August 23, 2023
Director of Communications & Outreach
Greetings, Bethany community!
This is the first of my letters to the congregation (eventually a regular series, but ad hoc for now), through which I will keep you appraised of goings-on pertaining to my role as your new Director of Communications and Outreach. Included this time are several items: a brief introduction of myself; safety information (and a surprise!) about renovations; commentary on the Sunday worship service livestreams; and a description of my broader vision & plan of action for Bethany's growth.
I've greatly appreciated your warm welcomes! If we haven't yet met in-person, then I look forward to when we can -- perhaps over coffee or tea? In brief, I grew up in Rochester, NY, where I was baptized and confirmed in a Lutheran church. I have a PhD in music theory, am a rock 'n roll drummer, and am a ludomusicologist (a scholar specializing in the intersection of music and play (from Latin "ludus" meaning "game")). I come from a big family, voraciously consume fantasy & sci fi in all mediums, treasure time spent immersed in nature (especially big trees and big caves), and at every moment am poised to reflect on mysterious insights across myriad facets of the human condition. One final (somewhat ironic) tidbit about me: names take my brain a long time to memorize, so if I don't say yours right away when we cross paths, please just go ahead and remind me until I do!
Regarding Bethany's exciting transformations, there are a couple of very important pieces of information. Foremost is that once the renovations begin (M 9/18), it is absolutely critical that nobody enter the Sanctuary. This is a firm matter of safety and liability. To be clear, the abatement process will be entirely contained, and no environmental hazard is posed to anyone in the lobby, or the other spaces. That being said, asbestos, other particulates, and various tools, could all lead to potential injury within the construction zone. Please be mindful of your childrens' whereabouts, and please resist your own curiosity. We're all excited about the renovations, so I have arranged with the contractors for me to be escorted through the sanctuary at important milestones, that I may take photos on our collective behalf.
Second, we will be storing the pews in the large basement community room. We will section them off as best we're able, but again, please ensure that children do not play near them, because they are going to be stacked and are very heavy. Now, we aren't reinstalling all of the pews in the renovated Sanctuary, so if you would like one of your own souvenir pews -- yes, seriously! -- then we need to know by this Sunday. We will leave it under the vehicle canopy in front of the main entrance for you, which you will be responsible for collecting. If you haven't the space for a full-length pew, perhaps you could cut a chunk out of the middle, or split it with someone else.
A third topic related to Bethany's overall transformation is the technological component to Sunday worship service. I am aware that production has not been flawless the past few services, which I would like to directly address on behalf of the A/V team, of whom I am very proud. The A/V system was developed by passionate members of our community under the extremely unideal pandemic circumstances, the system was majorly overhauled a mere month ago, and then, with hardly any time to retrain, the team was burdened by an entirely new member (me).
I have been present in the balcony for the past two services. What I have observed, is a different set of problems present themselves mid-service each week, which were successfully diagnosed and repaired, mid-service, each week -- all while helping me learn which buttons to press! There are many reasons that a given problem can arise, which a misdiagnosis can amplify (okay, bad pun). But, we succeeded in correctly identifying & solving the problems while under pressure (I've seen it fail in other settings), and everyone stayed cool. That's impressive.
We are currently developing new procedures, multiple redundancies, and workflows which will not only resolve past issues, but hopefully anticipate new ones, and definitely improve the holistic quality of our digital presentation. The production will be simplified while we gather in Luther Hall this fall season, and once that routine is familiar, we will turn a preemptive eye towards our return to the Sanctuary-proper. At all times, please know that we greatly appreciate your feedback; if you wish to ensure that it is considered, then it should be emailed directly to firstname.lastname@example.org -- the less time the team spends relaying and collating messages across multiple platforms, the more time we have for developing solutions and for training. Down the road I'll create dedicated online feedback forms for you to fill out, but for now please just email me directly.
This leads me to an overview of my 3-stage development plan for Bethany, which I liken to the refurbishment of a classic automobile. Stage 1, we work on the engine -- I want this car to hum like a spaceship! Stage 2 is the bodywork -- we touch up the chrome and sharpen those pinstripes! Stage 3 requires sunglasses -- we drive around town, and everyone wants to hop in! I thought of this metaphor while listening to Marc Cohn's song "Silver Thunderbird". Two of his favorite subjects to sing about are cars and faith, such as in the songs "Saving the Best for Last", "Walk on Water", and "Strangers in a Car". Maybe down the road I'll write a Wednesday Words exploring that... but for now:
I am currently in "Stage Zero: Assessment", and am beginning to embark upon "Stage One: Internal". During the coming months I will be reviewing all of our internal systems, including software, hardware, information pipelines, and so on. I anticipate that our congregation will grow more rapidly and proportionately than our formal staff, and so my goal is to maximize our material and methodological efficiency. A lean, facile structure will allow us to serve a growing and increasingly diverse congregation. Although those will be largely invisible changes, "Stage Two: External" entails cosmetic updates to our digital and physical spaces (both interior and exterior). The goal is for Bethany to feel fresh yet familiar; professional but not institutional. Bethany is home to many groups, and it is important for those good vibes to be immediately accessible by newcomers who've yet to grow an emotional history with the space. This is a matter of both presentation and content. "Stage Three: Outreach" involves a variety of methods in which I'll reach out to communities who are not yet regularly joining with us, and share our welcomes with them. I'm looking forward to this stage most of all, because I feel inspired to pass along that very same warmth which you've all wrapped around me as I'm beginning the first Bethany chapter in my own life journey.
Bethany Lutheran Church is a beautiful community, doing wonderful things for those in need, and I'm grateful to have been led here. In future letters I will discuss the details of these stages -- and other topics as well -- but I hope that this overview provides you with a general sense of what you can expect from my first year of work.
- Once construction begins, the Sanctuary (incl. balcony) and "the pews corner" of the basement community room are strictly off-limits;
- If you would like to own a pew, I need to know by this Sunday 8/27;
- Email feedback about A/V (and all other matters) to email@example.com (that's plural!);
- Please continue to actively help me with learning your names!
- If you'd like for me to visit your Bethany-related group, or just to share a beverage & chat one-on-one, please don't be shy!
"If there's a God up in Heaven
He's got a silver thunderbird"
- Marc Cohn