Summary of the 2-22-09 discussion about the importance of having a FiR living in the TCFM Meetinghouse
Most of the 22 attenders at the meeting expressed a clear preference, and all who did said they would like to see a Friend in Residence (FiR) living in the building. All those not present who sent their opinions also wanted a FiR.
Interesting facts that emerged:
- TCFM gets about $12,000 in revenue from outside group donations. We named 18 groups off the top of our heads, including AA, Friends and Families of Suicide, the Royal Scottish Dance Society and Spiderwomen.
- Meeting House Committee had had a special meeting-long discussion in November and recommended we have a FiR. (The notes from that meeting are available from Meeting House Committee or Richard Fuller.)
- The FiR works 50 to 60 hours a month in exchange for a place to live, which works out to less than $10/hour, at current rental rates.
- Many churches do NOT have caretakers in residence.
- Our building is not compartmentalized so that outside groups can be limited to public space. Once they’re in, they can go almost anywhere. Most of those churches who rent have buildings designed so that whole wings can be locked off, denying entry to the general public. This offers them greater security than we would have, with low or no staff on site.
- If we have a FiR, unless the FiR is a family, there will be many hours of the day that the building will not be occupied. Whoever lives there also needs an income, which likely means working off-site.
Points of full agreement:
- First Day School (FDS) needs more adequate classroom space and the adult activities in the building would also benefit from more space. We would like to rebuild in such a way that more room is available for such meetings.
- Having someone living in the building provides a friendly presence, which includes
o Convenience and ready answers for many questions, for both strangers and meeting members,
o A sense of warmth,
A non-resident manager CAN perform the duties specified in the FiR job description, but something important is lost.
- The primary purpose of our building is to house meeting activities – First Day School, committee meetings, etc. Housing a FiR and hosting community groups come after that.
- No matter what we decide this spring, to advise MOMSAH of Meeting’s priorities, we must continue to work on the questions of how to provide more adequate space for children and adults.
Points of difference, discussion & concern:
Is what we want from a FiR realistic, or good for them?
- Is being FiR is a nourishing experience spiritually & economically?
- Being a full-fledged FiR is part ministry to the Meeting, and part exchange of services for remuneration.
- You need clear boundaries to protect your sanity. Requires certain stamina to put up with various interesting discussions & attitudes that sometimes come by.
- It can be a rich and rewarding experience.
- Who can tell the FiR what to do, everybody? One early FiR felt much put upon.
- It makes a lot of difference who is on Meeting House Committee and how they can support you.
- It depends a lot on the person in the job.
- It’s in the domain of loving service, and if you don’t feel it, you shouldn’t be there.
- Because WHO the FiR is, is important, we should accept that we might decide to have the apartment and then not fill it when the right person doesn’t show up. We could have a FiR apartment and use an outside manager for some time if that’s what works.
- The apartment is small with or without the extra room. There’s a limited amount of space to drop your stuff.
On other hand, it’s part of a nice big house.
- What we offer to a prospective FiR doesn’t have to be either-or. We might offer more than the living space as compensation for services.
Do we return the FiR apartment to its original one-bedroom size?
- (Legally the room that was annexed to the apartment in about 1996 cannot be called a “bedroom” because it does not have a closet. Legally, it was called a “living room.”)
- The 1996 expansion provided more that just the “living room” for FiR use. Moving the apartment’s exterior door closer to the stairs also added valuable storage space in the new entryway. The original apartment had very little, even for coats and boots.
- Sometimes the “living room” was convenient for overnight guests. We might want to design the extra room as easily convertible so it could be part of FiR space when it made sense, and available for FDS under other circumstances. Perhaps a hybrid used by both FiR AND FDS?
Regardless of decision on primary use of that room, we can ask MOMSAH to make that space as flexible as possible. Much agreement on this.
- Can the apartment be rebuilt to expand it into the big empty area over the stairs? [A little, but because of the fire-rating called for in stairwell walls, it would be expensive to do much. -Whole Builders.]
- Offering a one-bedroom apartment is minimal, but that’s true for other aspects of Meeting life. First Day School classrooms are minimally satisfactory, or not even that, depending on who you talk to.
“What we can get away with” is kind of what the entire conversation is about – we ask the same questions re FiR and FDS. We hope not to shortchange anyone too much.
How do we meet all or most of TCFM’s needs within the confines of our current building?
- Whatever we decide this spring, we may need additional space- e.g., in Ramsey School or the Council of Churches building – the future needs of meeting are unknowable – FDS may be at its peak. We know there are ebbs & flows. There’s no final solution to the building’s limitations.
- If the FDS population is at peak, it’s because there is no more space. Some sensitive members of the FDS community might hear that as not welcoming or nurturing of children; FDS committee can’t be viewed holding ALL the responsibility for our kids. We need to think of the whole meeting’s responsibility to kids.
- We’re talking about values we hold. We want to be friendly to neighborhood, and FIR helps us project this warmth. AND we want to care for our children. This IS a community-wide concern, not just FDS committee’s job. The fact that the building doesn’t seem large enough to do everything we’d like is a meeting-wide challenge.
- We need to question the idea that we necessarily need space outside of our current address. The building as presently configured isn’t working well, but our current real estate may be able to adequately support the number of FDS kids who actually come each week.
- How can we grow Quakerism without growing the building?
- Has community gotten too large for this space? (The “bud meeting” question.)