Heard it at Council: June 2024

By Kate Silfen, Church Historian | June 11, 2024 Council Meeting Report

Vice-Moderator Mark Chitty opened our June Council meeting with a reading from Corinthians. After approving Clerk Rob Gabler’s excellent minutes from our May meeting, we heard good financial news from Treasurer Bill Bulkeley. As of this month, we are operating with a surplus instead of the deficit he anticipated. This unexpected surplus is due to the early payment of yearly pledges and income from Old South’s pre-school.

Last March, Moderator Maren Batalden invited Council members to participate in a survey about Council’s priorities for the coming year. Many Council members wanted to begin a strategic planning process for Old South. Maren, John Edgerton, Kristi Geary, and Marie Hurd have been meeting to discuss the next steps for this work. They have proposed an overnight visioning retreat for the three leadership bodies (Trustees, Council, Deacons) in early August. After the retreat, Maren anticipates engaging the congregation in a six-week visioning process that will coincide with John’s installation ceremony in October. 

Pam Roberts offered a brief update on the work of the Associate Minister Search Committee. She thanked everyone for their feedback on the profile, which they are now readying to be made public. Pam reminded everyone that outreach is vital for attracting candidates, and invited Council and Old South members to submit names of ministers who might be interested in the position. 

Rachel Barton shared an impressive PowerPoint presentation called “Welcomes that Work: Growing Our Culture of Invitation at Old South Church.” The presentation outlined techniques for welcoming visitors and helping them find a home with our beloved community. Rachel’s research revealed that Boston is the 30th loneliest city in America. Significantly, 64% of adults in Massachusetts believe that religion is an important part of life, but 48% avoid going to church because they do not feel welcome. These statistics suggest that this is an ideal time for Old South members to extend and expand an extravagant welcome. Rachel said that welcomes need initiative, persistence, and courage to be effective. In the coming months, we will have more conversations about growing a culture of invitation at Old South. 

In other important news, the Board of Trustees has been discussing the history of the Prince Library, a unique collection of early American books and pamphlets that is in the care of the Boston Public Library. The collection was willed to the Church by Thomas Prince, the fifth Senior Minister, with the provision that the library remain intact. Recent research has determined that Prince was an enslaver. Amassing an extensive library would have been an expensive undertaking, raising the question of the role profits from enslaved labor played in financing the collection.

The Trustees have decided that a rigorous examination of this question is appropriate and have hired two researchers to learn more about the library and the finances of Thomas Prince. Caitlin DeAngelis, PhD, is a historian of early American history. She has done extensive work on slavery in New England. Aabid Allibhai, JD is a doctoral candidate in Harvard's department of African and African American Studies.

John closed our spirit-filled meeting with a prayer that God hold us as we continue the holy work of being a beloved church community.

Respectfully submitted,

Kate Silfen, OSC Historian