South Acton Congregational Church

Developing Our Vision

LENT 2017

For Lent 2017 SACC tried mindfulness during worship. This included silence at the opening, Taize-style music, sermons that were sometimes scripture and silent reflection (Lectio-divina) and sometimes a short opening and then silence. For communion we tried sitting in silence, and sitting with music. We also did a praise/thankfulness walk with singing for the offering.

Seven people responded to the survey, some folk liked the Taize style music, the lectio divina sermons, and the sermons with explanation and then silent reflection.
No one liked the offering, and 5 disliked the call to worship.

1 of the seven would be willing to do these things if they would be
attractive to new folk.

In general comments from the seven were that people did not like it, prefer traditional worship, and don’t want change. People loved the prayer flags and other art that was up around the sanctuary.

 

Full results are here.

January 29 Annual Meeting

We approved the budget for 2017 with Liz at full time until March 31 (since her contract was for a year) and then 80% time until the end of her time. This allows for a balanced 2017 budget.

For our new pastor, after much discussion, the community unanimously approved drawing funds from the investment fund in order to have a full-time pastor for at least five years. The feeling was that we can “get by” with a three-quarter time pastor; the additional twenty-five percent time is for revitalization and outreach activities. The goal is that the pastor will guide us so that we can be more present in the community. The search and interim teams suggest that SACC spend one year doing one of the revitalization programs with the conference during the first year of the new pastor’s tenure.

Summary SACC decision making history

November 13 we did a history of financial decisions at SACC.

Here are things we do well in decision making:

  • Putting together inclusive committees
  • Large group creates committee, committee acts, then we regroup
  • Getting outside help from UCC and other resources

Here are things we could do better at with decision making. (Note the point was made that on really big decisions we do well. These are concerns about items that are medium sized decisions or that seemed like they wouldn’t have huge impact.)

  • To have more open discussions that a decisions is going to be made and to use strategies 1 and 2 above for more decisions.
  • No top down solutions
  • To be sure we’ve considered the ramifications of any solutions
  • Generally need more transparency:
    • Dissemination of information about decision
    • Summaries of how decision was made and what was decided
  • Publicize Agendas and Minutes of Meetings
  • Present ideas about solutions before final decision is reached.
  • We all need to read more of the information that is sent out. More people need to be included in decisions.
  • Find a way to highlight the high impact information
  • We need a clearer vision of what the path is ahead.
  • We need more implementation steps and to do better at implementing ideas.

Handouts from that meeting are coming soon.

 

*****

October 16 we met with Betsy Waters and discussed our passions and what jobs we may want our pastor to do.

Summary SACC New Pastor Discussion October 16, 2016

The interim team has continued to gather information from congregation members that will inform the Search Committee as it creates our church description and seeks a new pastor. In turn, this information lets prospective pastors know our congregation better. 

Thirty people recently met after church and discussed what church activities we find energizing and that we feel passionate about participating in. Twenty-three filled out the passion survey. We discovered that our most beloved activities were giving financially to the church (by a wide margin) and the SACC Movers. These were followed by participating in leading worship, hands-on missions work, and serving as lay leaders. These are our strengths as a community. 

Conversely, we found little energy or appetite for communication (within or outside the church) or creating programs to reach new people. What this tells us is that as we seek our next pastor, our Search Committee (on our behalf) should pay particular attention to filling those gaps. We can seek out leadership that will help us to step up and do the things we’re good at and learn to do the work of the things that we currently are not energized by. This empowers us as a church community to thrive as a whole.

Here is a link to the full passion survey results.

We then divided into groups to identify the jobs of a Pastor. A half-time pastor plans worship, basic preaching, and does pastoral care for emergencies. We then defined what we’d want in the next quarter of a job. All the teams had similar desires in that first category: More time to provide excellence in preaching, a few hours of open coffee shop or office hours, four hours a month in formation activities for youth or adults, and some sort of outreach work. There was quite a variety in the view of what that outreach work should be.

There was a large variety of ideas of what the remainder of the pastor’s job should be–several groups prioritized supervision of staff, others focused on creating more creative worship, some want the pastor to focus on outward communication, social media and newsletters.

Some groups identified specifically that outreach should be toward families with children, others simply said that the pastor should be working on leading us to create outreach events. A few groups also identified that the pastor should be doing additional pastoral care, beyond emergencies.

Here is a link to the job description results.

*****

In June we looked at the Summary and identified where our priorities are in terms of improving our inward and our outward work.

Summary SACC VISION DISCUSSION June 5, 2016

INTERNALLY People were most interested in

  • Potluck dinners (14 people)
  • Youth Mission Trip (9 people)
  • Bike Rack outside church (8 people)
  • Create strong social media presence (8 people)
  • (un)Talent show (7 people)
  • Book Study Groups (6 people)
  • Paid Nursery Help (6 people)

INTERNALLY the things with at least 3 people to make it happen

  • Potluck dinners (9)
  • Youth Mission Trip (3)
  • Book Study Groups (3)
  • More green building efforts (energy audit, etc.) (3)

OUTWARDLY People were most interested in

  • Community Suppers (14)
  • Efforts against gun violence (13)
  • Reach people who aren’t religious (13)
  • Heifer Project (10)
  • Adult Mission Trips (8)
  • Build walkway and garden to The Center (8)
  • Existing missions (NEADS, A friend in need, NAMI, etc.) (8)
  • Encourage individual outreach (8)
  • Expand SACC movers (8)
  • Habitat for Humanity (8)

OUTWARDLY the things with at least 3 people to make it happen

  • Community Suppers (4)
  • Adult Mission Trips (4)
  • Efforts against Gun Violence (3)
  • Build Walkway and garden to Center (3)

ALL THE DATA IS HERE.

*****

In April and May we had circle discussions answering the questions: What do we love about SACC? What is our vision for SACC? and What are our Obstacles to reach our vision? Here is a summary of what we said. At our June 5 Visioning gathering we will prioritize the answer to our Vision.

Summary SACC CIRCLE DISCUSSIONS April/May 2016

STRENGTHS

Faith: Whatever your beliefs you can feel comfortable. Sharing the faith. Not talking about should or past, but here and now. Having God underneath, not distant. Religion is no longer something else. People asked to say what they felt, not what they heard. Ministers: people of the congregation. Live the teachings of Jesus Christ not preaching about bible. Stimulates me to think about my faith. Open mindedness. Brings me closer to God. The power, meaning of prayer. The inclusive language. Spiritual Sermons. Feels good to be here. Real emotional connection for real difficult things. It’s holy. God as interaction between people.

Community: We live our values not just talk about them. The enthusiasm.

         Familiarity/Family/Comfortable: Being community, family, teachings of Christ. Choir camaraderie. Young kids involvement. These are my brother sister mother father aunts and uncles.

         Care for each other outside of Church: Meals if someone is in need, touched by the number of people who volunteer. Almost everyone has been a deacon;  nurturing, caring. Compassion, love forgiveness. When people have hard times, people come through for them. We can be ourselves, and be emotional and feel our emotions, and others feel theirs at the same time.

         Radical Welcome across differences: Many different education abilities. The extravagant welcome that happened before it was a catch phase.

         Learning from each other: Learning as we go along, there are things we don’t like, but stay together. Sharing problem solving together. Pulled into leadership.

Giving to Others/Outreach:  SACC Movers, so generous. People give so much time, energy, effort. Real help for being moved. Until I did it I didn’t get how useful it was. So tangible, concrete. Youth mission trips, hearing from youth. To take the faith outside these walls. Paying the UCC Mission

Joy: Laugh when things go wrong, or in a sermon, feels natural not shocking. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Its fun here. We laugh a lot. We have something vibrant here. I enjoy it here, and that the process is moving along.

Small Groups: where people can talk more seriously and with humor about various issues. This makes a deeper sense of community in coffee hour. The richness of substantial connections. Sermon Discussion groups.

Worship: Embrace new orientation, but awkwardness to moving around. Children are included in the service. Sharing the faith. Hearing from different people. Things can go wrong, and DO, and that’s ok. We can be ourselves.

Leadership: People stepping to new roles. We have filled open positions. A lot of people do a lot.    

OBSTACLES

Too Few People

         Missing Young Families: Need families with children. When young families come there is so little to connect to. We don’t have someone in the nursery.

Low Numbers: Concerned that we are losing people. Small is good, but some people we only know superficially. Nametags would be good, if people would wear them.

         Low Leadership Numbers: Not enough people to fill key positions in your church. Most of us already wear multiple hats. Gotten rid of so many committees. Trying to do things by ourselves is a problem.

Communication/Technology: We are hampered by lack of technology, and electronic presence in the world. What we have here on Sundays is precious and we need to find a way to extend it beyond the four walls. But in this century it is done electronically. We don’t have that. Social media presence, online giving, engage young families.

Too Insular/Not Enough Outreach: We are more insular, don’t reach out as much. Bring God to people in ways beyond Sunday service. We have wonderful groups, but don’t promote enough. A committee needed on getting our story out in the news. We need to do things that draw people now. God is different than when we were young. Spirituality Center. Another outreach is habitat for humanity.

Not Enough Money/Resources: Limited resources. Not enough discussion of money.

Worship: Not enough formality and tradition. Sharing the faith is the most powerful component of worship that we have. Miss the organ.

Church is less a priority in people’s lives: Religion is not as central to people’s lives today. There are many alternatives to worship on Sunday. Mainline Protestantism is decreasing, even evangelicals. But people are still seeking God. We need different ways.

Not Enough Small Groups: Book studies.

VISIONS

Dreams of results

Ordained Leadership: We’ll find the right pastor. Have a settled pastor available evenings. A pastor who is open to all spiritual paths.

Lay Leadership Seeing leadership grow. Using talented people who have skills. New ideas, new personalities. Vibrancy from participation. Using consensus.

Community: Be real that we are interested in getting involved, not telling others what to do. Doing ministry with each other, rather than to another person. We go out and show love then we are doing what Jesus has taught us. More radically inclusive. Build more connections.

Less Pressure on People: Make sure we don’t stress people to have to do more. Permission to sit in the pew and be who we are. A place to sit and be with God.

Grow our attendance numbers/Grow ourselves: More families, more children. It was so full. Love kids running around during coffee hour. Greater involvement.

Continue On: I keep hoping we’ll continue some how. SACC is terrific and does a great thing. Our call is to keep doing that.

Children • Calling to the children more. • Paid nursery help. • Make a place for children to grow in love. • Be on the radar of people who are younger. • Youth in church on Sundays.

 

External Things we can do
You will be asked to identify up to 4 of these as a top priority. We likely will choose just one.

Do More Outreach and Mission

         Connect to South Acton: • More identity with South Action. • Community suppers. • community ministries that expose what we do here at SACC.  • More community outreach. • Expand SACC movers to people moving into Acton • Open House and Community Dinner

         Social Justice Activities as a Community: • Effort against gun violence.  • public witness. • Adult mission trip. • One day mission in Dorchester.  • Focus on missions the congregation supports. • Lowell clean-up.
• Habitat for Humanity. • Expand SACC movers • Reach families and adults with special needs/disabilities, mental and physical health challenges.

         Individual Social Justice Activities: • Church prepares for what we do in our lives, rather than to do things as a church. • Daily lives of outreach; church pulls us together. • Have a rule of thumb everyone does something for church outreach.

Contribute to World Wide Mission: • Special offerings • Heifer project • Speakers
• Continue and communicate existing mission giving

 

Center for Spirituality

• Extending ourselves to people who aren’t buying into religion. • Another spiritual space in the building • Inviting, sacred place, outside, with a bench. • Build the walkway on the right.

 

Internal Things we can Do:
You will be asked to identify up to four of these to prioritize. We likely will do just one or two.

Adjust worship service More people do Sharing Time. • Separate sharing your faith from liturgist • Youth in church on Sundays. • Create quiet time within and/or before worship • More traditional hymns • More organ • A way to feel like you are participating on Sunday when not here (podcast? Online? Recording?)

Adjust worship space  • Move the choir and the piano into back corner to make a higher location for the music. • Make the sanctuary flexible, chairs?

Build more sense of community

More Full Community activities: • (un-)Talent Show Potluck dinners.  • Community Meals • Coffee houses • Music/Dance performances

         More Small Group Activities: • Sermon discussion. • Bible Study • Book study • Learn more together.

Fix Physical Things we need: • Fix organ • General Upkeep • More green efforts (energy audit, energy efficiency, washing cups, etc.) • Bike rack • Fix windows

Clarify our Faith Story

Improved Communication Within and Without • Photo directory. • Photo bulletin board with names.Be present online, Social media. • A way to feel like you are participating on Sunday when not here. Podcasts. • Communicate who we are to outsiders more effectively • More effective calendar to know what’s happening.

Youth/Children • Youth mission trip • Youth group • Paid Nursery help.