By-laws and Governance
President: Gail Hedges
Vice President: Beth Sargent
Clerk: Marguerite Robbins
Treasurer: Erik Bailey
Parish Committee Members:
- Katie Edwards (2017)
- Kristen Neff (2017)
- Eliot Jekowsky (2018)
- Suzanne Smart (2018)
- Geoffrey Austrian (2019)
- Joan Mecsas (2019)
See the Realm for contact information.
Ultimately, the answer to the above question is that the members of the congregation run this church. Our congregation:
- contributes approximately 70% of the funds which are needed to run this church
- contributes 100% of the volunteers that run this church
- approve the rules ( i.e. the by-laws ) by which we operate
- approve the annual budget of incomes and expenses of the church
- approve the calling of the minister
- elect the four officers of this church and all voting members of the Parish Committee
The congregation does all of this under the guiding Principles and Purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) with which our congregation freely associates.
The by-laws define the First Parish as a non-profit religious institution, outline the congregational structure, determine responsibilities and confer authority for carrying out the church business. Our congregation’s by-laws specifically define the congregation’s voting requirements to call a new minister, approve the annual budget, elect the church officers (President, Vice President, Clerk, and Treasurer), and the Parish Committee membership. Additionally they define the levels of authorization required for spending of church funds and identify what church committees should be, at a minimum, staffed each year (called standing committees).
As a member organization of the UUA, our congregation subscribe to the goals of the Principles and Purposes of the UUA which provide the over-arching values by which our congregation functions and support the democratic process by which we operate (i.e. one member, one vote).
The Parish Committee proposes an annual budget of expenses and incomes to the annual meeting that approves a final version. The expenses in this budget are primarily paid staff compensation related with other expenses for building maintenance, office, committee, and UUA-related spending. All non-budgeted single expenditures in excess of$5,000 must be approved by vote at a legally constituted congregational meeting. So, the answer is that the members of the congregation approve all spending. All church spending must be either be pre-approved as part of a budget or if non-budgeted and in excess of $5000 it must be approved at a special congregational meeting.
The church currently funds five paid positions; Minister, Director of Religious Education, Music Director. Parish Administrator, and Youth Programs Coordinator. The members of the congregation call the Minister, all other positions are hired by the President based upon the advice and consent of the Parish Committee, the Minister, and the supervising committee.
The DRE, Music Director, and Parish Administrator are supervised by the Minister. The Youth Programs Coordinator reports to the DRE.
The church supports the tradition of the free pulpit that means that the Minister is free to express their own opinion from the pulpit, although Minister serves subject to the approval of the members of the congregation who can also vote to remove a sitting Minister.
The Parish Committee includes the 4 elected Officers, 6 other elected members of the congregation, and the (non-voting) Minister. They are elected according to the by-laws at the annual congregational meeting, typically in May. The by-laws charge the Parish Committee with overseeing the programs of the church. As such they represent the entire congregation who are the people who carry out many of those programs. The President signs all church contracts, conducts the annual meeting, conducts all Parish Committee meetings, and in conjunction with the Minister develops the agenda for all Parish Committee meetings. The Parish Committee can be viewed as the central glue that pulls the various parts of the church together.
Only the duly elected President of the church is authorized by the by-laws to sign contracts on behalf of the church. Should the President be “incapacitated” then the Vice Presidents is authorized by the bylaws to sign contracts in the President’s stead.
The volunteers are crucial to the life of the church. Without volunteers the church is unable to fully operate. Volunteers typically develop the ideas for church programs and activities, they then staff those programs and activities and related committees. All volunteers who are legal members of the congregation have the same weight of voting rights at congregational meetings and are able to initiate action on behalf of the church.
The by-laws state that people who desire membership in First Parish merely have to do the following three things:
- subscribe to the principles and purposes of the UUA
- sign our membership book in the presence of the Minister or an elected officer
- contribute to church financially via an annual pledge or a stated contribution
There is also an expectation of service to the church in the form of some kind of volunteering.
Note: Members must be 16 years of age or older. To vote on items concerning money, property or the calling of a minister members must be 18 years of age or older.
UU congregations operate independently and autonomously, but we also benefit from our association with other UU congregations, i.e., the UUA. Examples of these benefits include the help of the UUA’s District staff, religious education curriculum development, recruitment processes for ministers and religious educators, and the accreditation of UUA ministers. Though the UUA facilitates ministerial searches, the choice on Ministers and staff rests entirely with the church.
None. We receive no money from the UUA nor do we receive any subsidization of our paid staff from the UUA. However, as noted above we do receive valuable services, as needed, from the District and UUA organizations and we are asked to annually pledge dues to both of those organizations based on the number of legal members of our congregation. Current dues are $42/member for the UUA and $13/member for the District.