Minutes from the Congregational Meeting January 16th, 2022

Present: 82 people

Interpreter: Tomas Eriksson 

Interpreter: Tomas Eriksson 

§ 1 Introduction

The Chair of the Board, Greger Hjelm welcomed everyone to the meeting and said a prayer for the meeting. 

§ 2 Determining the Agenda

The agenda was set after three other questions were added. 

§ 3 Election of Adjusters 

Nancy Bono and Inga Johansson were elected to, together with the Chair, be adjusters for the meeting. 

§ 4 Election of the Nominating Committee

The Congregational meeting elects the nominating committee. The nominating committee’s assignment is to present a suggestion for election committee to work towards the Annual Meeting 2022. 

The Chair presented the councils’ suggestion for nominating committee; to choose Mi-Kyung Park, Patrick Amofah, Lotta Hansman, Marco Helles and Anna-Carin Persson Stenbeck. As summoner the councils suggest Marco Helles. 

The Congregation decided to elect the presented members for nominating committee. 

§ 5 Upcoming Annual Meeting and Congregational Meetings 

The Vice Chair, Ingrid Östlund, presented two different suggestions for two Congregational Meetings as well as the Annual Meeting. In the first suggestion there was also an informational meeting with stations within the timeframe. The Board favor the suggestion where the informational meeting will take place on Sunday April 24th and the Annual Meeting is moved to May 15th

The Board is aware of the constitution, that the Annual Meeting shall be held before the end of April. The previous Annual Meeting couldn’t take place until October 2021 due to the pandemic. The Board want to plan to return to the regular cycle but would like to give the nominating committee and the election committee a little extra time to work before the Annual Meeting. The Board also stress the fact that they want an informational meeting to be held before the Annual Meeting, as done before the pandemic. Hence why the Board has decided to have the Annual Meeting on May 15th

The meeting was opened for questions but there were none about the Board’s suggestion. 

The Congregation decided to move the Annual Meeting three weeks, to May 15th. Therefore, an informational meeting, with stations, will take place on April 24th and a joint service and the Annual Meeting will take place on May 15th. Apart from this, a Congregational Meeting will take place in February and in March. 

§ 6 Information about the current situation in the Congregation

  1. Currently in the International fellowship 

The Chair informed about the meeting that the Board Members Ingrid Östlund, Maria Eriksson and himself had with the International council on January 12th 2022. He described it as a fruitful meeting. The group was relatively on the same page that the trust between the Board/Management and part of the International fellowship, and the International council, has, for various reasons, become severely worse after each passing year. The Group also agreed that it is very important to meet and work through the current issues with several meetings in the near future. It is easy that differences will become bigger and pretend scenarios may occur with polarizing as a result. Courage, trust, and endurance are needed to get way from this and to grow closer to each other. The group need to work together for the joint goals for the Congregation and the Chair also pointed out that there had been clear forward-thinking discussions. 

There are many questions and aspects that need work. Among these, how autonomous each language group can be, and which things need to be the same for the entire Congregation. Another is to make it clearer what the Board and Management’s decisions are for the language groups and which decisions can be delegated. 

There is also tension surrounding the Congregations’ basic values. When someone is interested in joining the Congregation, a meeting needs to take place so that the new member has understood which Congregation they’re becoming a member of. People who want to become members of Immanuel Church come from different traditions and cultures and views on how a Congregation should be run. Many are not used to the structure, which is the base for Swedish associations, something that Immanuel Church has its roots and tradition in. The base of this is to inform and make clear of this so that all members in the Congregation are on the same platform. 

The International fellowship have presented a question to the Board on what the Congregation want with the International group. What is the thinking, apart from gaining more members? How can we find a balance between delegating responsibilities and keeping Immanuel Church as one Congregation? 

  1. Staffing information 

The Chair informed on the staffing situation and how it will affect the Congregation going forward.

Senior Pastor Ulla Marie Gunner has been on sick leave since November and will start working a few hours a week, with the goal to be back full time in February. Ulla Marie has informed that she will leave her position in the spring of 2023. If the Congregation recruit a new Senior Pastor before that, Ulla Marie plans to step down from her position earlier. The personnel committee is in the beginning of a recruitment process and the management of The Uniting Church of Sweden have been contacted to provide their suggestions. It is the Senior Pastor along with the Board who the Congregation have chosen to lead the Congregation. The Congregation now need to be available to help form a profile for the new recruitment of Senior Pastor. The Board will get back on types and timeframe for these meetings. 

Pastor Claes-Göran Ydrefors has worked as an extra resource for a few months and will continue working 70% throughout the spring to support both the Senior Pastor and the Chief of Administration. 

The Board have also decided to make an adjustment regarding the responsibilities where the Senior Pastor has gone from overseeing all staff, to overseeing the pastors and deacons only. The Chief of Administration, Marianne Eriksson, will step in to oversee all other staff. This change is being made to partially try shared leadership so that it can be evaluated for the recruiting for Senior Pastor. 

Pastor Chris Peterson has his last day on February 9th and deacon Anders Segersson ends his employment on Mach 22nd 2022. Apart from this, there are discussions on how the position of being responsible for music in the Congregation should look. A meeting will be held, next week, on how the vacancy of pastor in the International fellowship can be solved. 

In this time, where the Congregation is facing a possibility for changes and development, there is an opening to think about where and what the Congregation want. There is a need to find solutions for how our fellowship and ministries can meet people today. Going forward, we must base ourselves in our history and in re-thinking in the coming years. 

  1. Temporary Organizational Committee

The Board has appointed a temporary organizational committee to, among other things, attend to the tasks the Board received at the Annual Meeting. The committee’s job is to assess the Congregation’s structure and orders to create better opportunities for the Congregation to develop. As an example, there are currently three councils with the task described in the organizational documents, but the councils don’t have any mandate. Something that has created friction and disappointment. One of the tasks of the organizational committee is to evaluate the organization of the Congregation and to assess if there are any other organizational structures to enhance development, participation, and engagement. The current organizational structure was instated after a congregational decision in November 2016.

The meeting was open for questions and comments. 

Hanna Peterson started her comment with a background surrounding the International fellowship and the number of worshipers, as well as the large number of children and youth that the group has reached every Sunday before the pandemic. The international group has the largest number of worshipers every Sunday. Together with the Korean fellowship they form a very valuable part of the Congregation. The Church’s identity of being diverse is a very powerful testimony to the rest of the world. 

Hanna’s questions had partially been answered from the information the Chair provided but she still wanted to know what the plan is, going forward. Who will have the pastoral responsibility for the International fellowship? She was also wondering why the Board decided on conditions before the recruitment of a new pastor for the international group is made. Lastly, she was wondering how the temporary organizational committee consorts together with what is going on now. Is the thinking that the councils are going to cease to exist, or will they be given more mandate? Is there a mutuality for living theological dialogue? In Hanna’s opinion the vision is only interpreted from one direction. She ended with a citation from the book “Tillsammans i tro” (Together in faith), page 162, where there is a passage about the Christian international fellowship. 

The Chair responded saying in response to the pause in recruiting, that the Board has interpreted the bylaws that the Board is responsible for the entirety. Now there is a possibility to evaluate pastors, resources, and the Congregations’ staff. It is about a balance between working individually and influence from the management, among other things. The Board and management have been indistinct on the framework for our groups, over the years, and the same problems can’t be built in again. 

§ 7 Other Matters

The questions that have been sent in before the meeting have been answered in §6. The Chair opened the meeting for any other questions. 

Sven Britton, from the International council, wanted to point out that the meeting on Wednesday was confinding. However, his question was how it’s possible that the management have missed how the International fellowship is a group that has worked well and gratifyingly over the years. 

Hanna Akuffo wanted to get clarification from the Board on their thoughts and goal for new pastors. In her opinion, it is troubling if the Board want all pastors to be the same. 

The Chair answered that pastors and deacons are a specific group. It is important that the group stays connected and that the pastors have joint responsibility. The management and the leading pastors need to integrate more and work together more. It is not fruitful to have a drainpipe between the groups with completely different ways of working. The pastors are the bridge between the language groups and the questions to be presented are how this pastoral group can avoid distance and how they can work with the same starting point and values. 

Margareta Färnholm pointed to the importance to look at the previous question from the other side, on what the Congregation want with the International fellowship and to ask what the International fellowship want from the Congregation. If this is to be solved, the question needs to be asked in both directions. 

Patrick Amofah commented that it has worked well in the International fellowship for a very long time. Immanuel Church is a complicated congregation, especially in the International group with around 40 nationalities unite. The only thing the group want is to be able to come on Sundays with all their different cultures and traditions and celebrate in worship. He asked that the different language groups get to celebrate in worship in different ways. In his opinion there is a management crisis in the Congregation and that a long-term solution is needed. His assessment is that it is the leadership that is the problem and that that is why many don’t want to come to the Church on Sundays anymore. 

Lois Hemgren spoke about her passion of inviting people to Immanuel Church. When she meets people on the subway or in the city, she tells them about the Church. She raised the question on what the actual conflict and problem is, what the reason is for the lack of trust and what the Board’s plan is if the international group grows. Since the time for the meeting has passed, she will write down her questions to the Board to come back to at another Congregational Meeting. 

Lotta Hansman, from the International council, confirmed that the meeting on Wednesday had been fruitful. She wondered why the Board had decided on pausing the recruitment for pastor for the International group but not in the recruitment for Senior Pastor. She recommended the Board to wait with that recruitment as well. She also asked for a definition on what is meant with diversity. 

§ 8 Conclusion

Pastor Claes-Göran Ydrefors prayed for guidance going forward and read the blessing. The Chair then thanked everyone for the meeting and declared the meeting closed. 

Secretary of the meeting: 

Cathrin Sjöström, Congregational Secretary


Greger Hjelm, Chair of the Board

Nancy Bono

Inga Johansson