of our Trans Defense Group. The dates of surgery changed and so it will now happen on March 10th. She feels very supported by Wesley Memorial and very grateful to God for our presence in her life.
Minister of Music Report, February 15, 2022-Cameron provided the written report below.
The handbell choir has been a steady gift throughout the rollercoaster of making music during a pandemic. Handbells have also become a ministry with college students. The choir has been consistent with core singers returned from an absence and a few college students occasionally involved. Singing with masks is an added challenge, and due to the nature of COVID it is likely best that the choir remains on the 'smaller' side. It has been wonderful to add instrumentalists throughout the season including the flute, recorders, and violin.
There is a string quartet booked for Easter. Throughout the unpredictable times we've had, it has been wonderful to work with Linda, and the entire church staff, as well as feel the support of the congregation as we've rediscovered how to make magical music together.
Additionally Cameron will put a message in the weekly email advising people who play musical instruments and who would like to play in church to notify him. There is a new company doing the maintenance on the organ. They are located in Harrisonburg so are closer than the previous company which was located in Baltimore.
MINUTES: the January minutes were approved by council.
David submitted a written finance report. It was noted that we had extra expenses in January, including work on the furnace in the Moosetrap, work on the furnace at the Starnes house, a new water heater for the Moosetrap, a computer for Rosie’s use, and snow removal.
TRUSTEES: Carolyn presented the written report below.
*The LEAP report was received with many recommendations especially regarding insulation. There was also a recommendation to change to an electric heat pump. Of greatest priority was removing the asbestos insulation and an estimate has been obtained from recommended contractor, WACO , Inc and a second estimate from DF Griffin may be obtained. The WACO estimate was $1400 to remove the insulation for 26 feet of pipe. A larger discussion of longer term thinking about the Moosetrap is needed.
*Roger McDonald has installed a “Ring” doorbell system so that staff can be alerted to folks at the door.
* Roger also fixed the area outside the nursery where water had leaked in. Hopefully we won’t have any more leakage and the paint is going to be touched up on the affected wall.
*The Head Start program is still interested in using the nursery space but progress has been slow on their end. Arrangements are being made to clean and paint “Chris’s room”/ the old choir room off Epworth Hall and have it ready to move the nursery belongings to that room when Head Start is ready.
*Carolyn Ball trimmed back most of the liriope and is planning work days every other Saturday for a couple months to spruce up the grounds. Renita cleaned up by the swail and the request to come help work outside seems to have generated some energy.
Discussion followed concerning the needs for repairs at the Moosetrap. The asbestos will be removed from the areas accessible to tenants. Carolyn will list the highest priority needs and associated costs for consideration by council. It was noted that both Starnes and Moosetrap properties were purchased by the church and are rented below market value.
SPRC: Sue provided the written report below.
The SPRC did not meet as a body in February, but did conduct an email poll for the purpose of approving
the addition of Logan Cummings as the new Child Care Provider. Our next regular meeting will be March
8 at 7:00 pm.
NURTURE: there was no report.
Juliana reports the Wesley Now catalog will hopefully be available by Easter.
Maury provided the written report below.
Sunday Feb. 20 Wesley Network meeting By zoom in afternoon
Tuesday March 15* Rally Zoom 6:30 PM
Tuesday March 29 Nehemiah Action 6:30 PM, hopefully hybrid
Maria: Need for folks to help Maria transporting her goods Saturday mornings January- March at the Indoor market at Key Recreation center, 800 E Market St.
Contact Andrea Zimmerman or sign up using https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050549AAA62AA1FE3-hands
There are two programs for helping International Rescue Committee with the Afghan refugees. One is the HOME program where you and your church mentor a family, and the other is the Hotel program, where you can provide some transportation to medical appointments, help once a month on a Saturday afternoon when the book bus comes to the hotel and you shepherd children from the hotel lobby to and from the bus, and provide supplies, even buying shoes for children of a family who needs certain sizes.
I think we could certainly help with supplies. Here are some of the current needs for the 16 families in the hotel situation. (There are 4 families of 10, 3 families of 7, and it goes down to a single man. )
Size 4 diapers and wipes
Shampoo and/or conditioner
Powdered baby formula
Small to medium size bottles of liquid laundry detergent (not large bottles, Moms have to carry them)
Boxes of dryer sheets
Walmart gift certificates
Bolts of clothing fabric
Additionally, it was noted that many families have fathers who are employed, but many families qualify for food stamps which cannot be used to purchase such supplies as laundry soap. The group “International Neighbors” has asked for space to store donations and to use for “shopping” for the families to look at and chose donated items for their own use. Discussion followed about the possibility of using Epworth Hall for this on Saturdays as our parking is full during the work week.
SPECIAL MEETING OF THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE: Matt Z
Matt reviewed the events of this meeting which are recorded in Monica’s report. It was noted that there is a small chance that the plaintiffs in the suit will vote not to accept the settlement.
PASTOR’S REPORT: Pastor Matt
Pastor Matt led discussion of chapters 2 and 3 of the book Slow Church which council members are reading. It was noted that prior to the pandemic we had frequently honored people who were leaving Wesley.
CLOSING: Pastor Matt closed with prayer.