June Board Highlights

UUSM Board 2023-24

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica 2023-24 Board of Directors met for the final time on June 11, 2024. Board members attending included President Eileen McCormack, Vice President Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer Rebecca Crawford, Secretary Larry Weiner, and Members at Large Audrey Erbes, Trish Brassard (from a hospital bed), and Linda van Ligten. Past President Barbara Kernochan also attended, as did Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae, and Congregational Members Julie Nyquist and Patricia Wright.  Board Member Norm Richey was absent.

Call to Order, Check-In, and Opening Remarks

Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:04 p.m. She read the Third Principle, the Fourth Source, and a chalice lighting prayer. Jeremiah read about this month’s featured value – transformation.  Attendees did a personal check in and answered a question based on this month’s Soul Matters theme of renewal: “Whose way of being in the world renews your faith in humanity? Or How does your body tell you it is in need of renewal? What is it telling you now?”

Membership Report

Membership at last month’s meeting was 253. Larry reported that this month Amy Brunell and Lisa Moran resigned and Patrick McGuire resigned membership and is now a friend, bringing current membership to 250.

Consent Agenda

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

Minister’s Report

Jeremiah reported that an image of a person splashing their face with water captivated him as he meditated on this month’s theme of renewal. He said it reminded him “of the occasions we have in the summer months to commune with bodies of water and the contrasts of the bright sunlight and oppressive heat of the summer with the refreshing and revitalizing presence of the flowing water of rivers, streams, lakes and oceans.” He also noted that we “inaugurate each new congregational year in September with our water communion ceremony in which we are invited to bring water we may have collected over the summer months to the common bowl along with our hopes for the coming congregational year.”  So, he said, “it is time for us to start thinking about what those hopes will be and perhaps even considering where we may find the sacred water to bring to that special service.”

In addition, Jeremiah said, “The image of the person splashing their face with water also reminds me of the central place of water in religious life, especially the requirement in Islamic tradition that we wash our faces and bodies with water before offering the daily “contact” prayers that move through the hours of the day. It has always seemed to me renewal is about washing away some of what we’ve accumulated from the stresses, challenges, losses, and hardships of life to return to our original and perhaps more spacious natures.”

Finally, he said, “I hope you will reflect more deeply on the ways you renew your mind, body, and spirit after periods of stress and depletion. Are there ways you might lean into self-care and community-care in these summer months to support wellness and wholeness? What practices, routines, and rhythms of your life are helpful to this end and where do you need more spaciousness and respite? How might you bring greater intentionality to remaining connected to your deeper self and spiritually nourishing energies? Let’s encourage each other and our community to this work of spiritual renewal.”

Next, Jeremiah reported that:

  • Our congregation has gathered for four Sunday worship services since our last meeting. Rev. Kikanza Nuri-Robins offered the service “Is It Non-Binary or Not?” which considered different cultural approaches to dualities and gender identity. Jeremiah provided the annual Flower Communion service, which is a traditional celebration of difference, diversity, beauty, and beloved community. He also presented “Queering Life” as our annual celebration of Pride and the work that remains to create a more just and equitable society. And, finally, Rev. Kikanza gave us “What’s Your Mission?” to advance our congregational work around renewing our mission and vision as a developmental goal.
  • Jeremiah continues to meet with the Worship Team and its chair on a monthly basis to prepare for services and discuss issues relevant to the worship life of the congregation. Sue Bickford is completing her tenure as worship chair and she and Jeremiah also met with Chela Metzger, who will be the new chair. Jeremiah expressed his gratitude to Sue for her distinguished leadership and to Chela for stepping into this new role.
  • Jeremiah has been working on Summer Worship Calendar Planning for the coming months. He has secured worship leaders for all of July and August and will continue to work with them to finalize details over the next few weeks.
  • Our Pastoral Care Team and Pastoral Executive Team members met to discuss pastoral issues in the life of the community, to receive reports from the Pastoral Associates, and to discuss organization logistics.
  • Jeremiah continues to provide Spiritual Counseling and Pastoral Support to multiple members on a short-term basis and has made hospital visits as requested.
  • Jeremiah reported that our Leadership Team did not meet because we don’t currently have a full staff, but said he continues to have regular Governance meetings with Eileen, Board Agenda Planning meetings, and individual Administrative planning meetings with Rev. Kikanza, Saunder, Nurit, Jessica, UUA staff, and colleagues on a weekly to monthly basis, as well as meetings with other congregational leaders as requested.
  • Our Board and members of our RE community had a fourth Listening Circle/Board and RE Meeting on Saturday, June 8, from 10am-noon to build bridges and plan for future Right Relations work and logistical preparation around religious education.
  • Jeremiah worked with the Personnel Committee over the past month to finalize the job description and offer letter for the Interim DRE position.
  • Jeremiah developed reference checking resources and organized the logistics of the final stage of the interviewing process with the Interviewing Committee. He extended a special “thank you” to Linda van Ligten and Jason Buhle for making many calls and taking notes.
  • Nurit and Jeremiah have been Onboarding the Interim DRE, Jessica Place, and Jeremiah has begun meeting weekly with her.
  • After serving as a photographer for the Yom HaShoah service, Jeremiah worked with Pam Teplitz, who wrote a beautiful article to share the service and livestream with the larger community. Jeremiah also prepared his monthly theme-based news magazine article on the theme of “Renewal” and provided support for published and pulpit announcements.
  • The Santa Monica Star mentioned the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council’s Yom HaShoah Service in this month’s edition. This is good publicity for the congregation in the wider community.
  • Our congregation marched in the 54th Annual LA Pride Parade – the oldest parade of its type and one of the largest ever. About 30 members and friends of the congregation participated, including Jessica Place and Jeremiah, who brought rainbow fans and stickers for the participants. James Witker and Faith in Action also contributed considerable organizing work, and Jessica provided affirmations, chants, and PR for the congregation with one of our church megaphones along the parade route.
  • We organized a UUSM Elections Candidate Forum on Monday, June 10, from 7:30pm-8:30pm to give congregants an opportunity to meet and hear from candidates for contested elected offices.
  • Jeremiah met with the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee, which discussed plans for the Annual Meeting and the search process.
  • Jeremiah has had multiple meetings and communications with Santa Monica Synagogue’s Rabbi Shira Freidlin and the leadership teams of both communities over the last month to finalize details of the Synagogue’s rental agreement.
  • Rev. Kikanza and Jeremiah agreed to place the work of the Mission and Vision Renewal Facilitation Team on hold until autumn, when there’s greater stability and ability to do this important work without undue stress. Rev. Kikanza preached on this topic last Sunday to keep us thinking about and engaged with this important developmental goal.
  • The Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) is still on hold, too, as we’ve had a number of unexpected tasks to attend to this month.
  • The Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission (IARAO) had a busy month preparing for the possible adoption of the 8th Principle at the Annual Meeting. This is the culmination of years of work around IARAO in the community. In addition to publications and tabling on Sunday mornings, the IARAO Commission has also offered Town Halls and continues to do so.
  • The Board is actively considering policy revisions, reflecting on them, providing feedback to the Policies Refresh Team, and has begun adopting policies to realize another of our developmental goals.
  • Jeremiah met with the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council’s (SMAIC) Leadership Team this month and will meet with the Council later this week.
  • Jeremiah participated in the regular monthly meeting of the UCLA Medical Center Ethics Committee as part of his service to the wider community. The group considers questions of clinical ethics in medicine and hospital policy.

In conclusion, Jeremiah said, “Let us commit to the renewing of our souls these summer months and cultivating and sharing gratitude with each other, our beloved community, and the larger world for all of the many gifts of relationship, leadership, and life.”

Treasurer’s Report

Rebecca summarized her report by saying we have collected around $13,000 toward the Spirit Level Matching Grant for the Ministerial Specialist/DRE and around $23,000 from Dining for Dollars and we are doing well.

Meanwhile, in the more detailed version of her report submitted this month, she noted that our May pledge receipts were behind normal, but the total YTD is above what was budgeted. In addition, rental income looks like it will come out more than 10K above the budgeted 38K. So the prediction through the rest of the fiscal year is that we will end with income being very close to what the budget predicted – provided we get the 15K Sprit Level Fund (SLF) grant before the end of June.

On the other hand, however, the report also shows that expenses have been above what was predicted, especially for facilities maintenance and our ministerial specialist. Together, Rebecca said, they lead to a prediction that expenses will be about $10,000 above what was budgeted.

Even so, though, and as noted in her briefer summary, Rebecca reported that the Dining for Dollars (D4$) auction brought in more than $23,000, slightly more than $12,000 of which came in during May. This income will be counted for the current fiscal year and should be sufficient to offset the larger expenses. Concerted efforts at collecting the SLF matching funds have also been quite successful, though we may end up below our desired $15,000. The music funding is also going well. Finally, Rebecca’s report also noted that the addition of the Santa Monica Synagogue to our list of renters will allow us to present a balanced budget to the congregation on June 16.

Policies Discussion

Barbara Kernochan presented a number of motions to approve the following fiduciary policy updates, and all were passed with unanimous votes in favor:

Board Fiduciary Policy Real Estate Revised
Board Fiduciary Policy Openness and Confidentiality Revised
Board Fiduciary Policy Indemnification
Board Fiduciary Policy Gifts and Endowments Revised
Board Fiduciary Policy Gallery Wall Loss Reimbursement
Board Fiduciary Policy Certification of Membership
Board Fiduciary Finance Policy Budget Revised

The Executive Committee Policy Suggestions were not ready to be voted on, so that discussion was tabled.

Eighth Principle Discussion

Larry reported that Faith In Action and the IARAO will be providing a Zoom-based discussion on the Eighth Principle on June 12th.

Annual Meeting

Discussion of the upcoming Annual Meeting confirmed that everyone who needs an absentee ballot can get one, there will be food for attendees, and Rebecca will provide a PowerPoint on the Budget. The group also discussed conducting the vote on the bylaws change by hand vote, and agreed to make sure there are paper ballots available if people object to the hand vote.

General Assembly

Larry moved and Barbara seconded that the Board authorize three $200 half-scholarships for the UUA’s General Assembly. The motion passed unanimously. Our congregation can have six delegates and the Board would like to have at least three representing us.

Forbes Hall Repair Update

Vilma reported that the final touches on the Arizona Avenue entrance to Forbes Hall should be done this week. 

Executive Session and Adjournment

After the above items, the board moved into executive session from 8:43 to 9:14 p.m. After the executive session, Linda moved and Barbara seconded that board President Eileen McCormack be empowered to act on the board’s behalf in signing the necessary employment agreement paperwork in accordance with the previously agreed upon plan. The motion passed unanimously.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:28 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.