Without a vision, the people perish.
A Congregational Vote
August 9, 2020
following 11 AM Outdoor Worship
Rain Date: August 16
Warrant: The Church Council of The United Church of Christ in Lenox, the Church on the Hill calls a Special Congregational Meeting for the purpose of voting on drawing from the Physical Assets Fund in the amount of up $66,000 for Master Planning and Financial Development at Church on the Hill, immediately after the Worship Service, Sunday, August 9, 2020 at 11AM. In case of inclement weather, a rain date is set for August 16, 2020.
The money the proposal would make available would go to developing a Master Plan for historic preservation, and congregational and liturgical renewal. It would also allow for financial development through grant writing and a Capital Campaign.
As we all know, the last few years have seen a precipitous decline in membership and engagement. There are many reasons for this. But if we don't act now, building on what treasure has been entrusted to us, we'll likely have to close the church and bequeath our assets to other entities, which itself will cost around the same amount of money.
It's by God's grace that we have other options. Thanks to recent bequests to us, we have assets to invest in our future. We also have pastoral and lay leadership here to take this on.
Thus, the 251st Year Committee, which is comprised of Emily (Chin) Johnson, Walton Wilson, and Ellen Merritt. They solicited five proposals for master planning from five architectural firms. They interviewed three architects, and are most excited about Foresight Architects, whose principal is James Hundt, specializing in revitalizing old churches.
The Trustees considered the recommendation of the 251st Year Committee and agreed to notify Jim Hundt of our hope to hire him for this project. This had him come to Lenox to look at the meetinghouse, chapel, and grounds. He also took back to his office in Schenectady lots of files about our physical assets, including much of what the congregation worked on with Partnership for Sacred Spaces. This all gave him a clearer sense of what his task with us would actually entail. He sent along an updated proposal, and its anticipated costs.
Having a Master Plan would put Church on the Hill in the position to win historic preservation grants in amounts far greater than we could otherwise win and will surely need. Grants exist for the preservation of just such buildings as ours, which are essential to the aesthetic and appeal of the town. Eileen Mahoney works in financial development for historic preservation, most recently working with Trinity Church, Lenox, heading up a Capital Campaign that secured $700,000 for their on-going work.
She recognizes our buildings as the gems that they are, and which we might have forgotten them to be. Sources of concern and anxiety, constant reminders of what once was, they are easy perhaps for us to overlook as things of beauty and inspiration, a standing witness to God's presence and faithfulness.
What's the "deliverable"?
The "product" that we would have as result of undergoing a master planning process is a detailed account of the current conditions of our buildings, their needs prioritized, and their best configuration given our current programmatic needs and our hopes for the future. The whole congregation will be essential in this process of discernment, which Jim and Eileen would together lead us through. We'll want to imagine not only our future needs, but also how we might best be a resource to the wider community--Lenox, the Berkshires, and beyond.
One interesting discovery we've made over the course of this undertaking is that the whole six acres on the hill belongs to Church on the Hill. This is different from what was thought to be the case--that only one foot beyond the footprint of the meetinghouse belonged to the church. This had a strangling effect on how the congregation imagined its future. What this opens up is the possibility of expanding our parking, making of our front lawn a "parking lot" in the tradition of Tanglewood parking, a stretch of lawn engineered for more utilitarian use. For this, we solicited a proposal form Foresight Land Services. (No relation to the architectural firm!)
A Capital Campaign
Once we have a firm plan in place, we can embark on a Capital Campaign, appealing to our neighbors and village about how important we are in town (could Lenox have a better looking cell tower?!) and how seriously we take our mission to honor our history and envision a hopeful future. It won't take much convincing. People value our presence deeply. We only need to show we're ready for others to invest with us that Church on the Hill might continue to inspire and gather in.