A Restructure of the Mingary Counselling Service
The Church Council wishes to inform the wider St Michael’s community of a recent Council decision in relation to the Mingary Low-Cost Counselling Service.
For over 20 years, the Mingary Counselling Service has been a key community outreach of St Michael’s Uniting Church, enabling people from all walks of life to access affordable, secular counselling. It has made a difference in the lives of many people in the church and in the wider community. Founded during the ministry of Dr Francis Macnab, and managed by an experienced psychologist, the Service is staffed by final year psychology students from the Cairnmillar Institute who work in supervised placements as part of their program toward full registration.
St Michael’s is justifiably proud of Mingary and its contribution to social well-being. St Michael’s members have supported it enthusiastically and generously over many years. However, since 2016 the Service has been operating with a substantial, ever-increasing deficit. The Treasurer and Finance Committee have been diligently monitoring the church’s overall finances. They are clear that the impact of the deficits on the congregation’s reserves is not sustainable.
Conscious of the Mission, Vision and Strategic Goals adopted by St Michael’s last year, the Council conducted a review of its overall financial position which led to exploration of strategies to reduce the costs of running Mingary. Discussions with the Executive Director of Cairnmillar, resulted in a fortuitous opportunity to restructure the service to the mutual benefit of St Michael’s and Cairnmillar. The restructure has been fully considered and unanimously agreed to by the Council.
The new structure will see Cairnmillar assuming responsibility for the provision of staff and management services, at no cost to St Michael’s. Our significant contribution of pleasant, accessible CBD office space and warm, welcoming reception services will continue. Under the new structure, counselling will be free and vocational and cognitive testing will attract very low fees. The relationship between St Michael’s and Cairnmillar will be overseen by the Church Council’s recently established Mingary Committee.
This process has had a significant impact on St Michael’s staffing. The tasks previously undertaken by the Director of Mingary will be assumed by Cairnmillar staff. The Council has acknowledged with great appreciation the 21-years of service given by our current Director and arrangements for a farewell are in progress.
As we take this step, we both honour the past and look to the future. We acknowledge the legacy of Dr Francis Macnab who developed the vision of Mingary and celebrate a renewed engagement with the Cairnmillar Institute which he founded. We also look forward to new partnership possibilities that focus on personal, social, and spiritual well-being and our contribution to the Common Good in post-COVID Melbourne.
The Council is grateful that we have found a way to continue Mingary-Cairnmillar Counselling Service in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner, and we look forward to sharing news of this exciting venture as it develops.
Chair of the Church Council
Council Update December 2020
Church Council has been busy meeting each month via Zoom to carry on our work of supporting the congregation and managing the governance of the church.
We were all very saddened to accept the resignation of our Manager of Administration Michelle Jansen, who has resigned due to her husband transferring back to Perth for work. We know that Michelle will miss us but will be pleased to be reunited with the members of her family who live in Perth and her beautiful cat.
Michelle has done an outstanding job to assist the many aspects of our administration through support of Rev Dr Mayman, the Supply Ministers, Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and members of the Council. As many of you would be aware Michelle has also supported many members of the congregation and we will miss her administrative acumen, her smiling face, and her enormous capacity to get the job done.
The Council also wishes to acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by our Manager of Finance and Operations Glen Tonkes, who has served Ministers, Council, and our Church community for the last 25 years. Glen, we know members of the congregation will join the Council in thanking you for your dedicated service and contribution to St Michael’s.
Co-option of Council Members and Council Elections
Due to COVID restrictions, the Council was unable to conduct elections in accordance with Uniting Church regulations which require that members must be present at the meeting in order to vote. Four members of the current twelve-member Council were due to retire at the end of this year, leaving four vacancies.
Recognising that other congregations would be in a similar situation, we sought Synod advice. Generally, smaller congregations have held online congregational meetings, while larger congregations are postponing until 2021. In response, Council has approved co- opting the four retiring members for an additional period of one year. I am pleased to advise all four members were happy to continue.
The next Council Election will now take place in November 2021. Formal advice of this decision will be sent to members early in 2021.
Conservation Management Plan
Purcell, a very experienced architectural firm has signed the contract with the Synod to commence the development of a Conservation Management Plan for St Michael’s. We are all looking forward to this consultancy which will result in a detailed long-term plan for the church and give us the opportunity to seek external funding for significant projects as they arise.
Risk Management Plan
Following advice from the Finance Committee, the Council endorsed the adoption of the Uniting Church of Australia’s Risk Management policy and procedures as the basis for formulating a comprehensive plan for St Michael’s. Members of the Finance Committee are now working diligently on the development of the risk management framework and plan which will be completed by early 2021.
The Return of Services in Church
We were delighted to hold our first service back in the Church on Sunday 29 November after 36 weeks of online services. Prior to that event significant planning was undertaken by the Council and staff to ensure everyone’s safety. Those who were able to attend were overjoyed to see their friends and acquaintances in person, and Dr Mayman was delighted to once again lead worship with a congregation present.
However, being cognizant that many members of our Congregation are not yet comfortable to return, our online Service is continuing. We are incredibly grateful that Dr Mayman has committed to continuing both services with the wonderful support of Jackson Raine and Rhys Boak.
Common Dreams Conference
Dr Mayman advised the Council that the Common Dreams (Progressive Spirituality) Conference would be held in Melbourne in 2022 and requested we consider offering St Michael’s as a venue. Since 2007 Common Dreams Inc. has held five major conferences. The 2022 conference would be a great opportunity to profile the church and its programs and support the progressive theology movement. The Council supported the proposal to explore the feasibility of our involvement both as a venue and as partner with Common Dreams.
Sandy Foster has advised that she is no longer able to undertake First Aid duties in the church for health-related reasons. Sandy has done an outstanding job taking care of the congregation each Sunday over many years. We thank Sandy for her commitment and dedicated service to St Michael’s.
Synod Meeting 2021
We are pleased to note that Lorraine Woolley will be representing the congregation at the Synod Meeting which will be taking place between 26 and 28 February 2021. Dr Mayman will be attending as a member of Presbytery.
Maree McDonald and Laura Beckett
Secretary and Chair, Church Council
Council Update October 2020
The Church Council had its monthly meeting on 15 October via Zoom. The following are some of the key issues addressed.
- Council members and staff are working diligently on plans for the time when government regulations will allow Sunday Gatherings to be held in the Church once again. As you can imagine, there are many aspects that need to be considered to ensure that people attending church will be safe. In consultation with Margaret, Rhys, and Jackson we have agreed that the Online Service will continue when the church is reopened as we have had significant positive feedback and requests for this to continue.
- We have received advice from the Synod that the Conservation Management Plan to be undertaken by Purcell architects will be funded from the surplus funds left over from the sale of the Camberwell Manse and the purchase of the new Manse in Port Melbourne. It is indeed pleasing to note that the cost of this important project will be cost neutral.
- Next week we will be sending out a brief Online Survey to members and friends. Following adoption of our Strategic Directions and Goals (see the recent Intersection), the Council and the Contact & Care and Programs Deaneries are seeking broader input so that together we can turn our “Dreams into Action.” We do hope that everyone will participate!
Council Update September 2020
Council Working on a Hybrid Model for Church Services
As we move toward a time when we can safely re-open the church buildings, the Council, with the support of our minister Dr Margaret Mayman, has agreed in principle to offer both in-person and online Sunday Gatherings. We have received many appreciative messages in response to our online Gatherings from people in Victoria and beyond, and numerous requests that we continue after the COVID 19 restrictions have eased. We also recognise that some members of our congregation may not feel comfortable returning to church for some time whilst the risk of infection remains.
To facilitate and organise these arrangements a Council Working Group has been established to work with our minister Margaret, Music Manager Rhys, and videographer Jackson to determine how an in-person and online model might be developed and organised.
A separate Working Group of the Church Services’ Deanery is exploring protocols for safe re-opening. This is a highly complex process involving assessing how many people will be permitted in the church under the social distancing restrictions, recording names and contact information of attendees, additional cleaning routines, food and beverage handling, communion procedures, analysis of the risk of infection spread by singing and musical instruments, etc. As much as we miss gathering together, we will not re-open our buildings until we are assured that we can do safely.
The Treasurer, Ian Cox, advised that St Michael’s financial situation was still sound despite offerings being lower than normal without the usual collection on Sunday morning and income from hall rental and weddings dropping considerably.
He noted that offerings are continuing and are being sent by mail, electronic banking and via the St Michael’s website. He reported that the overall fall in income has been partially offset by Government support programmes and by reducing costs while maintaining our Synod Mission contribution and community programmes.
Social Justice Community
Council discussed a proposed Inner-City Social Justice network of Uniting Church congregations. The Council encourages St Michael’s members who are passionate about a more just society, who see this as part of living out Christian faith, who want to join with others to advocate creatively for justice and mercy, to join an initial conversation (on Zoom, of course!) that will initially be hosted by Richmond UCA. If you are interested exploring this exciting collaborative opportunity, please contact Lorraine Woolley, Dean of Programs by emailing email@example.com
Vocational Assessments Online
Dr Lynette Kramer, Director of the Mingary Counselling Service, has recommended to Council the reintroduction of Vocational Assessments. New tools have been purchased to allow the assessments to be carried out online in collaboration with a Mingary Counsellor. We look forward to this additional service being available soon.