February Board Highlights

UUSM Board 2023-24

The UUSM Board of Directors met on Tuesday, February 13. Board Members attending included Vice President Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer Rebecca Crawford, Secretary Larry Weiner, Members at Large Norm Richey, Linda Van Ligten, and Audrey Erbes, and Past President Barbara Kernochan. Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae and congregational member Lois Hutchinson also attended. President Eileen McCormack and Member at Large Trish Brassard were absent.

Call to Order, Opening Remarks, and Announcements

Vilma called the meeting to order at 7:00 pm, and Norm provided a reading, along with the 6th Principle and the 6th Source. Board members did a personal check-in and answered one of two questions based on this month’s worship theme of equity and justice: “What personal or societal injustice has most shaped your life?” or “Looking back, have you been as much of a ‘radical’ as your younger self thought you would be?” 

Vilma reminded attendees to respect others and give them space to speak. 

Membership Report

There were no new members this month and member Nora Hamilton passed away last month, so current membership is now 252.

Consent Agenda

Larry moved and Audrey seconded that the minutes and standing monthly reports be accepted as presented. The motion passed unanimously.

Minister’s Report

Jeremiah began his January Minister’s Report by wishing everyone a happy Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. He noted that “The Gifts of Equity and Justice” is our Soul Matters theme for congregational reflection this month, and spoke about how these values are included in our UU Principles and the core UU Values being considered for future inclusion in our covenant.

Jeremiah also explained that “equity is different from equality in that it seeks to ensure that people are treated fairly and equality doesn’t always equate with fairness. Equity asks us to take into account things like the long term impacts of historical disenfranchisement, discrimination, oppression, and privilege. Justice propels us to right wrongs, establish and defend truths, and create greater equity in our world.”

Finally, he quoted Bryan Stevenson, the attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (with which we’re sharing our Generous Congregation collection with this month), who argued that “to transcend our isolation we will have to be willing to “get proximate to people who are suffering,” to truly be in solidarity, in real relationship, and to realize the breadth and depth of our transformative potential.” And he asked what it would mean for UUSM to “‘get proximate’ with disenfranchised communities to realize that potential in the coming years.”

Jeremiah further reported that:

  • We’ve gathered for five Sunday Worship services since our last meeting. Jeremiah offered Ahimsa: The Way of Nonviolence in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King and the many innovators of non-violence as a means of social change. Next, Knowing One’s Self deepened our exploration of Hinduism and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi before Swami Bhajanananda joins us for Mahashivaratri later this spring. Rev. Kikanza offered Try a Little Tenderness as a reflection on compassionate living. The Our Fire of Love service explored the revolutionary work of Pir Dr. Ibrahim Farajaje in the context of Unitarian Universalism as it celebrated Black history close to home. And finally Kikanza provided Internal Justice, which considered what it takes to create and nurture justice within oneself as well in the external world around us.
  • Our Worship Associates met to plan services and Jeremiah also met with our Worship Chair to prepare for our annual Worship Team Retreat.
  • We held our annual Worship Team Retreat, which included a joint lunch with our RE leaders and emergency preparedness education. Jeremiah offered a time for worship at the event, and there was also a lesson on the purpose and structure of our UU liturgy, a workshop on the call to worship with Sue Bickford, a workshop on the offertory, and a presentation on what to do in the event there is an active shooter on campus. Rev. Kikanza provided a workshop on spiritual leadership and authority in the context of worship. And Rev. Amelia offered information on what to do in the event of a fire or earthquake. Everyone appreciated the worship team and RE leaders sharing some of their time together.
  • Our Pastoral Care Team resumed meeting this month, and in addition to receiving reports, offered a didactic on Self-Care for the Caregiver to start the new year on a helpful note.
  • Jeremiah continues to provide short-term Spiritual Counseling and Pastoral Support to multiple church members, and the need for this kind of support has been relatively high lately.
  • In addition to a monthly Leadership Team Meeting with Senior Staff and Rev. Kikanza, Jeremiah continues to have regular Governance Meetings with Eileen and individual Administrative Planning Meetings with Rev. Kikanza, Music Director Saunder Choi, Rev. Amelia, Nurit, and UUA staff and colleagues on a monthly to weekly to bi-monthly basis, and meetings with other congregational leaders as needed.
  • Jeremiah gave a presentation and answered preliminary questions the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee (LDNC) had around nomination processes and forming the search committee. He will be meeting with the committee again later this month to continue that conversation and to support committee members in their work.
  • Following his meeting with Nurit, Jeremiah met with the Executive Team met to begin the 2024-2025 Budget Planning process and drafting our budget for next year. There are a number of items we will need to make decisions about in the coming weeks.
  • Jeremiah reached out to all of the potential co-chairs identified by the Board for the Stewardship Vitality and Sustainability Team. He said he may have identified one co-chair and three potential members, and if we fuse this effort with Mission and Vision it may be possible to begin the team’s work shortly.
  • Our UUSM leadership team met with the Santa Monica Synagogue leadership team regarding shared space, and then Jeremiah circled back to our Board leaders and drafted Santa Monica Synagogue Proposal #2 and submitted it to the Synagogue’s board for consideration.
  • Jeremiah met with Rabbi Laura Gellar — the third woman ordained in the Reform Movement as a rabbi in 1976 — and she has agreed to lead a worship service and offer a workshop after the service on her new book, Getting Good at Getting Old. Jeremiah gave a special thanks to Beth Rendeiro for making this connection at the Santa Monica Synagogue as we continue exploring ways we might build community across congregations.
  • The work of the Mission and Vision Renewal Facilitation Team is underway. Jeremiah met with Kikanza Nuri-Robins, Julie Nyquist, and Melissa James from the UUA to begin articulating what the process can look like. We are currently exploring ways it might intersect with stewardship to make it more sustainable.
  • Jeremiah presented our Developmental Goals to the Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) this month, and mapped them to various initiatives of the church to inform our process for better sharing the ministry.
  •  The Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission (IARAO) met and its work is ongoing. We are concluding the work around Mistakes and Miracles and discerning next steps relative to the Commission on Institutional Change’s Recommendations in Widening the Circle.
  • Jeremiah is consulting with the Board Policies Team on financial policies and the Safer Congregations policies. He reviewed both of these and shared his recommendations, which were brief given the amount of work that’s already gone into the policies.
  • The Right Relations Team has recommenced, as promised and planned, and a date has been set for its first workshop with the congregation on the Covenant of Right Relations.
  • We are now fundraising to meet our Spirit-Level Matching Grant of $30,000. The effort is going well…and if you haven’t made a contribution yet, please do!
  • Eileen and Jeremiah met with Amy Brunell to discuss her Congregational Seminarian Sponsorship and the Board’s expectations for how the process might best unfold. Jeremiah has drafted a covenant and shared it with Amy, and once the covenant is finalized, the sponsorship will be official with the UUA.
  • Jeremiah submitted a letter of endorsement to the UU Ministers’ Association for Rev. Kikanza, and she was immediately welcomed into the UUMA as an Associate Member. This status is granted for ministers who are ordained and credentialed in another tradition but are serving a UU community in some professional capacity. Congratulations to Rev. Kikanza on this latest accomplishment!
  • Our new UU Animal Ministry has hit the ground running. Members have already had two meetings, drafted a charter and covenant, and are heart/brainstorming around what shape the ministry might take in our community.
  • It was a delight to attend the UUSM Author’s Panel earlier this month, and to learn more about the incredible writing of our many talented authors.
  • The Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council & Leadership Team met this past month and Jeremiah guided the interfaith community in a consideration of how injustice shapes our lives. Members of the council reported that it created a unique experience of bonding and solidarity.
  • Jeremiah met with the UCLA Medical Center Ethics Committee last month but was unable to make it to an emergency consult because of a scheduling conflict.

Finally, Jeremiah thanked board members for being themselves and for showing up to support our community in many ways, but especially in the work of the Board. He said both he and our beloved community appreciate their service.

Treasurer’s Report

In general, Rebecca said we are doing well. We have two bequests coming in from recently deceased members, and the Committee on Money will decide on how to distribute them, according to the proportions approved by the congregation. She also said we may have a budget shortfall this coming year, but much will depend on our Stewardship drive.

In her more detailed January Treasurer’s Report, Rebecca said there was a $10,000 increase in pledge receipts last month, which was the hoped-for “December bump.” She said we currently have a year-to-date net surplus, which is close to what was predicted for this time of year. We have made our second UUA and PSWD dues payment, and that has been factored in.

Rebecca said Dining for Dollars income is low right now, but the D4$ team is gearing up for an auction in the spring. This could, however, end up being an area of income lower than budgeted.

Rentals are on track so far this year, but this, too, is an area that needs to increase quite a bit once the Arizona entrance is finished. On the plus side, Nurit has been in conversation with two potential new monthly renters.

Rebecca said that when the extra monies directed to the Ministerial Specialist are factored in to the total budget, we now have a net negative budget of -$2,330. Concerted efforts at collecting the Spirit Level Foundation grant matching funds have been quite successful, so a surplus will appear in the next month’s actuals. The music funding is also going well. Nurit has created a first-pass budget for 2024-25, including cost-of-living increases, for the January 2024 Finance Committee meeting. Again, though, we will definitely need to have an effective Stewardship campaign to hit our financial targets.

Policies Committee Update

Barbara reported that the Committee is currently focusing on fiduciary policies and will report to the Board soon. She also noted that the document establishing the Committee on Money was approved by the congregation in 2015, and that the Policies Committee will decide whether and how to make the document a part of our Board Policies.

Safer Congregation Policies

Barbara announced that the Committee will next begin working on the Safer Congregation Policies using UUA guidelines and researching policies from other congregations. She asked that the Board review completed sections as they’re submitted and come to a consensus before reaching out to the Committee with concerns and questions. A robust conversation ensued about a request from Rev. Amelia and Beth Brownlie to expedite the approval of interim safety policies, which some Board members said they hadn’t had time to review. Further discussion was deferred to later in the meeting.

Stewardship Update

Jeremiah reported that he had communicated with everyone on the list the Board  previously generated, and found three people who agreed to be on the committee and one who would be willing to co-chair if the other three would serve, too. Jeremiah said he thinks there might be a natural intersection between Stewardship and Mission and Vision, and said he would discuss this with Rev. Kikanza.

Forbes Hall Repair Update

Vilma reported that the project is getting much closer to completion. The steps are being built and a handicap accessibility ramp will be installed soon.

OWL and Family Ministry Board Liaison

Linda expressed her interest in taking on this job and Vilma approved.

Adult RE/Programs update

As Board Liaison for this Committee, Larry reported that Soul Collage is continuing on third Saturday afternoons, the Humanist Reading Club continues on third Saturday mornings, and the Common Read discussion is still meeting on second Saturdays, but may be winding down. He said UUSM will be offering Writing for Discernment on four Wednesday nights, a Bike Repair Workshop, a discussion about “How people can talk about Gaza,” lead by Professor Makdisi on March 3, and — as previously mentioned — the event on “Getting Good at Getting Old,” with Rabbi Laura Geller on April 14. Larry also reported that the UUSM Author’s Panel was a big success and people are wondering if it could be made into an annual event.

Return to Discussion on the Interim Safer Congregation Policy

After more discussion and a suggestion by Vilma, Barbara made a motion to approve the Interim Safer Congregation Policy, and Norm seconded…but the motion failed by a vote of two in favor, three opposed, and one abstention.

Next, Larry moved that the decision on the Policy be delayed until all board members have had a chance to review it, after which an online vote could be taken to expedite a decision. Audrey seconded the motion, which passed by a vote of four in favor, one opposed, and one abstention.

New Business, Executive Session, and Adjournment

As there was no new business, the Board moved into Executive Session, and then, after the Executive Session, the meeting was adjourned at 9:40 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.