WILLIAMSTOWN CONGREGATIONAL PARISH
THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
IN WILLIAMSTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS
The name of this Church shall be THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
The avowed purpose of this Church shall be to worship God, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to celebrate the Sacraments; to realize Christian fellowship and unity within this Church and the Church Universal; to render loving service toward all people; and to strive for righteousness, justice and peace.
We believe in the freedom and responsibility of the individual soul, and the right of private judgment. We hold to the autonomy of the local church and its independence of all ecclesiastical control. The government of this Church is vested in its members, who exercise the right to administer all its affairs, subject to the corporate laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
We affirm that this Church is part of the United Church of Christ, the Massachusetts Conference and the Berkshire Association; we cherish the counsel and cooperation of these bodies. In case of grave difficulty within the congregation the Pastor and/or the Deacons shall seek the counsel of the Massachusetts Conference.
While affirming the liberty of our churches and the validity of our ministry, we hold to the unity and universality of the Church of Christ. We will work with all its branches in hearty cooperation and, so far as in us lies, earnestly strive to fulfill the prayer of our Lord for his disciples that “they all may be one.”
FAITH AND COVENANT
The faith that unites us and to which we bear witness is the faith in God which the scriptures set forth, which the ancient church expressed in the ecumenical creeds and to which our spiritual forebears gave utterance in the evangelical confessions of the Reformation. This faith we are in
duty bound to express in the words of our time as God gives us light. We seek to preserve unity of heart and spirit with those who have gone before us as well as those who now labor with us. In token of that faith we unite in the following Statement of Faith, not as a test, but as a testimony, embodying those things most surely believed among us. Each person has the obligation to study and understand the following Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ and to interpret it according to the dictates of individual conscience.
STATEMENT OF FAITH
We believe in God, the Eternal spirit, who is made known to us in Jesus, the son of God, and to whose deeds we testify;
God calls the world into being,
creates us in the divine image,
and sets before us the ways of life and death.
God seeks in Holy love to save all people from
aimlessness and sin.
God judges individuals and nations with righteousness
as declared through prophets and apostles.
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified
and risen Lord, God has come to us
and shared our common lot,
conquering sin and death
and reconciling the whole creation to its Creator.
God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit,
creating and renewing the Church of Jesus Christ,
binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.
God calls us into the Church
to accept the cost and joy of discipleship,
to be servants in the service of the whole human family,
to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil,
to share in Christ’s baptism and eat at his table,
to join him in his passion and victory.
All who trust in God are promised
forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace,
courage in the struggle for justice and peace,
the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing,
and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God. Amen
The covenant is based on the original 1765 covenant of this Church. The original document was destroyed in the fire of 1866. The covenant has been reconstructed from later versions and installed by the Board of Deacons on the occasion of the Church’s bicentennial, May, 1965, then later revised to add inclusive language.
“We desire and by the Aids of Divine Grace do promise to walk in all the Statutes and Ordinances of the Lord, to assemble for God’s Worship, to keep Holy the Sabbath Day, to maintain Family Religion and Secret Prayer, and to honor our High and Holy Vocations by Lives of Piety toward God and Benevolence toward all People, and so do now join ourselves into this Church and covenant to walk with it in Christian Love and Faithfulness according to the Rules given us in God’s Holy Word. This we do in humble Dependence on God, praying that God will enable us to be Faithful and Steadfast in this Covenant. Amen.”
Public services of worship shall be held each Sunday except as specified by the Deacons. Additional services of various forms may be held at other times at the discretion of the Deacons. Further, as approved by the Deacons, services may be held in cooperation with other area churches, especially during the summer months. The Lord’s Supper shall be celebrated at least six times each year on dates fixed by the Deacons. Baptism may be celebrated at any worship service.
Membership in this Church shall consist of those persons who are, at the time of the adoption of these bylaws, members of this Church, and those persons thereafter admitted to membership.
Membership shall be open to all persons who have been baptized and have made public confession of their faith in Jesus as the Christ. Members shall promise, as far as they are able, to join regularly in public worship, to celebrate the sacraments, to attend Church meetings and to share in the work of the Church.
Admission to membership in this Church shall be through Confirmation, Confession of Faith, Reaffirmation of Faith, or by letter of transfer from another Christian Church. A dual member shall be a member of another Christian church who does not wish to give up membership in that church but also joins our Church. A person seeking membership will be received by recommendation and action of the Pastor and the Deacons. New members shall be publicly received into the Church through the “owning of the covenant” of this Church at any service of worship. Any person unable to attend such service may be received by the Pastor and the Deacons acting in behalf of the Church.
The Clerk shall monitor a list of all members, but in the annual report of this Church to the Massachusetts Conference, the Clerk shall record only the number of active members. An active member is one who has joined the Church and does any of the following: attends, contributes to, or serves the Church. Any member of the Church may request a letter of transfer out of this Church. All Church members shall seek, welcome, introduce and integrate new people into the life of the Church.
The governing body of this Church shall be the membership assembled in Annual Meeting or Special Meeting. The vote of a majority of the members present at the meeting shall be the action of the Church with the following exceptions (where a two-thirds vote of those present shall be mandatory): calling or dismissing of a pastor; alteration of covenants or denominational affiliation of this Church; adoption or amendment of these bylaws. The church membership must specifically authorize any purchase, sale, mortgage, or transfer of any real estate by a two-thirds vote of those present at an Annual or Special Meeting. A quorum shall consist of forty members or thirty percent of currently active members, whichever number is smaller.
Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting shall be held within five weeks of the start of the calendar year immediately following a service of worship. The warrant for the Annual Meeting shall be issued by the Clerk at least fourteen days before the meeting date. Any item proposed by a Church member for inclusion on the warrant, shall be delivered, in writing, to the Moderator in advance of the December Church Council meeting. The warrant shall state the day and hour and describe the purpose of the meeting, except that any proposed amendment to the bylaws shall be stated in full detail. The warrant shall be posted near the principal entrance of the Church and read by the Clerk at Sunday worship services within fourteen days of the meeting date. Members shall also be notified by mail or other means.
The Moderator shall conduct the business meeting at which the records of the last Annual Meeting shall be read, the annual reports of officers, ministry teams, and organizations given, the officers, ministry teams, at-large members of the Church Council and Nominating Committee elected, and such other business transacted as may properly come before said meeting.
New Church officers, ministry team members, at-large members of the Church Council and the Nominating Committee shall officially assume their duties immediately following the Annual Meeting.
Special Meetings. Special Meetings shall be called by the Clerk within three weeks of receipt of a written petition to the Moderator from the Church Council, or the Pastor, or any five members of the Church. The warrant for Special Meetings shall be issued by the Clerk at least seven days before the meeting date. The warrant shall state the day and hour and describe the purpose of the meeting, except that any proposed amendment to the bylaws shall be stated in full detail. The warrant shall be posted near the principal entrance of the Church and read by the Clerk at Sunday worship service. Members shall also be notified by mail or other means. No business except that announced in the warrant shall be considered at a Special Meeting. A quorum shall consist of forty members or thirty percent of currently active members, whichever number is smaller.
THE CHURCH COUNCIL
The Church Council shall consist of:
1. The Pastor, Moderator, Clerk, Treasurer;
2. Two Delegates from each ministry team who shall be members of and selected by the ministry team; and
3. Three at-large members of the Church Council, who shall be elected at the Annual Meeting. All shall be members of the Church unless an exception is specifically approved by the Church Council and the fact of non-church membership noted at the time of election.
The Council shall act on behalf of the Church between annual meetings, but all of its decisions are subject to the review and will of the Congregation. The Church Council may review and shall endeavor to affirm and support the work of the ministry teams. It shall ordinarily meet monthly at a time and place known to the Church membership generally, and shall give a hearing to all matters appropriately brought before it by members, ministry teams, committees, officers, or employees of the Church. The Church Council shall have the authority appoint individuals and form committees, task forces and other groups, as well as the authority to discontinue groups that are no longer active or needed. If any regular ministry team delegate to the Council is unable to attend a Council meeting, he or she may send a substitute who is a member of the ministry team. A quorum shall be fifty percent of the membership of the Council. Meetings of the Church Council, ministry teams and other groups at the church shall follow Robert’s Rules, except where specific provisions to the contrary are made in these bylaws.
The officers of the Church are the Pastor, the Moderator, the Clerk and the Treasurer. All shall be members of the Church unless an exception is specifically approved by the Church Council and the fact of non-church membership noted at the time of election. An office may be shared by two individuals. In the event that an office is shared, the shared position has one vote at Church Council. If the shared vote is split, their vote is recorded as an abstention.
The Pastor shall care for the spiritual welfare of the Church. He or she shall be responsible for all services of worship, and the supervision and evaluation of the Church staff. The Pastor shall be concerned with all activities of the Church, and shall be an ex officio member without vote at all of its ministry team, group, committee and task force meetings, except at the Church Council, where the Pastor shall have a vote. The Pastor shall be bonded and empowered to sign Church checks.
The Pastor shall be called by a two-thirds vote of those members present at the Annual Meeting or a Special Meeting. Upon accepting a call, he or she shall be formally received into membership at the first service attended, and shall be installed by the Berkshire Association of the United Church of Christ as soon as possible.
The Pastoral Relations Committee shall meet several times each year to discuss joys and concerns of the Pastor and Church family, to insure that the Pastor and the Congregation are listening to each other.
When a vacancy occurs, the Church Council shall appoint a Pastoral Search Committee of not fewer than six members. Terms of employment for a new pastor shall be determined by the general Personnel Policies of the Church and by the Church Council in consultation with the Personnel Committee. The Search Committee, after due investigation of candidates and consultation with Conference executives, shall invite its candidate to preach at a regular Sunday service of worship. A Special Meeting of the Church shall be held on the following Sunday to act on the Committee’s recommendation. If an interim pastor is needed, the Deacons shall recommend a candidate or other arrangement to the Church Council for approval. The Council shall then call a Special Meeting of the Congregation at the earliest possible date for ratification by simple majority vote.
The Moderator shall preside at all meetings of the Church, and of the Church Council. The Moderator, as the Administrator of the Church, shall be responsible for seeing that the Church is operating according to its bylaws and, as an ex officio member without vote at all ministry team, group, committee and task force meetings, shall see that they are fulfilling their responsibilities. The Moderator shall have a vote at Church Council and at Annual and Special Meetings. In the absence of the Moderator, the Clerk shall preside until a Moderator pro tempore is elected. The Moderator shall be elected at the Annual Meeting to serve for three years, or until a successor is elected and takes office.
The Clerk. At the call of the Moderator, the Clerk shall prepare and post warrants of all official meetings. The Clerk shall take minutes at Annual and Special Church meetings of the Congregation and at meetings of the Church Council. The Clerk shall serve as a member of the Personnel Committee. The Clerk shall regularly monitor Church membership records and reports of officers and ministry teams.
The Treasurer shall be responsible for the financial affairs of the Church. The Treasurer shall oversee the receipt, holding, and disbursement of the funds of the Church. The Treasurer shall oversee the accounts of the Church, and cause separate records of all funds of the Church to be maintained. The Treasurer shall cause all monies received by the Church to be deposited in the name of the Church, and all checks drawn to be in the name of the Church. The Treasurer shall cause the financial records of the Church to be periodically reviewed by a qualified and disinterested individual.
The Treasurer shall prepare and present to the Stewardship Ministry Team financial reports as agreed upon with the ministry team members. The Treasurer shall also prepare and present to the Church an annual report of receipts and disbursements. Such report shall be subject to periodic review as required by the Stewardship Ministry Team. The Treasurer shall be bonded and empowered to sign Church checks. The Treasurer shall be elected at the Annual Meeting and serve for three years or until a successor is elected and takes office. The Treasurer shall serve as Chairperson of the Budget Task Force. The Treasurer shall cause contributors to be advised of the status of payment of their pledges at regular intervals.
The missions, ministry and the business of the Church shall be performed by four ministry teams serving the distinct missions of the Church. The names of the Teams shall be the Deacon, the Education and Fellowship, the Stewardship, and the Outreach Ministry Teams.
Each ministry team shall have at least six and not more than nine members, four of whom shall be Church members, with the exception of the Deacon Team, all of whom shall be Church members ordained as Deacons. Members of each ministry team shall be proposed by the Nominating Committee for election at the Annual Meeting for a term of three years. Immediately following the Annual Meeting, each ministry team shall meet to elect its chairperson, and team representatives to each of the Church Council, Personnel Committee, Budget Task Force and Nominating Committee, to serve for one year.
Each ministry team shall have the authority to appoint individuals and form appropriate subgroups to carry out its assigned functions, as well as the authority to discontinue subgroups that are no longer active or needed. Each ministry team may determine the size, term and titles of its subgroups. Ministry team members shall be responsible for the review of the work of their subgroups.
Each ministry team is encouraged to publicize its activities as appropriate to the Congregation and wider community.
Meetings. Each ministry team shall meet at least once every three months or more frequently, at a time and place known to the Church membership generally. At a ministry team meeting, a quorum shall consist of one-half the currently active members of the team, and the business activity and decisions of the team shall be recorded in minutes of the meeting.
The following describes the focus of each ministry team. The specific procedures of each ministry team are described in its operations manual.
Deacon Ministry Team. As ordained members of the Church, the Deacons, with the Pastor, have responsibility for the spiritual life of the Church. Deacons are ordained for life, and new Deacons shall be ordained to their ministry at a worship service following their approval by the Congregation at the Annual Meeting. The entire Deaconate is encouraged to meet periodically to sustain and enrich their collective vocation.
- Worship. The Deacon Ministry Team, together with the Pastor and Minister of Music, shall have responsibility for the service of worship, worship planning, the role of music and other arts in the service, and alternative services and spiritual practices. The Deacons shall assist in the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the absence of the Pastor, the Deacons and Minister of Music shall be responsible for all devotional services of the Church.
- Membership. The Deacon Ministry Team shall assist the Pastor in seeking new members, preparing them for Church membership, integrating them into the life of the Church, and supporting their continuing commitment to the Church. With regard to the loss of members through death, the Deacons shall assist in the bereavement and memorial process.
The Education and Fellowship Ministry Team’s work is focused on serving members and friends, educating all ages, and carrying out related Church events that give concrete definition to our spiritual and communal life.
- Education and Nurturing Discipleship. The Education and Fellowship Ministry Team shall have charge of policies and programs of Christian Education, including the Sunday School, confirmation classes, youth groups, adult education and library resources.
- Communal Life. The Education and Fellowship Ministry Team shall encourage fellowship among all members of the Church family, including arranging hospitality events associated with the educational programs and life passage celebrations. It shall also pursue ways to encourage current members to play an active role in the Church.
The Stewardship Ministry Team’s focus is on financial support and administrative operations to preserve the assets of the Church and support its mission. The Stewardship Ministry Team, with the Pastor, shall have responsibility for the following, as well as any other related initiatives, activities and programs.
- Facility. The Stewardship Ministry Team shall be responsible for the maintenance, improvement and management of the physical property of the Church, except as these bylaws may otherwise provide.
- Building Use. The Stewardship Ministry Team has responsibility for coordinating and encouraging building use by church members, community members, and Mission Partners (e.g. renters, lessors). They shall establish and enforce general rules and conditions for the use of Church property, except that the use of the Sanctuary must be approved by the Pastor and the Deacon Ministry Team. The decision to waive or reduce fees related to the use of the Church shall be made by the Stewardship Ministry Team in consultation with the appropriate ministry team(s).
- Funding and Financial Oversight. Designated members of the Stewardship Ministry Team who are Church members shall be authorized to negotiate and sign contracts on behalf of the Church. Three members of the Stewardship Ministry Team who are Church members shall be empowered to sign Church checks and shall be bonded.
- Fund Raising. The Stewardship Ministry Team shall conduct an annual pledge drive and will report on its progress to assure that sufficient funds will be available to meet the budgeted expenses of the Church. The Ministry Team will also assure that other fund raising activities are carried out.
- Relations with Williams College. The Stewardship Ministry Team shall be responsible for working with Williams College on matters related to the operation of the Church.
- Historian. The Stewardship Ministry Team shall appoint the historian of the Church and shall oversee his or her work.
The Outreach Ministry Team’s focus is serving others near and far, as we would wish to be served, particularly those without the opportunities or the means that are ours. The Outreach Ministry Team, with the Pastor, shall have responsibility for the following, as well as any other related initiatives, activities and programs.
- World and Local Missions. The Outreach Ministry Team shall promote outreach to the community and the world. It shall coordinate and promote the active involvement of the Church and all Church members and friends in the areas of missions and charity, both in the local community and in the world at large. The Ministry Team shall be responsible for allocation of mission funds on behalf of the Church.
- Living our Covenants. The Outreach Ministry Team shall promote the ideals of our covenants, such as Just Peace, Open and Affirming and Habitat for Humanity.
- Community. The Outreach Ministry Team shall encourage positive relations with the community. It shall seek, welcome, introduce and integrate new people into the life of the Church. It shall pursue ways to encourage current members and friends to play an active role in the Church and community.
- Publicity and Communications. The Ministry Team shall announce and promote its missions and activities to the Church and local community through advertising, press releases, the web site and other means.
- Delegates. The Outreach Ministry Team shall support at least two Delegates, who shall be Church members. The Delegates shall represent the Church at meetings of the United Church of Christ, the Massachusetts Conference, the Berkshire Association, the Williamstown Ecumenical Association, and wherever else Delegates may be required.
After serving two full terms, any elected officer, ministry team member, Nominating Committee member and at-large member of the Church Council shall be ineligible for re-election to the same position or ministry team for one year. The term limitation does not prohibit the officer or member from being elected to other positions in the Church. If the Nominating Committee is unsuccessful in identifying a candidate for nomination to fill an elected position in which an officer or member has served two full terms, then that officer or member may continue to serve until the next Annual Meeting.
Responsibility for hiring staff and terminating employment lies with the designated ministry team, with consultation with the Pastor, the Personnel Committee and Church Council, as described in the Personnel Policies.
COMMITTEES AND BUDGET TASK FORCE
The Nominating Committee shall consist of seven members: one representative from each of the four ministry teams, and three members elected at Annual Meeting. One member shall be elected at each Annual Meeting for a term of three years. Immediately following the Annual Meeting, the Nominating Committee shall meet to elect a Chairperson to serve for one year.
The Nominating Committee shall be responsible for the nomination of Church members or friends, as appropriate, to fill vacancies among the Church officers, ministry teams, at-large members of the Church Council, Delegates, and the Nominating Committee. These nominations must be presented to the Clerk at least two weeks before the Annual Meeting to be voted on at the Annual Meeting. The Nominating Committee shall actively encourage broad participation in the governance of the Church.
In addition, the Nominating Committee shall be responsible for the volunteer talent database including regular maintenance and updates to the database, and periodically distributing and tabulating an interest/talent survey among members and friends of the Church. The volunteer talent database will serve as a resource for the ministry teams and others who are looking for individuals to help with tasks and projects. The Nominating Committee shall pursue ways to encourage current members and friends to play an active role in the Church.
The Personnel Committee shall be comprised of the Moderator, the Clerk, and one representative from each of the ministry teams. The Chairperson shall be the member from the Stewardship Ministry Team.
The Personnel Committee shall be responsible for establishing the Personnel Policies and job descriptions for all Church employees. These shall be reviewed annually and any changes approved by the Church Council.
The Budget Task Force shall convene to direct the preparation of an operating budget prior to the beginning of the next fiscal year.
The Budget Task Force shall be comprised of the Treasurer, one representative from each of the ministry teams, the Chairperson of the Personnel Committee and the Chairperson of the Annual Pledge Campaign or their designated representatives. The Treasurer shall serve as Chairperson of the Budget Task Force.
Each ministry team shall submit a proposed budget for the ministry team to the Budget Task Force. The Budget Task Force shall prepare and present in writing an operating budget of the Church’s anticipated income and expenses to a Special Meeting of the Church in December, so that a budget can be in place at the beginning of each fiscal year on January 1. The Budget Task Force may propose amendments to the budget for action by the Church membership at the Annual Meeting.
These bylaws shall become effective upon adoption and shall supersede any previous bylaws.
As revised and adopted at the Special Meeting, October 9, 1994
Amended at the Annual Meeting, May 17, 1998
Amended at the Special Meeting, December 6, 1998
Amended at the Annual Meeting, January 25, 2009
Amended at the Special Meeting December 16, 2012