Heard it at Council: September 2023

By Kate Silfen, Church Historian | September 12, 2023 Council Meeting Report

The evening of September 12, 2023 was a historic one for the Old South Church in Boston. Council gathered and welcomed our 21st Senior Pastor, the Reverend John M. Edgerton, who began his ministry with us on September 5, 2023. 

Maren Batalden, who chaired the Senior Minister Search Committee offered John a warm welcome and discussed next steps. In anticipation of John’s arrival, a smaller group of search committee members have formed the “Onboarding John Edgerton Task Force.” The task force will serve as a pastoral relations committee for John, and will assist him with his efforts to form relationships both within and beyond our congregation. Maren also recognizes that John has moved back to the area without his family, and the task force wants to help him navigate this challenge until his wife Heather and daughter Veronica relocate to Boston.

John outlined his key objectives for the first ninety days of his ministry at Old South. John is eager to begin creating vibrant worship services. He wants to be pastorally present for the congregation, and will identify members in need of pastoral care. He will focus on getting to know the church staff, and evaluating existing staffing structures. John also wants to build on the excellent work of the Grace Speaks Committee by planning steps to strengthen our commitment to being an anti-racist church. 

Maren reported that the Onboarding Task Force is already planning initiatives to help John meet these goals. She told Council members to be on the lookout for announcements about informal gatherings in different neighborhoods. These gatherings will be hosted by members of Old South in their homes. The task force will also feature online video clips where John responds to various questions. 

Clerk Rob Gabler (also serving as moderator pro tem for Phil Stern) shared a chart that illustrates trends in worship attendance for Old South’s second quarter. The numbers indicate that Old South’s attendance has been stable this past year: encouraging news, especially since this was a period marked by so many transitions. John said that he looked at our attendance statistics for the first quarter of 2020 (when the Pandemic first hit) and was impressed that so many people found solace and community at Old South during that difficult time. He praised the members and staff for meeting the spiritual needs of the congregation. John wants to discern spiritual needs of the congregation now, and has asked Council members to help him identify those needs. 

Council then turned their attention to some bittersweet news. The Reverend Katherine Schofield’s time at Old South is drawing to an end as she will be candidating to be the next pastor of First Parish Church in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Council members shared their feelings of gratitude for Katherine’s work with us. John Edgerton said that he first got to know Katherine when they were both doing their chaplain residences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. John noted her remarkable sense of groundedness and her ability to bring her whole self into everything she does. Tim Longman and Neill Miller praised  Katherine’s work with the Christians in Formation Committee and the Climate Emergency Task Force. Leadership Committee chair David Becker said that the committee found it hard to keep track of Old South’s members during the long Pandemic season, and Katherine’s deep well of knowledge about our members enabled them to identify potential committee members and chairs. With hearts full of thanksgiving for Katherine’s ministry, Council offered prayers for her candidating Sunday with First Parish.