April Board Highlights

UUSM Board 2023-24

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica Board of Directors met on April 9, 2024.  Board members attending included President Eileen McCormack, Vice President Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer Rebecca Crawford, Secretary Larry Weiner, and Members-at-Large Norm Richey, Audrey Erbes, and Trish Brassard. Past President Barbara Kernochan also attended, along with Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae and congregational members Lois Hutchinson, John Zinner, and Patricia Wright.  Board Member Linda Van Ligten was absent.

Call to Order and Opening Remarks

After Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:08 p.m., Audrey read the First Principle, the Second Source, and the Serenity Prayer. Jeremiah read the proposed UU value statement about generosity:  “We cultivate a spirit of gratitude and hope. We covenant to freely and compassionately share our faith, presence, and resources. Our generosity connects us to one another in relationships of interdependence and mutuality.”

Attendees also did a personal check-in and answered a question about this month’s worship theme: “What aspect of nature did you connect with most meaningfully as a child? A dog? A horse? A tree? The ocean? An element? Lightning bugs? The rain? A path in the woods? Does that connection remain the same today?”

Finally, Eileen reminded attendees to raise their hands and not to dialogue.

Membership, Minutes, and Standing Reports

In his Membership Report, Norm read new member Rebecca Avery into the roll. Four members resigned their membership: Caeli Lynch, Aaron Young, Jacki Weber, and Lorenzo Pelayo. After those adjustments, our current membership is 252.

Audrey moved and Norm seconded that the Minutes and Standing Monthly Reports be accepted as presented. The motion passed unanimously.

Minister’s Report

Introducing his report, Jeremiah spoke of how “springtime brings delicate new life sprouting from the soil” and “the transitions of the seasons have lessons to teach us if we are attentive to nature’s wisdom.” “This vernal season of abundance,” he said, “also inaugurates our annual stewardship campaign to raise the funds to support the vibrant life of our beloved community.”

Jeremiah recalled how Rev. Kikanza reminded us in her recent service that our congregation and the living tradition to which we belong are larger than any of us…and will outlive all of us if we are careful and generous stewards of the many gifts we have received. “So in the midst of the beauty of the world around us and thunderstorms which are sometimes necessarily in our midst,” he said, “let us hopefully recommit to be active participants in the glorious unfolding of life and the realization of our liberal religious dreams for ourselves, our communities, and our world.”

Jeremiah also reported that:

  • There have been four Sunday worship services since the last board meeting. Communion: The Transformative Power of Breaking Bread explored the shared meal as ritual practice in religious traditions from Christianity to pagan expressions of the practice. At The Threshold of Change detailed what skills, knowledge, and wisdom can be drawn upon as we embark on journeys of transformation. Our annual Easter Celebration drew a packed house and considered the life and teachings of Jesus (a.s.) in the light of the liberal religious tradition. And our annual Stewardship Sunday likewise drew another full house with many visitors and reflected on the natural abundance of the springtime and the cultural challenges that await in the next church year, as well as our role as a prophetic religious community that can rise to meet those challenges when we lead with our abundance.
  • The Stewardship Committee has been meeting weekly for the past month and in that time has developed the campaign, (print materials, logo, stewardship pins, and connecting conversations model of engagement), as well as planned food and organized three house parties and the kickoff Sunday. Jeremiah said the campaign kickoff in April was a success thanks to the inspiring and capable leadership of Denise, Kikanza, Sue, Sarah, Gretchen, and Nurit…along with those who are attending and leading connecting conversations and hosting house parties.
  • The Worship Team took a respite last month and will resume meeting this month. Jeremiah did meet with the worship chair once he felt well enough after his recent bout with the flu.
  • Because many people were out sick, the Pastoral Care Team rescheduled its monthly meeting. When it does convene, it will receive reports and discuss a didactic topic to strengthen our lay spiritual care capacities to hold the grief currently present in the community.
  • Jeremiah continues to provide Spiritual Counseling and Pastoral Support to multiple church members on a short-term basis, but this work is not as busy as it has been in the past couple of months.
  • In addition to a monthly Leadership Team Meeting with Senior Staff and Rev. Kikanza, Jeremiah said he also continues to have monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly Governance Meetings with Eileen, individual Administrative Planning Meetings with Rev. Kikanza, Saunder, Nurit, and UUA staff and colleagues, and Administrative Meetings with other congregational leaders as needed.
  • Significant time, energy, and care is being devoted to Transition Planning and an Interim DRE Search. Jeremiah thanked all those who have been able to lend a hand with this, along with our gracious volunteers and caregivers as we all navigate an unexpected and challenging period. He said he has begun having meetings and reaching out to religious professionals in the larger community to expedite the process of finding interim administrative support for religious education and/or more permanent support in the longer term.
  • With the support of and consultation with UUA Congregational Life staff, we have planned and offered two Listening Circles following the change in church staffing — one for religious education caregivers and volunteers and another that included the broader community. He said we are currently planning a third listening circle for members of the religious education community who were away during the spring break weeks.
  • Because Jeremiah was sick with the flu during the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee (LDNC) meeting in April, Vilma attended in his absence. She reported that it was a productive meeting and the Committee is identifying more potential members for the Ministerial Search Committee.
  • Our Santa Monica Synagogue leadership team met again and Barbara K provided tours to members of the synagogue community. Jeremiah also met with Rabbi Shira and has prepared an all-congregation email to apprise the congregation of our recent discussions and explorations. He hopes the letter will go out this week.
  • The Mission and Vision Renewal Facilitation Team is making progress and interfacing with the stewardship campaign this year. Their work is ongoing.
  • At its recent meeting, the Committee on Shared Ministry received updates on the conversations with the Santa Monica Synagogue, and explored the congregational dynamics in the recent staffing change.
  • A draft of the 2024-2025 Budget is complete but will be further informed by the stewardship campaign and additional possible income sources before it’s finalized.
  • The Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission (IARAO) met and its work is ongoing. The application process has also been re-opened as two members have completed their service. Shana Shaked has submitted an application that is under review. Jeremiah said the IARAO would also like the possible adoption of the 8th Principle to be on the agenda for this year’s congregational meeting. The 8th Principle reads: “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” Jeremiah said he is a longtime supporter of this 8th Principle and encourages its adoption.
  • Work of the Board Policies Team is ongoing and being led by our dedicated team of volunteers.
  • Jeremiah is working with the new UU Animal Ministry on possible D4$ offerings.
  • Jeremiah met with both the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council & Leadership Team and will attend the group’s annual Spring Luncheon. He also met with the Holocaust Remembrance planning committee as our church is hosting the service this year.
  • Jeremiah met with the UCLA Medical Center Ethics Committee last month as a regular part of his service to the larger community. They consider questions of clinical ethics in medicine and hospital policy.

Jeremiah concluded by saying this is a complex time in the life of our religious home, and grief and conflicting feelings are present in the hearts and minds of members. We must hold these feelings with tenderness and care as we also continue to make progress on the many tasks that are before us. Showing up for community in times like these, he said, requires us all to lean into our Covenant of Right Relations and to show up in self-differentiated and non-anxious ways that are able to hold the many feelings in the emotional life of the community.

Treasurer’s Report

Rebecca did not make a report because she was attending from Mexico and had a bad connection.

UU the Vote Update

Brad Hutchinson reported that he has materials for us to begin doing the “Get Out The Vote” ministry. He is planning to work at the church in the shade structure on Sunday mornings starting at 9 a.m. We have qualified for a 3-for-1 matching grant from the Spirit level foundation because we raised $1,000 to pay for materials.

Policies Committee Update

The committee was represented at the meeting by Barbara Kernochan, Patricia Wright, and John Zinner. They described their process, which starts with going through the old policies line by line.

The first policy discussed was the Finance Committee Charter. Barbara moved and Norm seconded that the Finance Committee Charter be accepted. The motion passed unanimously.

Next, the Board discussed the Minister’s Housing Policy, which was amended to insert the word “specific” before the word “resolution” in the third paragraph. Barbara moved and Audrey seconded that the Minister’s Housing Policy be accepted as amended. The motion passed unanimously.

The Board Fiduciary Finance Operations Policies and the Board Fiduciary Finance Policy on Investments were also discussed, but there were questions about whether or not we should include the requirement of an annual financial review and also about whether to change the words “no risk” to “zero to moderate risk,” and to take out specific numbers for how much in liquid assets should be kept on hand. Both of those policy updates were tabled pending clarifications.

Finally, the policies task force agreed to add “action items” to the Board’s drafts. These action items will be collated into a separate document that will empower future Boards to be in compliance with policy.

Stewardship Update

Stewardship house parties have been scheduled and advertised in the weekly announcements. There will be meetings in the courtyard after Sunday services for the remainder of the month.

Forbes Hall Repair Update

Vilma reported that we are about three to four weeks from the grand reopening of the Forbes Hall entrance. Railings for the ramp and the entrance are now being installed.

Executive Session and Adjournment

After the business above, the board moved into executive session.  After the executive session, the meeting was adjourned at 9:59 p.m.


Draft minutes used to create this report were provided by Larry Weiner, Board Secretary. Documents distributed and reviewed at the meeting can be found here.