Next Steps and Stepping Out

While I was helping with the banner vote before first service this past Sunday, I started up a conversation with a woman I didn’t recognize. She was taking in everything wide-eyed, with a sort of bemused, amazed look on her face. I asked if she was visiting for the first time, and she replied that she actually goes to a Methodist church in town, but she was dropping off her daughter for the youth program. She told me her daughter had recently decided she didn’t believe in God, but since their family values the spiritual in life, she felt her daughter still needed a spiritual community to be part of. They had met with our youth coordinator, Emily House, and had “just loved her,” the woman said (Yay Emily!). I just love that our congregation provides a safe and welcoming home for all kinds of searchers and seekers. I agree with Rev. Mike that we all harbor broken pieces inside ourselves; the more we acknowledge that, the more open and welcoming we are.

Speaking of the banner vote—the Board has been integrally involved, along with the Faith in Action Council (FIAC), with the discussion around changing the banner on the side of our building from “Civil Marriage is a Civil Right” to “Black Lives Matter”. The issue swelled up after our January board meeting, so we didn’t have a chance to talk about it then. The e-mails have been flying fast and furious since. Board members also talked with congregation members in the latter part of January to get a sense of where people were on the issue. We found that, while there was much support, there were some concerns as well, and that we needed to find a way for the congregation to weigh in on the issue more formally. Jim Stephens and Colleen Bryan compiled everyone’s comments for FirstAnnounce, so I won’t go into the specifics of the debate here.

FIAC has a policy concerning how we make timely decisions about who can speak for the congregation, but we felt that the banner issue was bigger and certainly more visible than what the policy covers. We decided to hold a “straw vote” to gauge the congregation’s feeling as a whole. While we based our process on the voting procedures outlined in our bylaws, our bylaws do not specifically cover this kind of non-congregational meeting vote. We discussed whether the vote would be “binding” (i.e., the outcome of the vote would specifically dictate our action), or “advisory” to the Board (i.e., the Board would use the outcome of the vote to guide its decision). But because the whole process is outside what our bylaws cover, neither alternative strictly applies. We are in a position of setting precedent, and are being as mindful and conscientious as we can during the process.

That said, there is overwhelming support on the Board for changing the banner to “Black Lives Matter,” and the vote on Sunday told us that the congregation feels the same. Of 130 voters (quorum is 77), 116 voted yes, 11 voted no, and 3 abstained. FIAC will be moving ahead with purchasing a banner for our building. At the same time, the Board will be evaluating the process we used, whether we need another policy or procedure to cover this kind of situation, and what other situations might be similar that we would need to consider.

The Board has also been busy coordinating the upcoming Next Steps Weekend with consultant Barry Finkelstein. Barry is coming to Denver on Friday, February 6, and will be working with us Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. The main purpose of Barry’s work with us is to help us discern whether we are ready to move ahead with a capital campaign for building improvements as outlined in our Long Range Plan, and to provide us with recommendations on how to move forward. 

Barry will be facilitating an open meeting on Saturday, February 7 from 1:30pm-3pm for everyone interested in discussing our next steps. We hope you’ll join us and participate in this important discussion about the future of our congregation.