2022-08-03 Letter from the President

We have begun our new congregational year and it looks like it will be a busy one. I thought I’d provide a bit of insight into where we stand from an organizational perspective, since there has been a good deal of change and, at the same time, we continue with our mission and ministries.

The congregation, having reduced the board to five members earlier this year, has seated a new, slimmed down board. Alice Logie, Joanne Macaluso, and Sylvia Walker have joined Bonnie Rowan and myself on the board. Joanne is serving as Vice President. We all owe our thanks to board members who have completed their terms; Mike Sutterlin, Cass Cochrane, and Guenevere Zucker. 

The board has also selected members to fill the leadership positions necessary to carry us forward. Cass, while no longer a board member, will continue as Treasurer. Chris Baglieri will be serving as the chair of the Worship Committee. Maureen Erwin will continue as chair of the Endowment Advisory Committee and Alice Logie, Mike Sutterlin, and Mark Williams will continue to serve as members of that committee. As Vice President, Joanne will serve as the chair of the personnel committee. The board will function as a committee of the whole when dealing with finance and religious education. 

The board has also established the Special Committee on Congregational Future and will continue the Working Group on the 8th Principle. The special committee will consist of Reverend Ann Marie Alderman, myself, one other board member, and Chris Baglieri. This committee will self-organize and select a chair or other such leadership roles as they see fit. Denise Soppas will continue to lead the 8th Principle Working Group.

As you are probably aware, worship this summer will consist of a mix of small group ministry and shared worships with neighboring congregations. 

The Special Committee on Congregational Future will be leading the effort to chart the path forward for the congregation. This committee will work with the congregation to identify what is most important to us and what our needs as a congregation will be going forward. They will manage the process of Outreach to other congregations and the UUA to determine what options exist to best meet those needs. They will identify the assets and resources (financial and otherwise) we have to work with, and potentially to offer to another congregation. Progress will be reported monthly to the Board, culminating with recommendations for the Board to use to create a plan for the congregation to vote on in the coming church year.

The 8th Principle Working Group will continue to foster First U NJ member’s connection to the 8th principle. Perhaps more importantly, this working group will be engaged with the Special Committee on Congregation Future to ensure that any potential partner congregation will continue the important work we have begun to intentionally identify and deconstruct practices and systems that perpetuate racism in our institution, and replace them with accountable and actively anti-racist constructs in programs, ministries, and congregational leadership, as will as to continue to provide our individual members with resources to foster their own journey towards spiritual wholeness through identifying and addressing their own relationship with white supremacy, white privilege, and personal and institutional racism

Our work in Plainfield is not yet done. Our food pantry continues to operate out of the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian church, providing food for 60 families each month. For many of our members and friends, including myself, this service is a spiritual practice.

We also have developed a strong partnership with Social Justice Matters, serving Fanwood and Scotch Plains. For the past two years our contributions of both time and money have gone a long way towards making the annual Juneteenth celebration a success.

I plan to continue with periodic letters such as this, but I cannot guess what everyone wants to know. If you have a question or concern, just reach out to me at [email protected]

In service,

Charlie Neiss, President of First U