First Parish, like other UU congregations, has congregational polity, which means that governance of the church is in the hands of the lay members of the congregation, not the clergy or any external church authority. Clergy are called by the congregation and serve at its will. Legally, we are two organizations with separate bylaws.
The First Parish in Cambridge is a corporation under Massachusetts law dating from 1733. It holds title to some valuable real estate and invested funds and is responsible for the management of parochial affairs. The First Church (UU) is a voluntary association, a religious community united by a covenant developed and voted on by the members. Most members belong to both the Parish and the Church. Bylaws are available on our website along with policies approved by Standing Committee.
We hold Semi-Annual Meetings to approve our budgets, make key decisions and elect our leaders. The Nominations Committee is responsible for presenting a slate of officers for the meeting. Follow this link for our Nominating Procedures. Elections occur at the June meeting along with approval of social justice task forces. Special meetings can be called. Everyone is welcome to attend meetings, but only voting members can vote. Warrants are published in advance with the meeting agendas.
Standing Committee functions as the governing board, responsible for managing the financial affairs and property of the congregation, as well as keeping the organization on track with its mission. Many decisions are delegated by Standing Committee to other committees. Minutes of Standing Committee, Finance Committee and budgets are available by signing up for the Minutes/Budgets E-list. Contact office [at] fpcambridge [dot] org to sign up.
Since January, 2010, written communication with the congregation is primarily electronic. Exceptions might include the annual fund drive, religious education materials, and special one-time communications. Voting members who lack email can notify the office and still receive written communication by US Postal Service. Legal notices to voting members will still be mailed. Moving to primarily electronic communication will save money and be good for the environment. Primary communication tools include a Constant Contact e-list for monthly newsletter and weekly announcements; a Yahoo! Listserv; e-lists and listservs for groups and committees; Facebook and Twitter.
First Parish is also a workplace. Rev. Fred Small, Senior Minister, serves as the chief of staff. He is responsible for supervision of First Parish staff or he delegates supervision to other staff including the Associate Minister, Rev. Lilia Cuervo. Staff are hired by Standing Committee or a delegated committee. Ministers are called by voting members. We meet the UUA criteria to be a Fair Compensation Congregation. To see our congregational structure go to the Congregational Map