From the Moderator
If you missed Annual Meeting on May 21, here are the Moderator’s remarks:
Good morning! Welcome to our second Annual Meeting this calendar year, as we transition to a new fiscal year starting on July 1. If you are feeling a little burdened by these meetings, rest assured that our next Annual Meeting won’t be for another whole year, in May of 2024.
At which point I will step down as your moderator. I enjoy this role and I look forward to another year of leadership alongside the Council and Pastor Leigh, all the members of all the ministries, the Deacons, and our very capable staff.
I am going to tell you about safety and security here at church for a few minutes this morning because we will focus on that during the next 6 - 12 months. It won’t be our only priority, for sure, but it will be one of them and I want you to be in the know.
In February of 2023, the Council turned our attention to improving our safety and security both during the week and on Sunday mornings. As we all know if we pay attention to the news, Houses of Worship are ONE: targets of violence, and TWO: places where people can find respite after disasters of various kinds.
As you may also know, we have done some things to improve our safety and security during recent months. We installed a video doorbell so that when it rings, staff are notified on their phones and can see on their phones who is at the door. We have improved the outdoor lighting for increased safety in the evening hours just outside the entrance that we have adopted. For now, we are not using the main entrance because the steps and the lead up to the steps are not safe and we can’t provide the security inside that entrance that we can at the smaller point of entry. We will replace the stubborn heavy and sticky kitchen door that doesn’t close easily and therefore isn’t always safe. And we have tightened up our greeting practices on Sunday mornings that include locking the door after worship starts, a big and somewhat reluctant step. I hope you know that we hang a very friendly and welcoming sign on the door after 9:30 am, inviting latecomers to text a greeter who immediately lets them in and ushers them to a seat. We have happily welcomed latecomers three times so far. We are safer than we used to be, although the system isn’t foolproof.
I look at the adaptations I just listed as being safety measures that enclose us, that put up walls, that keep threats out. Many of us do this at home when we put up fences and lock our doors and shut our windows and maybe even install security systems. It makes sense. But there is another way to be safe that complements the “closing in”, and that is in fact, “opening up.” God wants us to welcome strangers. We do and we will. We also need to reach out to our neighbors and Barre emergency responders to help us all be safe. Also, we want to serve as a safe place for Barre citizens when needed.
We plan to develop relationships with the Barre Police Department, the Fire Department and First Responders. We want to know their names and we want them to know ours. We will do a walk-through with them and we will discuss and plan for various emergency scenarios. We want these local safety experts to become familiar with our labyrinth-like building. We are already connected to our neighbor churches through the clergy group that Leigh belongs to, and we can build relationships with their congregations too. Surely there will be times when we can help each other. In general, we can be more hospitable than ever to people of Barre and surrounding towns in our newly renovated space downstairs. Especially so after disasters.
We can strive to prevent potentially dangerous episodes involving upset people through the power of “Hello”. That means when anyone including a stranger enters our church, we can welcome and engage and assess them with conversation. We can even help someone calm down by learning “de-escalation” skills that include listening to, respecting and caring about a person whose emotions are getting out of control, who might become unsafe to themselves or to others. We have a date already set for early September for all of us who are interested in de-escalation training. You might use these skills at home with your young grandchildren, at work with an irate customer or an angry co-worker, in your neighborhood or in your travels on vacation. You never know. See me or see Leigh to sign up. We will invite our neighbor churches’ members as well.
If an incident occurs here, whether it’s an upset person on a Sunday morning, or a fire or a medical emergency for one of us, most of us need to be ready to exit the building quickly and safely. This will first require cleaning and clearing out our exits, making sure they are safe and passable, putting up clear signage, and practicing with a “fire drill” or two. When was the last time you took part in a fire drill? We will do that. Some of us need to be ready to tend to each other while we wait for emergency experts including First Responders to arrive. We will become adept at using fire extinguishers and automatic emergency defibrillators (AED’s) and other life saving devices. We ought to train or retrain in administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Let me finish with this: We - all of us - already are the leaders we need. If you would like to join us in any of the efforts I have mentioned - including greeting; meeting the Barre police, firefighters, and first responders; establishing or deepening friendships with our clergy neighbors and their church members; getting trained in de-escalation techniques; preparing for and executing a fire drill; learning how to use emergency medical equipment and a fire extinguisher; suggesting other ways to be ready for a medical emergency; or if you know CPR, tell Leigh or me. We will call the police in an emergency of course, but WE are the actual first responders before the professional First Responders arrive. Ordinary citizens like us can do extraordinary things. We need to think ahead and plan. We need to use common sense. We need to upgrade our skills and be ready to help each other. We need to stay calm. Stay tuned for updates on safety and security in the newsletter and during announcements on Sundays.
Our Safety team currently consists of Don Singer, our vice moderator, who served 23 years in the Army, primarily as a communications officer. Upon retirement, he taught high school for 16 years. He is now a part time school bus driver; Kris Kirby, our building manager; Pastor Leigh, who has led during many church emergencies throughout her career; Larry Beebe, a retired teacher who represents Property on the Safety Team; Mary Ann Johnson, our parish nurse; and myself, a retired guidance counselor. If you have expertise to lend and want to become involved, we welcome you with open arms.
I have confidence in us. Thank you.