Betsy McDowell and George Wardle addressing the congregation about the Capital Campaign Spring 2015

Report of Capital Campaign Committee - Annual Meeting May 2016


Goal of the Capital Campaign:  To increase the capacity of the church to meet its mission in its congregation and its broader communities by creating a warm and welcoming space that will comfort, encourage and inspire members, visitors, renters and all those who enter our doors.


Background and current financial status

  • Congregation authorized Campaign goal of $350K at Interim Congregational Meeting January 2015

  • Total goal including start-up costs = $365K

  • Total amount committed to date = $328K

  • Receipts expected by end of FY 2016 = $214K


CCC Work in FY 2016

The work of the Capital Campaign Committee shifted in FY 16 from a primary emphasis on fundraising to a focus on collecting pledged funds and implementing the objectives of the campaign. 


Tower loan retirement

In order to perform critical structural work on the tower, in 2011, the church took out a $150K loan through Boston Private Bank, using assets of the Trust as collateral.  The Trust has been making interest and small principal payments on the loan using its portion of the Nextel/Sprint cell tower rental receipts, with a balloon payment due in May 2016.  In light of the strong response from the congregation, particularly our lead donors, to our plea for front-loaded Capital Campaign commitments, we were able to pay $85K of the principal in November, saving money on interest.  The balance of the loan, approximately $51K, was due in May and has also been paid, so the church has now accomplished one of its top priorities for the Capital Campaign.  The Committee was interested in fully retiring the loan as long as we could also accomplish at least one of our construction projects in this fiscal year.  We will be able to get this work done in June (see below) thanks to our strong bank balance.  This means we will have accomplished two of our Capital Campaign goals by the end of our first fiscal year. Congratulations to us! Thanks to Tim Williamson and Gerry Culver for managing our revenue and expenditure functions and stewarding our donors so ably.


The Committee was also interested in assuring its ability to manage construction projects without disruption due to short-term cash flow issues.  Through the efforts of Gerry Culver, we were able to obtain a line of credit of $30K from Boston Private Bank which we will be able to tap to assure smooth project completion through the remainder of the Capital Campaign period. 


Construction Projects

Betsy McDowell worked with the Building Committee and Payne Bouchier to advance our first construction project:  turning the coat hanging area in the back hall into a multi-purpose closet. The area will be enclosed with matching wood and doors. Its first use will be by the Food Pantry.  The interior will be configured to allow space for 4 wheeled cabinets for storage of Food Pantry items, curtailing trips to the sanctuary.  The construction is currently scheduled for the end of June when KidsARTS! will be out of the building for two weeks.  Special thanks to Jane Zerby and Gwyn Helie for all they do for the Food Pantry, and to Nancy Angney, Margaret Suby and Sean McGann for participating in the Building Committee review. Our second project, which we hope to complete in the first half of FY2017, will be rebuilding the chair and table storage mechanisms under the stage.


Continued Fundraising Initiatives

We are pursuing several avenues to continue to raise funds.  Betsy McDowell formed a subcommittee to create a video about the church that can be edited for use both to solicit outside funders for the Capital Campaign, and as a general marketing tool for our church.  We have identified the following categories of “friends of the church” to whom we will direct a fundraising plea in the future:  users of the space (e.g., KidsARTS!, JP Forum); past church members and friends; those who have held meaningful ceremonies or events in the church, such as weddings, memorial services and naming ceremonies; local businesses; JP and Boston residents interested in preserving this historic community resource; and other UUs through a Faithify (like Kickstarter) campaign.  The subcommittee has chosen a videographer, drafted a script and started interviewing speakers.  The video should be complete by the beginning of the church year in September.  Thanks especially to Robert Amelio, Gwyn Helie, Andrea Clardy, Patrick Simmons and Samantha Overton for their help on this important project.  Critical to our fundraising success will be incorporation of an online giving component on the church website.

Penny Wells and a volunteer have been exploring additional sources of funds from foundations and grants.  The pool of resources is limited for interior construction projects in religious institutions, especially those that are not organized as a 501(c)3.  We will continue to seek unique pockets of funding that may be open to our pitch that the church is a key community resource.


THANKS TO ALL FOR YOUR LOYAL SUPPORT!  We welcome your comments and feedback.

Respectfully submitted,

Betsy McDowell

Penny Wells

Co-chairs, Capital Campaign

LETTER FROM The Capital Campaign Committee


October 2015


Dear First Church Members and Friends –


On behalf of the Capital Campaign Committee, we thank you for your generous support of our dreams for the future.  We are writing to update you on where we are and what to expect in the coming year and to ask you to consider accelerating your Capital Campaign payments so we can accomplish some serious goals in the next few months...



ABOUT Our Capital Campaign


Since its establishment in 1769, First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist has been at the heart of the community, both physically and spiritually. We seek to make the church more welcoming, more practical, and more efficient.

By protecting and preserving our historic building, we honor generations past. By making space within the building more functional and accessible, we encourage those who use it for worship, education, and service. These efforts reflect our deep commitment to identify First Church as a place of worship, a community center, a good neighbor, and a gathering place for those who pursue a better world.

First Church has held two Capital Campaigns in the past twenty-five years, most recently 1998- 2002. We raised funds for a wheelchair ramp and a handicapped accessible bathroom and we refurbished our pews.

Since then, we have implemented a strategic plan for the church and closely examined the sustainability of our beloved building. Our current Capital Campaign is an intentional, focused plan to make our space more functional and more comfortable by reducing clutter, reorganizing upstairs space, and upgrading our kitchen. In addition, we will remove the burden of debt from repairs to our tower.




The First Church congregation has set a goal of $350,000 for the Capital Campaign. We have engaged Payne Bouchier, a fine building company with expertise in historical renovation and restoration, to create and improve our interior spaces.

“While the challenges of our current building are many, it is also an irreplaceable asset that contributes substantially to the life of the church and the community. . . The building is the vessel of a rich history we could never replace, and . . . it is an integral part of who we are as a congregation.”



Please help First Church make beautiful changes in our historic home so that we can better accommodate all our activities, programs, and community services.




Excerpt from Tracey Robinson-Harris' Sermon: This Place We Call Home

When I made my first trip to First Church to talk with the Interim Search folks I was grateful for the tower and the corner location . . .  I knew I was in the right place.

With this landmark location, I’ve come to appreciate one more thing about this building, one more landmark quality -- the sound of the bell.

The tower and the bell. Telling me this is the place.  Marking the passage of time and moments in the life of the spirit -- beginning, ending, pausing.  This building is a means of ministry offered in myriad ways.  Sometimes outward and symbolic.  There is the ministry of place embodied in here.

Not so long ago I was reminded (thanks to Jom) of a simple rhyme I learned as a child.  Maybe you learned it too.  It goes like this.  Here’s the church. . .

Here’s the Church.  Here’s the Steeple.  A space that offers many ways to connect to the spirit, to honor the intention that brings each of us here -– light through the windows, beautiful music of our historic organ, people with whom you share these pews, words spoken or sung, silence. . . .

Here. The soul of the church.  Beyond the door and across the hall . . . there is the heart of our church.  The parish hall.  The dining room -– where we connect and enjoy simple refreshments.   At other times that heart space is home to communal meals, community gatherings, summer worship services, joyful wedding receptions, sorrowful and celebratory memorial receptions. And -- twice a month right there in the heart of First Church -- many kinds of foods are gathered together to become meals for those living with “food insecurity,” without enough for themselves, for their family.

Here in this place we call home we offer ministry . . .  of Soul.  Of Heart.

Here’s the church.  Here’s the steeple.  Open the doors.  See the people.

People.  And we are not the only ones.  Here with us in spirit, in name on our windows and walls, in commitment, are our ancestors in faith –- who passed on this place in inheritance.  It is ours to hold for a time.  As we do, they believed those who would come after them would need and want a place like this.  A place described in the words of our historic covenant as one of love and truth, of worship and service.  Ours to shape with our lives.

We and our ancestors . . . we are not the only ones with a claim on this place.  Others who, weeks or years or decades from now, will hold our legacy in their hands.  These folks will know how well and faithfully we kept our promise to leave for them a place of love and truth, of worship and service.

You know the song “This Little Light of Mine.”  Let’s give it try.

Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock once sang that song with words new to me . . . words I’d never heard before.   Gonna let my little light shine, shine, shine. Gonna let my little light shine, shine, shine.  May be someone down in the valley, tryin' to get home.  May be someone tryin' to get home. They, too, will know how well and faithfully we kept our promise.

With the kickoff of the Embrace Our Future capital campaign we celebrate the ministry of this place that is so important.  Now . . . one more time . . . make the church with your hands


Read the full sermon here.



Here’s the church.
    Here’s the tower.
      Open the doors.
        Feel the power.