Church Board Minutes 2020 08 06


Bethel College Mennonite Church
August 6, 2020            online via Zoom

Board Members Present:  Patricia Shelly (moderator),  Elizabeth Schmidt (moderator-elect), Pat Friesen (clerk), Rosalind Andreas, Erin Brubacher, Judy Friesen, Cynthia Linscheid, Dale Schrag, Bill Swartley

Board Members Absent:  Glen Ediger, John Kliewer
Staff Present: Renee Reimer (associate pastor), Mike Claassen (financial manager)
Staff Absent:   on sabbatical:  Dawn Yoder Harms (pastor)

  1. Centering Time.  Patty Shelly opened the meeting with a centering prayer.
  2. Consent Agenda.  The board minutes of July 2, 2020, pastors’ reports, and online minutes of commissions and committees had been distributed electronically.   All were approved by consensus.
  3. Finance Manager Report.  Mike Claassen reporting. 
    a. Income was $4,693.71 less than expense in July.  Income was $26,356.35 less than expenses for the year to date.  The Gifts Discernment Committee elected to donate the amount budgeted for delegates to WDC Annual Assembly, which was held online, to the WDC Hope Fund.
    The finance report was accepted by consensus.
    b. March natural gas bill error.  John Waltner’s persistence paid off.  Kansas Gas has agreed to adjust our anomalous March gas billing last winter to the amount typically charged for that month in previous years.  The $1,270.43 credit to our account will offset future charges.
    c. Budget planning for next year.  As we begin budget planning for next year, the board is to submit a request for the Contingency fund.  The board agreed to resubmit the current $500 amount.  In November we will receive a draft of an entire congregational budget for 2021 to examine and forward for congregational approval.  
  4. New name for BCMC annual pledge drive   Patty Shelly.
    At the July board meeting John Kliewer expressed concern about the name of BCMC’s stewardship process, The Pony Express, given its connection to settler history and settlers’ violence to Indigenous People.  This concern was discussed with no action proposal at this time, but with openness to continue the conversation.

    After the board meeting, at their July meeting, the Finance Committee discussed how to gather pledges for the new budget in a time of COVID.  They are working on setting up a process that can be completed online rather than passing envelopes through the congregation.  While they discussed issues related to the Pony Express name, they decided not to take action at this time.  A request was made to brainstorm names at our August meeting and submit our top 3-4 options to the Finance Committee, who would then be invited to make the final choice (if they are willing). 

Following discussion of almost a dozen nominations, the board agreed to forward these four ideas to the Finance Committee:                                    bcmcXpress
Expressing Justice and Mercy (or Just Mercy Express)                                    Give4bcmc
Generosity (or Gratitude) Express
When presenting the new format of the pledge drive this year the board consensus asked that communication to the congregation include some of these ideas:
      –John Kliewer’s concern that the “Pony Express” played a part in the genocide of the indigenous populations on our continent.  And that a church with a common purpose statement emphasizing doing justice ought not to highlight a movement that contributed to the genocide of Native Americans. 
      –Dale Schrag’s point that our budgets (and budget building) reveal and express the principles, values and commitments we hold as a congregation.  And that we could think of “express” as a verb, communicating what we stand for; so that Generosity Express means we are expressing generosity; or Justice and Mercy Express means we are committed to justice and mercy

5. Reopening the church task group—update:  Elizabeth Schmidt
The task group has met several times since the July board meeting.  They will meet again Aug. 26.
a. Live Stream worship has been implemented. 
b. Based on Survey Monkey feedback and identified community spread of COVID in Harvey County, they decided to wait until October to begin in-person Sunday worship.
c. Guidelines for funerals and memorial services to be held inside the sanctuary have been developed.  To date, memorial services have been held outside.  Jim Robb is liaison for using an outdoor microphone system that has been used for MCC Sales in the past.
d. Discussed adding a COVID-19 section on the website to inform.
e. Community Playschool board has decided to NOT hold playschool in the fall.
f. Michael Unruh, Bethel College campus pastor, has contacted Renee Reimer about collaborating to plan the traditional Fall Fest worship service during this time of COVID.
g. When Fellowship Hall is completed the group will want to take into consideration updated information on ventilation systems.

Patty Shelly thanked the committee for their work and thought in addressing the myriad issues related to safety in this time of COVID.

Dale Schrag asked whether the college has asked the church about available large assembly space for college classroom instruction because he had heard such spaces were needed.  No one present, not the pastor nor Reopening Task Group nor Church Board moderator, had been asked.  Neither had anyone from the church initiated such an inquiry. 

Following discussion, Pat Friesen moved that the Reopening Task Force immediately contact the college to inquire if there is a need for a large space (such as the sanctuary) for classroom meetings and determine if we can help.  Seconded by Dale Schrag.  After discussion emphasizing our role as the college church, the motion passed unanimously.

6. Church safety and sexual abuse policy-update. Renee Reimer.
Renee has been working to contact members for the new Abuse and Prevention Committee.  4 out of 6 potential members have agreed to serve. Two more are to be contacted.

7. Leadership Retreat in September.  Renee Reimer, Nathan Koontz, Patty Shelly.
Date is set:  Sept. 12         9 am – 11 am   via Zoom         for all members of committees, commissions, and board.  Will use Breakout rooms via Zoom. 
Renee talked about building a sense of community with BCMC leaders and discussing : “How can we continue to connect, grow, and reach out in this context”
1. What has been exposed in this new context” (Racial justice, health care, wealth distribution)
2. What do the lenses of the pandemic reveal to us?
3. How can faith and community continue to grow within this context?

Other Updates. 
8. High-def camera and live-streaming equipment (Bill Swartley)
Two weeks ago was the first time we used the high-def camera during worship.  90 – 100 viewers logged on.  Some Issues are now evident: 
a. picture vibrations during taping are from foot traffic in the balcony.  A solution is to purchase a shock absorber to be placed under the camera.  cost is $500. 
b. Auto-focus jumps from mike to speaker because of low lighting.  McClelland Sound can recommend what can improve it.  Theater or flood lights were recommended. 
c. Gig switch needed to splice equipment into internet connection.
d. Dale Schrag moved that, pending approval by the Finance Committee, we purchase these items:  shock absorber, enhanced lighting, and ethernet gig switch for a total up to $1,000.  Judy Friesen seconded.  The motion passed by unanimous consent.
e. Elizabeth Schmidt observed that these expenses are evident because of the changes in our worship and church life required to adapt to life amid COVID.
f. Bill Swartley noted that other current technology such as a Laser projector and screens that raise up from the floor are now available for purchase.  Screens raised from the floor would not alter the architecture or visual image of the chancel area.  Some churches even livestream interviews with missionaries in other countries during worship with such technologies.  Estimated screen cost:  $15,000
g. Dale Schrag observed that a screen and projector system would enhance classroom instruction at Bethel. 
h. Pat Friesen said our installation of internet access at multiple points in the building for a strong wifi signal, rather than using boosters, was timely.
i. Judy Friesen said we desperately need it right now. 
j. Patty Shelly observed it impacts many committees:  worship, facilities, finance, Bethel College Relations Committee, Faith Formation.  Where does it lodge and who coordinates the discussion and need?  Do we need to establish a technology task force?
k. Dale Schrag suggested it be an item on the Retreat, Sept. 12.
l. Mike Claassen queried if the college might contribute to the cost of equipment to make the sanctuary a potential classroom space.
m. Patty Shelly noted that additional staff for i.t. operation and cleaning the building would be incurred.

9. Fellowship Hall renovation
Patty reported that Annette Lamp and some members of the Finance Committee met with Christa Jahay July 27 to assess progress. Decisions were to add plumbing for a stackable washer and dryer in family restroom for needs such as washing masks or dish towels and to change out water fountains for water bottle dispensers.  End of September is the earliest projected completion date.

10. Parking issue
The North Newton City Council received a letter in July from the Newton Community for Racial Justice with 78 signatories requesting a review of police department policies for systemic racism and a freeze on the police budget.  Dawn Yoder-Harms and Patty Shelly have talked with John Waltner about this new context/awareness re: our congregational parking issue.   How will our request to the city to establish a parking ordinance, which the police would have to enforce, be perceived?  When we are a predominantly white congregation will it make college students of color feel we are harassing them?  How do we think about systemic racism in North Newton?  John Waltner will not pursue anything about the parking ordinance unless the board requests that he do so after review.  Rosalind Andreas observed this is another “covid moment” to pause and reconsider our actions.  We are not holding in-person worship now and will have reduced attendance requirements into the future our need may have changed.  This item is tabled until the Sept. board meeting.

11. Executive session–8:27 p.m.

Meeting adjourned:  8:30 p.m.
Next Meeting:  Sept. 3, 2020              7:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Pat Friesen, Clerk