Minutes from the Congregational meeting in Immanuel church on 2 February 2019

Present: about 100 members

§ 1   Welcome and opening of the meeting

The congregation’s Chair, Stephen James, welcomed everyone.

§ 2   Election of verifiers

Ann-Marie Köhlin and Bengt-Enar Andersson were elected to verify the minutes.

§ 3   Agenda

Two items were added to the agenda, after which it was approved.

§ 4   Calendar 2020

The Chair Stephen James presented an annual cycle for the congregation, with some selected highlights. The purpose is to provide information on things that are going on, and to give opportunity to rejoice about this and pray for it.

Q1:

  • 23 January: Board meeting
  • 2 February: Congregational meeting
  • 20 February: Board meeting
  • 22-26 February: Winter camp
  • 26 February: Ash Wednesday service
  • 12 March: Board meeting
  • 29 March: Congregational meeting
  • Confirmation

Q2:

  • 19 April: pre-meeting for the Annual Meeting
  • 23 April: Annual meeting for the companies
  • 26 April: Annual Meeting
  • 14 May: Board meeting
  • 21-23 May: Church conference
  • 31 May: joint service
  • 11 June: Board meeting
  • Confirmation

Q3:

  • 1-10 August: trip to Taizé
  • 19 August: Barbecue
  • 25 August: Board meeting
  • 12-13 September: Confirmation weekend
  • 23 September: Board meeting

Q4:

  • 22 October: Board meeting
  • 15 November: joint service
  • 19 November: Board meeting
  • 10 December: Board meeting

§ 5 Budget and finances 2020

  1. Stephen James presented budget and finances for 2020. The Board has budgeted for a total cost of SEK 35.7 million, a dividend from Probitas of SEK 20.5 million, ministry expenses of SEK 14.2 million, gifts and offerings of SEK 3.6 million and income from the church fee of SEK 1.3 million.
  2. The Chair also showed how the income from the church fee as well as gifts and offerings has steadily increased, which is very gratifying for the congregation. Gifts and offerings have increased from just over two million in 2005 to just below 3.5 million in 2019. The church fee has increased from 300,000 in 2005 to over 1.2 million in 2019. Now more than 540 people donate their church fee to Immanuel Church. This also means that the church reached the budget target for 2019. For 2020, the budget line for voluntary gifts has been increased from a total of 4.7 to 4.9 million, which the Board believes is feasible.
  3. Last year the staff communicated to the Board what they want to focus on within their areas of ministry. It agreed with the church’s priority areas: social welfare, fellowship, children and youth, and leadership. In order to give an example of how the raised funds will be used, the Chair gave the floor to Fredrik Jonsson, who presented the church’s ministry for children and young people and the plans and dreams that exist for 2020.

Fredrik Jonsson started by saying that the staff working with children and young people in the church now work together as a team, regardless of language group. The team consists of Fredrik Jonsson, Pete Anderson, Geri Lindberg, Mikael Zifa Eriksson, Chris McGee and Maria Rönnedal. Working together around the annual planning enriches the children and young people and brings positive budgetary effects by, for example, organizing all camps together.

The team presented part of the current ministry for children and youth. It is gratifying that there are now 189 registered children in the international children’s ministry led by about 35 voluntary leaders, that Skaparsöndag is once again part of the Swedish 11.00 service every other Sunday, that there are now about 25 registered for this year’s confirmation, and that there are plans for and dreams of a confirmation with sign language in 2021, aimed at young people with special needs throughout Sweden, as there is no such confirmation in the Uniting church at present.

§ 6 The Swedish ministry: vision and plans

The Chair gave the floor to Senior Pastor Ulla Marie Gunner, who since December is combining her role as Senior Pastor with the role as Lead pastor for the Swedish fellowship. Ulla Marie Gunner mentioned that she has received questions how she will be able to handle both these tasks and answered that she gets help by the Chair to prioritize, and that Helena Erkenborn has been employed as ministry coordinator, where some of her tasks are to support Ulla Marie Gunner. Helena Erkenborn is a deacon, holds a Theology Bachelor’s degree and has worked in the church before. She is employed as ministry coordinator 50% for half a year and now also works 25% with supporting the Swedish ministry

Ulla Marie Gunner further stated that her main priorities as Senior Pastor are the fellowship between the language groups, the Board and personnel committee, overarching questions and coordination and management of the staff. As Lead pastor for the Swedish fellowship her main priorities are right now, together with a broad interview group, to recruit a new pastor, who will hopefully be in place by the autumn, to have meetings and reviews with the staff every week, and to keep in contact with the Swedish Council.

She finds that the following areas need to be given extra priority: this spring’s theme of loving our neighbour, better formulating our identity, how we relate to the other language groups, the social welfare work which is under pressure right now, to be a voice for diversity and inequality, to develop the music, to cherish and listen to teens, confirmands and children, to strengthen the small group ministry (this will be the theme in an upcoming breakfast talk on 28 March, and the topic will also be touched on 10 May, when Olle Carlsson will preach and participate in a discussion afterwards), to take greater responsibility in the immediate vicinity of the church and to approach the group of middle-aged members who rarely come to church.

When Ulla Marie Gunner looks five years ahead, her visions for the congregation are:

  • More people in the immediate area will know about Immanuel.
  • More people will see Immanuel as an obvious place for faith, prayer and existential questions.
  • More people will participate in the worship services.
  • More small groups – both for those who are curious, beginners and seekers.
  • More mentoring, where for instance Swedish families will meet families who are new to Sweden.
  • Connect more to the music in the immediate area.
  • Highlight diversity as a gift.

§ 7   Immanuel 2.0 interim report

The Chair gave the floor to Erik Amnå, project leader for “Immanuel 2.0”, an ongoing project about the future of the congregation. Where do we want to be in five years, in ten years? How will the church reach out to “new people”? What is the church prepared to give up in order to give place for new things, that which might characterize tomorrow’s church? The Board has previously decided to conduct a pilot study, in the form of interviews with focus groups. Erik Amnå presented the results that this pilot study has so far produced.

Why a pilot study?

  • To give the church management a current picture of the members’ feelings and thoughts about the church and its future.
  • To offer the members an opportunity to share their experiences and opinions about the church and its future.

 What kind of questions did the interviews contain?

  • How and why did you come to church?
  • What do you feel for the church right now?
  • How do you think about the future of the church?

How was the study performed?

  1. A letter from the pastors was sent out to 100 randomly selected members, ensuring that there were young, young adults, middle-aged and senior members from both the Swedish 11-service, the International fellowship and 153.
  2. Ten members answered the letter, most of them declined.
  3.  After some more coaxing, 31 persons eventually participated in a two hours long discussion in focus groups. The discussions were recorded and transcribed (and were then destroyed to ensure anonymity).

What did the interviews show?

– The interviewed members had found their way to church because: they were ”born” in the church, they had moved here, they were seekers, they had returned, they accompanied someone, they feel they have found their home.

– They saw the church as: a Family project, a Freedom project (you may come as you are), a Quality project.

– In their membership they stressed: giving, receiving, anonymity.

– In their view of the church’s future there were three different directions:

A loosely joined whole

  • Clarify the assignments of the autonomous parts
  • Small groups
  • Joint worship services now and then

A close-knit congregation

  • Joint worship services or joint beginning of the services
  • Stimulate an intellectual fellowship and identity to make it clearer
  • Deepening of faith and beliefs
  • Develop an everyday integration

Good enough as it is

  • Don’t like everything – but something ”forgives” everything
  • Peaceful co-existence

– Other observations from the interviews are that there is no general crisis mood, instead there is considerable gratitude and joy. But there is a longing for children and young people, especially within the frames of the 11.00 service (the current activities with children, youth and confirmation are not seen or are not enough). There is a need to be seen and acknowledged as part of the large church fellowship. In the relationship between the language groups different matters are emphasized: tolerance, respect, fellowship and learning. The differences within the congregation are not seen as general diversity, but as potential for congregational development.

– There are different opinions when it comes to what one believes in. At one end are those who primarily have a low-profile confession and who seek benefit of their participation in the church, at the other end there are those who have a more proclaiming testimony, are more conscientious, and emphasize Bible teaching. Another tension is around whether the congregation is primarily pastor-led or member-led.

What will happen next?

– There will be continued discussions based on the result under the leadership of Clas Jonsson.

– More interviews with groups that have not been addressed: Young families with children under confirmation age, people living and working around the church, the Koreans.

– The Chair emphasized that the Board thinks this is a good start to the project, but that much remains to be done.

– There was a question whether it would be possible to take part of the work. Clas Jonsson replied that he assumes this will be possible, but he does not yet know in what form.

– Several also expressed the importance of finding out why so many members did not want to answer or be part of the study. Is there an exclusion that should be addressed? Clas Jonsson promised to include these considerations in the Board’s continued work.

§ 8   Information about the Uniting Church: Church Board and Church leader

The Senior Pastor referred to earlier congregational meetings regarding election of Church Board and new Church leaders of the Uniting Church. She reported that there is nothing new to tell. The congregation has already proposed two candidates as assistant Church leaders. The Church Board meeting where two final candidates will be proposed as assistant Church leaders will only take place next weekend. Ulla Marie Gunner clarified that it is possible to nominate other candidates during the Church conference, but that the conference often agrees to the proposal of the Church Board.

§ 9   Any other business

  1. Motions for the Annual Meeting should preferably be submitted by 16 February

The Chair announced that the Board would like motions for the Annual Meeting to be submitted by 16 February in order to make it possible to prepare all the material. Since, according to the statutes, proposals may be submitted six weeks before the Annual Meeting, the Board will accept motions later, but appeals to the congregation to keep 16 February as deadline.

  1. Proposed statute amendment: Motions must be submitted 10 weeks before the Annual meeting

Because of the fact that time is needed for motions and proposals to be printed and translated before the Annual Meeting, the Chair informed that the Board will propose that the statutes be amended so that proposals and motions must be submitted no later than ten weeks before the Annual Meeting. The proposal will be put forward for decision at the congregational meeting on 29 March and at the Annual Meeting on 26 April.

  1. Communication 2020 – the magazine Immanuel will be closed down

The Board and its Communication and Collection sub-committee have worked with questions on how we can reach each other in the best way within the congregation, and above all – how we can reach people outside our church. For this to happen, we must keep up with the rapid development in the field, both in terms of technology and method. We need to be active on social media, have a functioning website, efficient advertising, tighter internal information, and so on…

The Chair informed about the work in progress:

  1. A new website is on its way! After some problems we hope that it will be available by the summer.
  2. Posting today takes place on bulletin boards around the church with printed posters. In the spring, these will be replaced by three large-screen monitors, which are controlled by computers and can be kept updated in a completely new way.
  1. The church’s presence on social media has increased significantly over the past year and will be developed even more.
  1. The magazine ”Immanuel” is now published every two months, but the Board has decided to phase out the magazine by the summer. Two more issues will be published. The reason for the decision is that the magazine is not enough today, it is rarely published, it does not meet the quality requirements of communication in terms of content, graphic profile, resources and environmental thinking. In order not to create an information deficit and for everyone, regardless of age, to receive what the magazine today communicates, the following will be done at the same time as the magazine is being phased out:
  • The church’s electronic newsletter, which is sent out every month, will be developed. The Board will work to ensure that the newsletter receives many more subscribers in all the worship groups. For example, there will be subscription lists available in connection with worship services and at the information desk.
  • Since a number of members do not have access to computers, the newsletter and the calendar will be available in printed form to be picked up at the information desk.
  • For those members who are interested to receive information, but for various reasons are unable to come to church to pick it up, it will be possible to have the information sent home by post.
  1. Supplementary election to the Election committee

In the absence of Patrick Amofah, Chair of the Nominating committee, Ulla Marie Gunner announced the committee’s proposal for supplementary election to the common Election committee for the Annual meeting 2020: Sujata Lalit Kumar.

The congregation decided according to the proposal.

  1. Question regarding pastors who have resigned

One member asked why Tobias Frelin, who until the end of last year served as pastor in the congregation, has resigned. She also wondered why other pastors, such as Ulf Bergsviker and Karin Fritzon, have quit in recent years. The Chair replied that for reasons of confidentiality he could not comment on why Tobias Frelin resigned, and that one should talk to him personally. He wondered if the underlying question was really whether there was anything wrong with the church. His answer was that there is nothing wrong with the church, but that there are always changes and staff turnover in such a large congregation as Immanuel Church.

In connection with this issue, another member wondered why there had not been any information on what would be addressed at today’s congregational meeting. The Chair replied that this statement was not correct, as there has been information on the website’s first page for several weeks. However, he noted that if the information still does not reach out one must work in more ways to share information. A third member expressed joy over the congregational meeting and that so many were present.

§ 10 Conclusion

Ulla Marie Gunner prayed a prayer and the Chair declared the meeting closed. The next congregational meeting will take place on 29 March.

Secretary: Lina Mattebo

Minutes approved by: 

Stephen James, Chair,

Ann-Marie Köhlin

Bengt-Enar Andersson