Present: The Reverend Dr. Deborah White (Rector), Christina Reich, (Sr. Warden), Joshua Senn (Jr. Warden), Amelia Brooks, Chandra Damele, Sally Hanson, David Kennedy, Jane Ramsey, Connie Towey, Stephanie Zichichi
Guests: The Rev. Walter Ramsey, Columba Salamony, Field Education Student, Jennifer Sabroe, Beth Ilog, Jim Ilog, Sarah Williams (Parish Administrator)
M/S/C denotes motion made, seconded and carried. The names following M/S/C in parenthesis denote the persons who made the motion and seconded.
Call to Order and Opening Prayer. The meeting was called to order at 6:06 p.m. and led in prayer by Rev. Deb.
Bible Study. Deuteronomy 10:17-19, Isaiah 43:18-21, Luke 9:23-25, Matthew 25:31-46. The group read and discussed the passages related to our work at Grace..
Consent Agenda. It was M/S/C (Towey/Kennedy) to approve the consent agenda items: Minutes of September 9, 2020; Rector’s Report; Treasurer’s Report; Senior Warden Report
Movie Night The movie night was fun, and drew ten or eleven cars, many children, and included some neighbors who were not church members. It was advertised on Martinez Patch and Martinez Rants and Raves. Since we invited the general public, we had to pay for the rights to show the film, which in this case was $250. If we show a movie only to our own group, meaning we can name every person we are inviting, then we can show it without paying for the screening rights.
Outreach Walter reported that we plan to participate in Winter Nights again this winter. Due to the pandemic, we can only provide food by buying food prepared in a professional kitchen. This means we may not be able to do our usual four nights — maybe around $1000 to provide three meals/day for four days. The Outreach Committee will need to decide whether to do all four nights. We will need to seek donations to cover the cost of the meals, and Rev. Deb may be able to bridge any gap using the Rector’s Discretionary Fund.
Jennifer and Dru are working with Hope Solutions, formerly known as Contra Costa Interfaith Housing, on their Spirit of Giving Tree for Christmas. Understandably, due to the pandemic, they want gift cards this year instead of gifts.
Worship and Liturgy The committee meets tomorrow. We are waiting to hear from the county and the diocese regarding moving the in-person worship services indoors. Tina says there has been a bit of a spike in infections, so it will be two more weeks before the county moves to “orange” status. If the county reaches “orange” status, that should lead to indoor worship being allowed. The 8:00 (outdoors, in person) and 10:00 (livestream on Facebook) Sunday services are very successful. We have many worship services on weekdays as well.
The responses to the survey regarding communion: five people said yes, they would like to have communion, and five said no. (Two additional responses came during the meeting, so it now stands at 6-6.)
Welcoming Jane has a colleague who has been attending worship now and then, at Jane’s invitation. Tina reports that she and Jennifer Sabroe have shared the hosting duties for virtual coffee hour, but would still like more help. Barbara Brooks and Amelia Lytton may pitch in as well.
Education Godly Play is wonderful on Facebook, and has between 20 and 50 views each week. Marj is also working to figure out a Christmas pageant. There is a Faithful Forum this Sunday.
Pastoral Care Connie reports that the freezer needs more casseroles (not too spicy, please, and either vegetarian or not is fine). The Deacon’s pantry is fairly full. People continue to come by and visit, and Deb tries to track them. Please continue to let her know if someone needs help. Denise Hanson’s newest grandchild was born today: Jaxon Flaskerud.
Parish Life No immediate plans for an event, although some possibilities have been discussed. Rev. Deb asked Stephanie if she would consider expanding the group of folks who have been meeting outside in the church parking lot on Sunday afternoons and Stephanie said she would.
Stewardship Rev. Deb deferred the discussion on stewardship until later in the meeting.
Buildings and Grounds
Back stairs off the kitchen: They are in progress, with a code-compliant railing lacking.
Construction easement: The vehicles owned by Las Trampas Regional Center, which pays to park them at Grace, have been moved down from the upper lot to the main lot, for the duration of Discovery Builders’ use of the easement.
Video and Sound System/Audiovisual Booth: New equipment is about 70% installed. There is a speaker in the atrium and a speaker in the narthex, so we can send the sound from inside the church to those places. The future audiovisual booth off the choir loft is closer to ready, with a mixing board installed. Video cameras not installed yet. The company is expected to finish the work before the end of October.
Re-keying the church: We want to re-key the whole church, partly in order to start over giving keys to people who need them now. The pandemic is a good time to do it because the locksmith will not have to work around activities. It was M/S/C (Reich/Towey) to approve the expenditure of $1500 for this purpose. Connie comments that the main two doors to the parish hall also need some maintenance.
Upper Lot No news to report from the past month. The committee is chaired by Janet Kennedy, and members include Nica Kleinschmidt, Dick Evans, and Liz Charleton.
Return to church The diocese is allowing up to 50 attendees outdoors and up to 10 indoors, but the county is not allowing indoor worship at the moment. Rev. Deb had thought of possibly conducting an indoor service at 8:00 and an outdoor service at 10:00, since the allowed numbers would correspond fairly well to our usual attendance pattern. However, interest in attending in-person worship has been low.
The diocese has offered options for the Eucharist, and the option our Worship and Liturgy Committee believes would be best is the delivery or pickup of pre-consecrated bread, which would then be consumed together during a live-streamed or in-person service. We would have one “spiritual Eucharist” at which Rev. Deb would consecrate bread that would not be consumed that day, and the following week we would have a service that was like Morning Prayer, except that at some point everyone would take the bread consecrated the week before. (The service would be like a Good Friday service, like a “Deacon’s Mass,” or like when a Eucharistic Visitor takes communion to someone at home.)
Similarly, baptism is now allowed, with only the family and priest gathering in person. We will baptize Andrew Senn on All Saints’ Day, immediately following the simulcast Holy Eucharist, so that the congregation can participate by watching from home.
Funerals and memorial services are also allowed now, and we have held two: one (for Tom Taylor) indoors with ten or fewer people, and one (for Pam Nave’s brother) outdoors with 25 people. Both worked well.
We are still only allowed to conduct weddings online.
Re-branding, new logo Grace staff has developed a new logo, using the traditional anchor and the tagline “Love in Action.” It has red and blue like the Episcopal Church’s logo. We will use the font and colors from the logo in Grace Notes, stationery, the website, and so on, to have a harmonious look.
We are adjusting Grace Notes to be shorter, especially by linking out to the website (“click here to read more”) instead of including the full text of each item in the email. We hope to get the most important new information across to readers while also making it easier for readers to find the information that they want.
We are creating a new version of our website with Wix, and we hope to launch it soon.
Multi-format platform At the moment we simulcast services using Facebook Live, because it’s free of charge. For various reasons, we would like to broadcast from multiple platforms at once. This may require spending some money, although not an amount that will require vestry approval. We hope to be ready to do this before Christmas.
Stewardship Drive Amelia volunteered to serve as stewardship chair. Jane, Connie, and Christina offered to assist.
Labyrinth: Irene Plunkett, labyrinth facilitator, would like to come talk to us about what other churches in the diocese have done with labyrinths.
Rev. Deb reported that she is very concerned about the post-pandemic future of Grace. She referenced two articles she had sent to the vestry indicating that one in five churches are predicted to close by the end of the pandemic. She noted that many churches have not been able to adapt to having to use technology more to stay in community and took the opportunity to point out that Grace would not have been either were it not for Gary Spenik. Rev. Deb noted that Grace has risen to the occasion by instituting three more weekly services and continuing many fellowship and service meetings online. Staff has taken the opportunity of having fewer people accessing the property to take care of long-term projects like installing a new audio-visual system and rekeying the buildings.
Rev. Deb is very concerned, however, that people do not seem interested in taking advantage of these opportunities. As referenced in her Rector’s report, the numbers of people reading Grace Notes and attending the on-line service are consistently down. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic our Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) was approximately 100 across two services. It is now approximately half that. On the other hand, we are drawing folks from a broader geographical area to our on-line service, but it takes strategy and time to nurture those individuals and it’s hard to determine what these numbers will mean once the pandemic is over.
On a personal note, Rev. Deb voiced her concern that her general philosophy of leadership is that it should be shared and transparent and that the parish has worked hard to establish that model over the last three years. Since the pandemic, however, we have moved back into a model in which a handful of people are running the church with very little broad input from the congregation. Rev. Deb noted that a major rebranding project was an example of this trend. She also identified the Stewardship Drive as one area for which she has asked for help for several months and no one has volunteered to assist, even though this is a crucially important task during the pandemic and Rev. Deb is already feeling overwhelmed. She also noted that despite the fact that we are now able to have more in-person activities, few people have shown interest in hosting or attending them.
A lengthy conversation followed. Senior Warden Christina Reich offered helpful and supportive ideas and encouragement. Several vestry members volunteered to assist with stewardship. Stephanie volunteered to host an in-person fellowship event. Following the conversation, there was an overall improvement in determination and optimism in ensuring the future of Grace.
DISMISSAL Rev. Walter led the dismissal and the meeting adjourned at 8:13 p.m.