The UUSM Board of Directors met via Zoom on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, to review monthly reports and discuss various church activities. Board Members present included President Eileen McCormick, Vice President Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer Rebecca Crawford, Secretary Larry Weiner, and Members-at-Large Norm Richey, Linda van Ligten, Trish Brassard, and Audrey Erbes. Past President Barbara Kernochan also attended, as did Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae, and congregational member James Witker.
Call to Order, Opening Readings, Check-In, and Opening Remarks
Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:01 p.m. Jeremiah read the 5th Principle and the 5th Source and presented information about the upcoming Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Article II revision process.
Board members did a personal check in and then answered the question (based on this month’s worship theme): “In what new way are you being called to use your personal/social/cultural/
Finally, in her opening remarks, Eileen reminded the board members to observe protocol and raise their hand when they wish to speak.
Membership, Minutes, and Standing Reports
Membership is now 253. New member Tracy Schuster was read into our membership roll.
The Board reviewed the December board meeting minutes and other standing reports. Board members also discussed a request in Reverend Amelia’s report for two scholarships for OWL volunteer training and agreed there is money in her budget for this. They said if she runs out of money later, they would consider a request for additional funding at that time.
Audrey moved and Norm seconded that the Minutes and the Standing Monthly Reports be accepted as presented. The motion passed unanimously.
In his report, Rev. Jeremiah elaborated on our January worship theme, Liberating Love, saying:
“A love that frees is the gift our society is so badly in need of as we enter this new year. Of course, the giving and receiving of such a liberating love begins with individual hearts and in relationships, families, and communities where it is activated, harnessed, and shared in the many forms it may take. Our congregation is part of a historic and transformative religious tradition that centered love as the motivating power, guide, and destination for the spiritual journey.”
>Jeremiah also reported that the UUA will this year once again name love as “the heart from which the liberal religious values of interdependence, equity, transformation, pluralism, generosity, and justice blossom.” He said that “here at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica, we believe spiritual growth happens when we practice this fine art of giving and receiving love in community and witnessing to its liberatory power to free minds and spirits.”
Jeremiah further reported that:
- Our sanctuary continues to be comfortably full on Sunday mornings and our ushers are helping to make space for everyone who shows up. We’ve gathered for five worship services since our last board meeting. They included:
- Winter Solstice, celebrating the earth-based holiday and exploring the ways darkness and light are constructed in racist ways by our society and in the field of theology. We not only embraced the darkness but reveled in it as a source of healing and revelation.
- Rev. Kikanza’s Christmas Eve morning service, at which about thirty people gathered for informal sharing.
- The Joy of Christmas: A Candlelight Service was our annual holiday offering, led by Revs. Kikanza, Amelia, and Jeremiah, who said it was well received by a packed house, and thanked everyone from our coffee and team and cookie bakers to our ushers, greeters, and tech team, who made themselves available that Sunday evening to spread the cheer.
- Chaplain Michael Eselun’s “masterpiece of a sermon,” The Thread, was given on New Year’s Day.
- And Jeremiah offered The Mustard Seed, which explored some of the parables of Jesus in light of the Christmas holiday.
- Jeremiah met recently with the Worship Team and Worship Chair to plan services and our annual worship retreat, which was scheduled for Saturday, January 20. He said that group hopes to have a joint luncheon with the RE program to learn more about emergency preparedness together. There is also a new joys and sorrows email address (email@example.com) to make submissions less confusing. And finally, the organ needs some additional repair work and we are working to make that happen.
- Our Pastoral Care Team sent holiday greetings cards to the congregation, which has become one of our regular outreach and ministry offerings. The team took a break and did not meet in January, since December was a busy month.
- Jeremiah continues to provide Spiritual Counseling and Pastoral Support services to members and friends as requested.
- We hosted our annual Staff Holiday Party at Berbere and shared hand-written cards and holiday gifts from the congregation to all staff members. The event featured a delicious organic vegan Ethiopian meal, with desserts, and staff members were grateful for the time together and small tokens of our appreciation.
- In addition to a monthly Leadership Team Meeting with Senior Staff and Rev. Kikanza, Jeremiah also continues to meet regularly and individually with Eileen, Kikanza, Saunder, Amelia, and Nurit, and to hold administrative meetings with other congregational leaders when needed.
- Jeremiah and Nurit are reviewing the budget for the 2024-2025 budget planning process and will make recommendations for next year. Jeremiah will also be meeting with Board leaders as the process progresses.
- Jeremiah has held multiple meetings with various stakeholders in the past month about a possible space sharing agreement. He has developed a proposal and presented it to our potential partners, and there will be additional follow-up meetings. Right now, he said, things are evolving positively for all parties.
- We’ve been invited and have agreed to host the annual Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance/Yom Hashoah Service this year at 6 pm on May 6th. This is a wonderful opportunity to host our interfaith partners on our campus.
- Jeremiah has sent invitations to the co-chairs and all of the applicants for the Mission and Vision Renewal Facilitation Team, which should be getting off the ground this month.
- The Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) explored the feasibility of ride shares, Communications Team sustainability, institutionalizing Stewardship, mission and vision work, Soulful Sundown, and Second Sunday Suppers. The team is recommending that regular Communications Team meetings resume and also that Soulful Sundown is offered quarterly in tandem with Second Sunday suppers, and months of respite when there are too many activities happening to sustain large congregational events.
- The Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission (IARAO) met this month, and its work on Mistakes and Miracles, consultations, 8th Principle/Value Statements, and the Commission on Institutional Change is ongoing.
- The Stewardship Vitality and Sustainability Team has identified potential stewardship team leaders and Jeremiah is in the process of exploring possibilities with potential members and co-chairs. The goal is to institutionalize sustainable and regenerative stewardship practices.
- The Board Policies Team‘s work is ongoing, with Jeremiah serving as a consultant.
- Jeremiah met with the Chalice Circles Facilitators Team and says all is well on that front.
- Beth Rendeiro is back from her travels, so Right Relations will recommence at the end of January.
- We’ve begun fundraising for the Spirit Level Foundation matching grant with an all-congregation email from Eileen and Jeremiah, as well as pulpit announcements. So far, we’ve raised around $11,000 of the $30,000 we need by December, so we are doing well at this early point in the campaign. (Please consider contributing if you haven’t already!)
- Eileen and Jeremiah have shared the good news about Amy Brunell’s Seminarian Sponsorship with her, and are scheduling a meeting to discuss the details of what the sponsorship will entail in this and subsequent years.
- Revs. Kikanza and Amelia have each requested that Jeremiah endorse them with letters of support to join the UU Ministers’ Association, so Jeremiah will be working on those.
- Energy around the UU Animal Ministry is being generated, with a new potential leader (and new member) identified. Jeremiah said he hopes this comes into being this year, and he will do what he can to support it.
- The Santa Monica Interfaith Council (SMAIC) and Leadership Team met this past month and has been planning events like the Holocaust Remembrance and continuing organizational development work, including the adoption of a new logo with the help of our very own extraordinary and talented Gretchen Goetz.
- Jeremiah met with the UCLA Medical Center Ethics Committee twice in the past month, once for its regular meeting and once to discern a path forward in a complex clinical case.
In conclusion, Jeremiah said the new year is off to a busy start, and he is “hoping for opportunities to breathe into some spaciousness amidst it all!”
“Everything we do as a church community,” he said, “we’re able to do because of your dedication to this exceptional Board and our ability to provide strategic direction, good processes, healthy boundaries, and anti-racist/counter-oppressive, and sustainable/regenerative ways of functioning and modeling leadership. Thank you for sharing your skills, thoughtfulness, love, and ministry with our beloved congregational home!”
Rebecca said in her Treasurer’s Report that “although pledge income YTD is still ahead of schedule, the expected end of year bump did not materialize. We currently have a year-to-date net surplus, but it is close to what had been predicted for this time of year.” She reported that we have made the second payments of our UUA and PSWD dues, which is factored in, and our Dining for Dollars income is low right now, with no new auction expected until this spring.
On the positive side, Rebecca said rentals are on track so far this fiscal year, but will need to increase quite a bit after the Arizona entrance is finished, and it “may be beneficial to brainstorm possible out-of-the-box approaches to renting our space.” She said that since the Forbes restrooms are functional, we might be able to think about wedding rentals…and shared space talks with a nearby synagogue are in process.
Finally, Rebecca reported that when the extra monies to the Ministerial Specialist are factored into the total budget, we now have a net negative budget of -$2330…and, as Jeremiah also reported, concerted efforts at collecting the Spirit Level Foundation matching funds have begun. Also, she said Church Administrator Nurit Gordon will be creating a first-pass budget for 2024-25 (which includes columns for cost-of-living increases) for the January 2024 Finance Committee meeting.
The Common Read discussion was based on the following questions from chapters 7 and 8, posed by Eileen and Jeremiah:
- How do we measure outcomes?
- How can we sustain the changes we make?
- What were major themes or takeaways from the book that stuck with you?
Policies Committee Update
Barbara said there is much work to do and the committee is considering meeting twice a month. She asked how the Board would like to receive the committee’s reports, and it was suggested they report on pieces of the work as those pieces are completed.
Article II Update
James Witker told the Board that the Adult RE/Programs committee was planning an event at noon on January 21st to inform the congregation of what is happening with the Article II revisions. After the presentation, there would be an opportunity for questions and answers.
Last month, Jeremiah and the Board identified potential Stewardship Team leaders, and Jeremiah said he is in the process of contacting those congregants and exploring possibilities with potential members and co-chairs. He said the goal is to institutionalize sustainable and regenerative stewardship practices.
Mission and Vision Task Force
The Co-chairs and members of the team have been sent invitations to participate and the work should be getting off the ground this month.
Forbes Hall Repair Update
Vilma reported that we are getting much closer to completion on this project. The Arizona Lobby area by the doors still needs some finishing touches, but an exterior ramp has been installed, and we are looking forward to celebrating this achievement with a ribbon-cutting soon.
Norm spoke about really liking the “greet your neighbors” aspect of some of our recent services, but it was agreed that given the recent resurgence of COVID that this practice should exclude touching or breathing on people.
Executive Session and Adjournment
The Board spent some time in executive session, and the meeting was adjourned at 9:23 p.m.