From Our President: 2024 Annual Meeting Report and Looking Forward

2022-2025 UUSM President Eileen McCormack

Eileen at the podium at the 2024 Annual Meeting

Last year at the Annual Meeting, I expressed hope that we would be ready for settled ministry by the summer of 2025. In order to meet that timeline, we would have needed to appoint a search committee to begin the process at today’s meeting. Reverend Jeremiah had planned to leave on that schedule. But in January, primarily due to financial considerations and needing to be fully prepared for a search, the board asked Reverend Jeremiah to stay on for another year, with plans to conclude our search for a settled minister in the summer of 2026. We will call a special meeting before the end of this calendar year, in order to ask the congregation to vote to appoint the search committee. The plan is to engage in a slightly unusual year and a half long process, where typical search processes are either one year or two years. The search committee will be able to spend the first six months working in tandem with Mission & Vision, and connecting with all constituencies of the community to listen and learn about what we’d value most in a settled minister. And then next summer, the search can begin in earnest, in accordance with the UUA search calendar.

Initially, I considered this a prudent, but not strictly necessary, extension. But recent conflicts unfolded in a way that demonstrated that we still have work to do as a community, in terms of conflict resolution and trust building. Having been through a truncated two year tenure of our first developmental minister, and then the trauma of COVID, it’s remarkable that we’ve come as far as we have. And even the current conflicts are rooted in love for this community. Everyone here is a good person who truly cares and is trying their best, even if we don’t all see the best in exactly the same way. This is a strong, loving community. But we’ve been through a lot. And I ultimately think that it’s fortunate that we didn’t try to rush into settled ministry.

In addition to the healing work that needs to be done here, including the strengthening of Right Relations/Healthy Congregations, we have a number of things left to accomplish before the summer of 2026. While we completed our bylaws revision last church year, the comprehensive revision of policies is still under way. Mission & Vision work is just beginning. We’re excited by the hiring of Jessica Place, our Interim DRE, but Children’s and Youth Religious Education requires continued community support to develop and grow.

Our financial house is in remarkably good order. We’ve been giving our fair share to the UUA. It appears that we’ll be ending this church year with a small surplus, and we’re about to present another balanced budget. It’s my understanding that we haven’t seen budgets without a substantial deficit since the economic crash that occurred over 15 years ago. The fact that we managed to accomplish this on the heels of a global pandemic is extraordinary. I’d like to thank the congregation for your continued dedication and generosity to our community. 

One of the things that enables us to balance the budget for the coming year is our new partnership with the Santa Monica Synagogue. Our rental income plummeted from approximately $90,000 annually to virtually nothing after the pandemic hit. The synagogue will be paying us a rent of approximately $36,000 annually, with yearly increases. The lease is for five years, although either party may cancel with six months notice after the first two years. Being able to partner with another liberal congregation to the financial benefit of all involved is a rare opportunity. And I’m excited to see the ways in which our communities can occasionally join together, to learn, socialize, and engage in interfaith activities. This partnership will strengthen us. 

Additionally, the work on Forbes is nearly complete, so we should be able to market our beautiful space for more events. But already, our rental income is projected to be back to pre-pandemic levels in the coming year. A remaining financial goal is to institute a planned giving program. Stable finances will help us to be in a position to call a settled minister.

I’d also like to mention that the community gave generously for a UU the Vote matching grant. Between initial fundraising and the grant, we’ve raised over $11,000 to use in our important outreach efforts. Thank you for your dedication to this important work.

In closing, I’d like to thank Reverend Jeremiah for his thoughtful leadership, and express my immense gratitude to the 2023-2024 board. Vilma, Larry, Rebecca, Barbara, Audrey, Linda, Norm and Trish have brought love, wisdom, courage, and dedication to their board service. They’ve unwaveringly done their best for this community, even when it was difficult. I am proud to have served with them. 

And thank you again, to everyone in the congregation for the love and commitment that you consistently bring to our community. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year, as we move into our shared future together.

Delivered at the Annual Meeting on June 16, 2024, by UUSM President Eileen McCormack.