Old South to Revisit By-Laws

by Roger Burke, Moderator

I am very pleased to report that the Old South Church Council, at its monthly meeting March 10th, unanimously approved the appointment of the By-Law Review Task Force. It is a great committee with important work to do for OSC. This appointment is the culmination of a process which began in February, 1996, when the congregation approved A New Century _ A Long-Range Plan for the Old South Church in Boston. The plan recommended that the Council "form an ad hoc committee to evaluate the By-Laws and determine whether they meet the needs of changing times."

At the Council meeting two months ago, the Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) proposed and the Council adopted a motion to approve the formation of a By-Law Review Task Force, to be nominated by the Leadership Committee. The LRPC motion called for a Task Force comprised of a chair, six at-large representatives from the congregation, and two ex-officio (non-voting) members _ a secretary for the task force and the Senior Minister. The motion read, in part, "The Leadership Committee should strive to appoint a committee whose members bring a fresh perspective, have served previously in significant official roles, or have by-law expertise."

It also stated "throughout the two years, the By-Law Review Task Force should conduct regular church forums for congregational input and present ongoing status updates of progress to the Council and to the congregation. The Task Force should strive to get input from as many of the key governing bodies/committee of the church as possible as part of its deliberations including, but not limited to, the Trustees, Board of Deacons, Council and the Long-Range Planning Committee. The By-Law Review Task Force should take into consideration the recommendations of the New Century Report, especially in regards to Goal IV _ Governing Structures and Procedures."

At the March 10th Council meeting, Ken Campbell, the chair of the Leadership Committee, described the process followed by the Committee at its meeting of February 25 regarding the nominations, which were posted Sunday, March 8, on the notice board between the elevators on the first floor. The Leadership Committee for 1998 is composed of Ken Campbell, Mary Hunter, Eleanor Jensen, Scott McInturff, Lorry Spitzer, Elizabeth Tustian, John Weingartner, and as ex-officio members, the Senior and Associate Ministers, Jim Crawford and Rick Chrisman.

The committee set a goal of having a roughly equal number of women and men among the nine members of the task force, seven of whom would have voting privileges. A grid system was set up to select two members in each of the categories specified in the Council motion: "a committee whose members bring a fresh perspective, have served previously in significant official roles, or have by-law expertise." The names of those members who had expressed interest in serving or who had been proposed by others were included in the Leadership list of more than 25 names which were discussed and considered.

After much deliberation, the Committee agreed unanimously to nominate Larry Bowers as Chair. He has served Old South as Moderator, Deacon, Chairman and member of the Board of Trustees, and for many years was a teacher for the confirmation classes at Old South. Larry, a lawyer, has a broad knowledge of Congregational polity through his work as vice-moderator of the Metropolitan Boston Association UCC. He will serve as Moderator of the MBA this next year.

In the category of members who have by-law expertise, the committee nominated Margaret Bush and Wayne Grant. Margaret, a member since 1987, is a professor of library science at Simmons College and has served on by-law committees for a number of national organizations with which she is affiliated. She has served OSC for many years as a member and Chair of the Christian Outreach Committee. Wayne, an associate member since 1995, is treasurer of the American Congregational Association and has a broad knowledge of the structure of congregations. The son of a Congregational minister, he has dealt with issues of church organization as a member of a by-law task force for his church in Andover during the 1980s and has done consulting for a number of years in organization design and management.

In the category of members who have a fresh perspective, the committee nominated two young members of the congregation: Russell Gregg and Sarah Monsma-Billings. Russell, a member since 1996, is an environmental lawyer at Liberty Mutual Insurance and was recently elected to the Old South Council as an at-large member. Sarah, who joined the church as a member of the confirmation class of 1982, has served as an at-large member of Council and a member of the Religion and Arts Committee and the Christian Education Committee.

In the category of members who have served previously in significant official roles, the committee nominated Wayne Davis and Mary Kendrick. Wayne, a member since 1984 and a stockbroker, has served as Senior Deacon and, for the past 10 years, as a Trustee. He continues to serve as the Board of Trustee's volunteer manager of the portfolio of the church's endowment. Mary, a member since 1955, was the first woman Deacon in the early 1970s. She has served as chair of the Leadership Committee, as Historian, a member of the Historian's Heritage Committee, and has served as a volunteer receptionist on the front desk for many years. She is familiar with both the current by-laws and the previous by-laws, which were in effect from 1945 to 1974.

Lois Corman, a member since 1975, was nominated as Secretary. She knows the church thoroughly as the editor and compiler of the Annual Report for many years, the writer of much of the Calendar, and a former chair of the Leadership Committee. A law school graduate, she served as secretary for last year's search committee for our new Director of Music.

The Council, after a very thorough discussion of the matter, voted unanimously and with great enthusiasm to approve the nominees for the By-Law Review Task Force.

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