by Bart Halloran
The past year has been one of transition, historic change, spiritual reconciliation, and growth.
In June 2018, the Diaconate approved an interim budget which included funds for after service refreshments – the return of the donuts! The Diaconate retreat was changed from the previous format of review of various rules and ordinances, to a meaningful day of reflection on race and racism. Our open, frank, and respectful discussions about difficult issues, borne of recent difficulties, continued through and informed all of our actions this year.
Over the summer, the Diaconate considered and adopted a very difficult budget, moving some funds from off-line accounts to the operating budget, and reducing the amount contributed to the building reserve fund so that essential programs could be maintained. The search for a second interim associate minister was abandoned. Rev. Thompson and Rev. Avena continued to do the work of three ministers throughout the year, a difficult and demanding sacrifice, without once complaining.
In the fall, the Diaconate approved a membership growth initiative, led by the tireless Jim Grigsby, enlisting the professional guidance of Fathom Consulting to produce new and exciting initiatives. The Music and Arts Committee sponsored a sold out concert dedicated to the life of Matthew Shepard, combining beautiful music and written word, and performed by our matchless choir. The Senior Minister Search Committee finished the Church Profile, and proposed to follow the UCC recommended guidelines stating that interested in-house candidates be interviewed before any others, with the caveat that if the in-house candidate was not selected, they agreed to resign and leave the church. After much discussion, the Diaconate agreed with this method, and the decision was reported to the congregation.
In late October, the Search Committee announced to the Diaconate its decision to recommend calling The Reverend Erica Thompson to be the tenth senior minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church. The Diaconate unanimously and enthusiastically affirmed this decision, setting a congregational meeting for December 2, 2018 to vote on their recommendation. At the Congregational Meeting, the Search Committee explained the process, their unanimous recommendation, and the congregation enthusiastically and unanimously affirmed the decision to call Reverend Thompson, a historic and truly memorable moment in the life of the church.
The first weekend of the New Year brought the wildly successful Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival, with thousands attending the performances.
On January 27, 2019 The Reverend Erica Thompson was installed as the senior minister at Asylum Hill Congregational church, in a joyous, spiritual service.
In the spring, we presented a Lenten Speaker Series featuring reflections by local and nationally recognized speakers, including the Reverend Otis Moss and Reverend Dr. James Forbes.
The Easter season culminated with a beautiful Good Friday Service presenting a moving new Stabat Mater, and worship services at both Elizabeth Park and AHCC. The congregation approved an Associate Minister Search Committee consisting of Lynn Snyder, Dan Tracy, Booker DeVaughn, Thulani Davis, Africka Hinds, Jane Torrey, Kent Lee Jr., David Figliuzzi, Jim Grigsby, Gary DeLong, and Catherine Magnusson, charged to find two associate ministers.
The Diaconate approved the distribution of funds recommended by the Outreach Committee, funding local programs with over $200,000 of church contributions.
Finally, at the Annual Meeting on May 19, 2019, we honored some of the stalwarts of our congregation, Larry Little, Peggy Winters, and Peter and Jeanne Grandy; honored the good works of our AHCC youth; remembered those we lost in the past year; approved a new slate of officers; and celebrated our diversity, acceptance and affirmation of each other.