February 2019 Update
A Change in Seasons: Though my southern heart longs to see signs of spring budding by late February into early March, I know it is too early for that here in the City of New York. Still, the days are lengthening and so far predicted snow storms have mostly resulted in rainfall accumulations rather than snowfall depths. Though winter still holds, we know spring is coming. Just so, it is a turning of the season for The Brick Presbyterian Church in this time of transition. January and February have provided time for reflection and writing among the Mission Review Team. They are still working diligently to put into words, graphs, and charts all that we heard and learned this past fall through Town Hall gatherings, interviews with staff, committees, and groups within the church, and from interviews with “outside constituents,” too. We have been reminded of the benefits reaped by engaging in an intentional review of the church’s ministry and mission. We can see the importance of future strategic planning as you and your next Senior Minister identify priorities and set goals for the next era of your life together.
The Mission Review Report: The Mission Review Team will present highlights of the Review to the Session at its February meeting. The full Mission Review Report is scheduled to be sent to the Session for discussion and approval at its March 13 meeting. Also at the March meeting of Session, our Presbytery-appointed liaison from the Committee on Ministry will address the Session. We are delighted that our liaison is Elder Sharon Davidson from our neighbor church, Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Sharon served as the liaison for the Transitional Search Committee and will continue in her role, assisting the Pastoral Nominating Committee upon their election. Once the Mission Review is approved by our Session, it will go to the Presbytery Committee on Ministry for approval in April. When approved by both bodies, the congregation is free to elect the Pastor Nominating Committee.
Will We Get to Read the Mission Review Report? Yes! The Mission Review Team looks forward to sharing the full report with the congregation. Copies will be available and we will also hold several opportunities to gather for conversation as well.
The Pastor Nominating Committee: In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a committee “representative of the congregation” is elected by the congregation and charged with the responsibility of searching for your next Senior Minister. Currently, the All Church Nominating Committee is receiving your nominations for persons to serve on the PNC as well as for members to serve on the Session, Board of Deacons, and as Trustees. While much attention is focused on the Pastor Nominating Committee (and understandably so), the officers you elect this year and next will be those working closely with your next Senior Minister in his or her first years with you. Please prayerfully consider serving and/or nominating others.
Timeline for Election of PNC, Elders, Deacons, and Trustees: If all of the steps above go as planned, the congregation will elect its PNC and officers at the Annual Meeting of the Congregation to be held immediately following worship on Sunday, April 28, 2019.
Spring is a glorious time of year! It is not mere coincidence, but is also theologically significant, that only one week after we celebrate Easter, we will also joyfully elect a PNC and officers to lead the church forward. The PNC will begin its work in the season of resurrection and new life.
Grace and Peace,
December 2018 Update
Advent is the season of waiting and preparation for the coming of the Messiah—not just at Christmas, but also at the end of time.
We do a lot of waiting—and New Yorkers impatient at waiting do a lot of honking! As late as 1775, the most exhaustive English dictionary contained no word to describe the act of waiting in line (what the British call a “queue,” for instance). Today, waiting in line is a given. An IBM study on “Smarter Buildings” tallied the cumulative time that office workers spent waiting for elevators during the past 12 months. New York City topped the list (16.6 years), followed by Los Angeles (8.7 years), Chicago (9 years) and Houston (6.8) years! In the post-World War II boom of workers and high rises came the idea to place mirrors at elevators to distract us from waiting. The Houston airport received so many complaints about the long wait at baggage claim, they hired more workers and reduced the wait time, but the complaints continued. They discovered it took only 1 minute to walk from the arrival gate to baggage claim, but took 7 minutes for the luggage to arrive. Their solution? They moved the baggage claim farther away! The complaints stopped. People were walking, not waiting. Researchers note:
- Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time.
- Waiting alone feels longer than waiting in a group.
- Uncertainty about when the line will end and/or perceiving the line as unfair affects your experience of waiting.
- Waiting is worse when there is some anxiety involved.
The Brick Church is in a season of waiting. We are occupied with important matters: the Mission Review; attending to stewardship, budget, and staffing needs; and reviewing our church rolls for accuracy. In this waiting, we are not alone—God is with us, and we have one another. Though waiting inevitably involves some uncertainty or anxiety, in early 2019 the Mission Review will be completed. The ACNC will seek nominations for the Pastor Nominating Committee and for new officers, too, who will work with the new Senior Minister as a new chapter for Brick begins.
In the meantime, the church continues to thrive. In 2018, we named a new Beadle, a new Clerk of Session, and elected the next Director of the Brick Church School. We received 75 new members—49 through New Member classes and 26 through Confirmation. We celebrated 33 baptisms and 8 weddings. And our police precinct estimates this year’s Park Avenue Tree Lighting ceremony was one of the largest ever with over 5,000 people in attendance despite the rain!
In a sense, the church has always been waiting. First Thessalonians, the earliest letter in the New Testament, begins with Paul encouraging them thusly: For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known… For the people report…how you turned to God…to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus…(1:8-1).
A blessed Advent and Christmas to all,
November 16 2018 Update
November is indeed the month of Thanksgiving and there is so much for which we may be grateful—the colors of fall that came a bit later this year, but came nonetheless; warm homes on a cold day or night; the love of family and friends; meaningful work to do and times for rest and joyful distractions, too. I wish for all of you a Happy Thanksgiving next week.
November is also a month of continuing transitions here at the church. Some of the transitions underway are welcome great news. After Lydia Spinelli announced her retirement last May as the Director of the Brick Church School, a Nominating Committee was appointed to identify a new Director who would start immediately following Lydia’s tenure at the end of June 2019. After months of a careful and thorough search process, the Nominating Committee, composed of both Session members and Day School Board members, enthusiastically recommended that Amy Warden be named the next Director of the Brick Church School. Their recommendation went to the Church Session and to the School’s Board, with both bodies unanimously supporting the Committee’s recommendation. When the faculty and staff of the school were given the good news, they jumped to their feet with a standing ovation and cheers! The church staff soon followed suit upon hearing the news. Amy has served as the Assistant Director of the Brick Church School for five years. She is known and respected by current and former parents, by school and church staff, and by community leaders as well. We are excited that she and Lydia now have these months ahead for smooth transition as we celebrate Lydia’s amazing leadership and dedication for three and a half decades—and we await with joy a new era of leadership with Amy Warden’s vision. The dynamic and healthy relationship between the church and school continues.
The Women’s Association 75th Christmas Fair was a rousing success and all went smoothly thanks to the Fair Chairs, the Women’s Association Board and Shannon Froehlich’s steady, accomplished, and cheerful leadership as the WA Interim Coordinator in their own season of transition. The Mission Review Team continues its important work of listening and interviewing and reflecting on your comments and suggestions.
A more difficult, less welcome transition has also taken place in the staff of the church. This month three positions were eliminated due to significant budget constraints. Elders and Trustees have been grappling with a budget shortfall for several years and together we are committed to making appropriate course corrections. After reviewing all staff positions, it was clear some restructuring needed to be addressed. It was a hard day indeed when Gloria Perez, Lena Tharp, and Rob Dayboch learned that their positions would be eliminated. They have been valued members of the staff and the restructuring was not a reflection on their work, but due to budget realities. It is very appropriate for members who knew these staff members to have strong feelings about their departure and you are welcome to speak with me about your thoughts and concerns. The church sought to honor their lengths of service here and to be as compassionate as possible under difficult circumstances. There are ongoing efforts to address the budget needs before us. The Stewardship Committee is to be commended for their dedication and vision.
While transitions are sometimes hard, even painful, they are meant to increase the long-term health and support the long-term vision of the church. I am grateful to all of you for your ongoing commitment to the Brick Church and, with you, the pastors and staff look forward to moving into 2019 with a renewed vision borne of our Mission Review, a healthier budget due to your faithful stewardship and careful oversight by church officers and committees, and the excitement of electing a Pastor Nominating Committee to search for the 14th Senior Minister of the Brick Presbyterian Church. This is a remarkable community of faith with a bright future. I am excited to see how God’s Spirit will lead us forward into all that is to come.
May this Thanksgiving be a time of reflecting on the goodness and bounty of God in our homes and in our nation,
November 1 2018 Update
Fall is moving quickly toward winter as we begin November, and everything is in high gear here at The Brick Church. Our Mission Review got underway with two Town Hall meetings on Oct. 14 and 24. Many members of the congregation, including children and youth, were in attendance with spirited conversations taking place around tables in Watson Hall during the first meeting as well as during the second meeting in the Carnegie Room. People offered input to questions about what they find most important about the Brick Church, what makes
them want to attend here, and even what might make them—or others—stay away. Everyone had the opportunity to express general ideas and opinions about areas of the church’s mission, worship, and programmatic life as well. A congregational survey will be made available soon. This will be an extensive online survey and you will need about 35-45 minutes to complete it, so only begin when you have the time
to fully finish. This survey has been designed by a company especially for congregations in transition, with our Mission Review Team customizing some questions for our particular context. The company will receive all the input directly and then provide an extensive report on the findings. In order for this survey to be as helpful as possible, we ask that every member set aside a dedicated 35-45 minutes to complete it within a four-week timeframe. In addition to the Town Hall meetings and the online survey, the Mission Team will be interviewing a number of committees and groups within the church and some outside constituents as well. We are eager to hear from our own members and to learn more about ourselves through the eyes of others. In addition to all of these ways to participate in the review of the church, the Mission Review Team has set up an email address so that you can email them directly with questions and comments this fall. That email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. During this time of transition, it is exciting to see how strong the Brick Presbyterian Church remains—we celebrated the sacrament of baptism for 6 infants and young children on Sunday, Oct. 14, and have been holding New Member classes with 15-18 people in attendance! We turn next to the Stewardship season and hope to maintain the strong percentage of our members who make a financial pledge or gift to the church in addition to the other ways you offer your time and talent in our life together. As the fall season deepens, much is receding as leaves begin to dry and fall in advance of winter’s cold. In such a time as this, it is indeed a source of joy that within our congregation there is ample evidence of fullness of life and energy as we review and look ahead.
Grace and Peace,
October 2018 Update
October is halfway over and everything is in high gear here. Our Mission Review got underway with the first of two Town Hall meetings on Oct. 14. About 100 people, including children and youth, were in attendance with spirited conversations taking place around tables in Watson Hall. People offered input to questions about what they find most important about the Brick Church, what makes them want to attend here, and even what might make them—or others—stay away. Everyone had the opportunity to express general ideas and opinions about areas of the church’s mission, worship, and programmatic life as well. The second Town Hall Meeting will be held on Oct. 24 in the Carnegie Room at 6:30 p.m., and you can R.S.V.P. here if you would like to attend. Join us!
A congregational survey will be made available soon. This will be an extensive online survey and you will need between 35 and 45 minutes to complete it, so only begin when you have the time to fully finish. This survey has been designed by a company especially for congregations in transition, with our Mission Review Team customizing some questions for our particular context. The company will receive all the input directly and then provide an extensive report on the findings. In order for this survey to be as helpful as possible, we ask that every member set aside a dedicated 35 to 45 minutes and complete it within a 4-week timeframe.
In addition to the Town Hall meetings and the online survey, the Mission Team will be interviewing a number of committees and groups within the church and some outside constituents as well. We are eager to hear from our own members and to learn more about ourselves through the eyes of others. In addition to all of these ways to participate in the review of the church, the Mission Review Team has set up an email address so that you can email them directly with questions and comments this fall. That email address is: email@example.com.
During this time of transition, it is exciting to see how strong The Brick Presbyterian Church remains—we celebrated the sacrament of baptism for 6 infants and young children last Sunday and have been holding New Member classes this month with 15-18 people in attendance! We turn next to the Stewardship season and hope to maintain the strong percentage of our members who make a financial pledge or gift to the church in addition to the other ways you offer your time and talent in our life together.
As the fall season deepens, much is receding as leaves begin to dry and fall in advance of winter’s cold. In such a time as this, it is indeed a source of joy that within our congregation there is ample evidence of fullness of life and energy as we review and look ahead.
Grace and Peace,
If you have any questions, you can email the Mission Review Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 2018 Update
There are hints of fall in the air and in the leaves, but fall is upon us fully in the life of the church. Worship returns to full strength; education, mission, and fellowship programs resume; and this week the Day School opened with the addition of a new classroom full of two-year-olds! There were many happy children and parents coming back—with many others coming to The Brick Church and School for the very first time.
Sunday September 16th, the 92nd Street door re-opens, though some finishing work will continue. Your generous contributions to the Capital Campaign have made possible this significant work. It is easy to think of construction projects as mere “building improvements,” but this effort is much more and much deeper than that. Your financial gifts have certainly made our spaces more attractive and safe, but the true goal has always been about more than stewardship of the facilities entrusted to us. The refurbishment of these areas fosters a greater sense of community. There is more space to gather for fellowship and play, to sit alone in thought and prayer, or to sit with friends for conversation. Our connection to one another and our shared life with God are the true measure of what makes us “the church.”
As the fall program gets underway, many of you have questions about the transitional process to call a new Senior Minister. Here is an overview of the tasks and timeline ahead:
- The Mission Review Team was commissioned in worship on September 23rd.
- Susan Appleby, Susan Austin, Sarah Blais, Mark Brickell, Anna Caspersen, Buddy Crutchfield, Helen Elmiger, Mark Greenwood, Mimi Hah, Daniel Hoy, Peter Manning, Chris Mason, Kim Purvis, Peggy Raub, Dru Richards, David Rose, Mario Verdolini
- They begin their work by hosting two Town Hall Meetings as the first opportunity for “a big picture view,” hearing your initial questions and suggestions regarding the life and mission of The Brick Church. Please choose one of these two Town Halls to attend: Sunday, October 14th in Watson Hall following worship or Wednesday, October 24th following the 6:00 p.m. Communion Service. Come from 6:30-8:00 p.m. to the Carnegie Room on the 3rd floor of the Parish House.
- After the Town Hall Meetings, there will be additional ways for you to offer insights, ideas, and suggestions about priorities for the church in the coming years. An electronic survey, small group opportunities for conversations, and an email “suggestion box” are a few of the early plans underway. The Mission Review Team will meet with various groups as well. Their work of listening, analyzing data and feedback, and interviewing groups will take us into early December.
- Early in 2019, the Mission Review Team prepares a report for the Session, perhaps by its February Stated Meeting. This report, if approved by the Session, will then go to the Presbytery of New York City to certify we have conducted the Mission Review. The PNC cannot be elected until the Mission Review is completed.
- The All Church Nominating Committee is charged with assembling names for a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC). The PNC must be elected a vote of the congregation. March of 2019 will be the earliest date by which this phase can be completed.
- Once elected, the Pastor Nominating Committee composes a denominational Ministry Information Form (MIF) to advertise the position. The Presbytery will approve the MIF. After such approval, the formal search for the new Senior Minister of The Brick Presbyterian Church gets underway!
Though the Presbyterian process is not swift, it seeks to ensure that procedures are done “decently and in order.” I continue to be grateful for your generosity of spirit toward me. The church will depend on your continued generosity so that we begin this important search process not only with buildings in healthy shape, but with budget and programs in good health as well.
Message from the Transitional Senior Minister
By Rev. Kimberly Clayton
I began as your Transitional Senior Minister on March 15, 2018. After four months at The Brick Presbyterian Church I am glad to report that I have ‘learned my way around’—no small task given our summer construction projects! Perhaps the construction upheaval is an apt metaphor for us in this time of transition. When a church goes through a major transition, like the departure of a long-term Senior Minister, some familiar paths and routines are altered in ways both slight and significant. While much about the church goes on as usual, with familiar people—pastors, staff, and members—continuing in their areas of service, there is someone new as well—a Transitional Senior Pastor. This person is doing many of the same things the last Senior Minister did—but she does some of it differently. No matter how much remains the same, things can ‘feel’ different and it can even seem like everything is changing. Some people adapt to change easily, even welcome it, but many find change uncomfortable, producing feelings of anxiety. I admit that a few times this summer, with the construction dust and noise, the labyrinthine route to get from here to there, and one more glitch in how things are supposed to work, I have wished nostalgically that it could all go back to the way it was…four months ago! So I do understand to some degree that this transitional time can seem overwhelming to you as a congregation. Change is hard. A level of anxiety is normal. But to extend the metaphor a bit further—think of what all of this construction is leading toward: an enhanced entrance for the church and school to meet current and future needs; a beautifully renovated garden space that honors the past while incorporating updated structures and systems that will carry us into the future. In the same way, this transitional time is leading toward the welcome of your new Senior Minister: The person who will join the other pastors, staff, and members in leading this historic church, with its vibrant current ministries, faithfully and creatively into the future.
In preparation of the search for the new Senior Minister, we will engage in a congregation-wide Mission Review this fall. This is an opportunity for every member to offer input on current strengths of The Brick Church, challenges and changes you see ahead, assessment of ministries and mission we currently undertake and priorities going forward, and the qualities and characteristics desired in your next Senior Minister/Head of Staff.
To organize this important undertaking, a Mission Review Team has been appointed. The 18 people listed below have agreed to give their energy and imagination and intelligence to this task. They are motivated by a love for this congregation. There are 9 men and 9 women and they represent a variety of lengths of membership and avenues of engagement in the life of the church. They are reading a variety of things this summer in preparation. In October, they will help lead this Mission Review and involve, we hope, all of the members.
I invite you to pray for the Mission Review Team, the church staff, and our congregation as together we enter this intentional time to reflect on who we have been, are now, and the ways God might be calling us into the future. If you have questions or concerns in this time of transition, I will welcome an opportunity to speak with you or you can email the Mission Review Team here.
Thank you for your warm welcome in our first months together.
Grace and peace,
Calling a Permanent Senior Minister
The process to call a permanent Senior Minister begins once the outgoing Senior Minister has left and the Transitional Pastor has been appointed. This formal process is clearly outlined in our Book of Order. Initially, a Mission Review Committee will be appointed by Session. This committee will engage in a spiritual discernment process to discover the direction in which God is leading our congregation. This will entail an in-depth, honest, and thoughtful look at our congregation and community to reconfirm our leadership needs and our call to ministry.
Upon completion of the mission review, and with the approval of Presbytery, the Session will recommend a Pastor Nomination Committee (PNC) be formed. The All Church Nominating Committee (ACNC) will solicit recommendations from the congregation, a slate will be selected by the ACNC and approved by the congregation through a vote at a congregational meeting. In the PC(USA), the congregation gives authority to search for a pastor to the PNC; once the PNC has been elected, neither the session nor the congregation have a role in determining the permanent pastor until the PNC is ready to present its nominee to the congregation for a vote.
Importantly, it should be noted that this process does not impact or alter the roles of our Senior Associate Minister, the Reverend Douglas T King, or our Associate Ministers, the Reverend Adam L Gorman and the Reverend Rebekah McLeod Hutto. Each was called individually by our congregation and their relationships with the Brick Church are separate and distinct.
The process of calling a Senior Pastor is a lengthy one with many steps along the way designed to assist a congregation in deciphering who God is calling to be pastor in the next chapter of our congregation’s life and ministry. We are very blessed to be in the hands of our Transitional Pastor, the Reverend Dr. Kimberly Clayton, during this time.