March Board Highlights

UUSM Board 2023-24

The UUSM Board of Directors met on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, via Zoom. Board members attending included President Eileen McCormack, Vice President Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer Rebecca Crawford, Secretary Larry Weiner, and Members-at-Large Norm Richey, Linda Van Ligten, Audrey Erbes, and Trish Brassard. Past President Barbara Kernochan also attended, as did Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae and congregational members Roberta Frye, Kate MacQueen, and Jef Travis.

Call to Order and Opening Remarks

After Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m., Linda read the Seventh Principle and the First Source, and provided a reading about interdependence. Board members and guests did a personal check in and were asked to reflect on a time they experienced a transformation (our worship theme for the month), what they gleaned from the experience, and what changed in the process.

Finally, in her opening remarks, Eileen asked the attendees to keep each other honest and not cross talk during the meeting.

Membership report

Norm read three new members into the rolls: Sally (Sara) Lewis, Brian Kenyon, and Anne Bridgins. (Brian and Anne are married.) This brings our current membership to 255.

Norm moved and Audrey seconded that the February meeting minutes and this month’s standing reports be accepted as presented. The motion passed unanimously.

Minister’s Report

In his report, Jeremiah noted that “The Gift of Transformation” is our congregational theme for the month, and that transformation can be defined as “to change in composition or structure, to change the outward form or appearance of, or to change in character or condition.” He said Soul Matters reminds us that much of what we’ve been taught about this month’s theme by dominant religions and our larger culture is often unhelpful, and transformation is not about fixing or control or striving for perfection. Instead, he said, “It is about stillness, listening, and creating the space and conditions for the greater unfolding of our souls. Often our passion for positive change in the world can leave us believing that we must transform the world while we neglect our own beings. Real spiritual transformation, however, begins within and then blossoms into the world around us.”

Jeremiah also said, “I am mindful of our own Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission at church, which decided early on that to make lasting spiritual change in our community we would have to invite each other into spaces of contemplative practice rather than just rushing to take action. We recognized that learning to be good allies and co-conspirators for collective liberation meant that we would need to learn to become thoughtful and self-reflective around the many issues of effectively countering oppressions. We would further need to engage with community in ways that help us know ourselves better and to learn to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate our differences. So let us sit with the theme of transformation this month and discover what new gifts are waiting to be born within.”

Jeremiah further reported that:

  • We have gathered for four beautiful, inspiring, and well attended Sunday worship services since the last board meeting. Rev. Joshua Lewis Berg was a guest Unitarian Universalist minister who offered the service The Love Dependent Web, which considered the ways in which our UU Principles may be transformed into new UU Value statements. Jeremiah offered the service Our Unitarian Universalist Association, which considered our place in our larger movement and the operations of congregational polity in our liberal religious history and understanding. The Rev. Dr. Swami Bhajanananda joined us as our Honored Guest Teacher for our celebration of Shivarati, and offered the service The Radiance within the Darkness. (Jeremiah said it was great to have him with us after many years of celebrating this Hindu holiday and working to cultivate a stronger relationship with the larger Hindu community.) And finally, Jeremiah offered the service The Luminous Quran, which continued a series he’s been developing on sacred texts and inaugurated the honoring of Ramazan this year. 
  • The Worship Team continues to meet to plan services, and Jeremiah continues to meet with our Chair of Worship.
  • Our Pastoral Care Team resumed meeting this month and, in addition to receiving reports, offered a didactic on understanding and caring for those who are grieving. Jeremiah has also met with our Pastoral Executive Team to prepare for the regular team meeting.
  • Jeremiah continues to provide spiritual counseling and pastoral support to multiple members on a short-term basis, with the need for this kind of support relatively high lately.
  • In addition to a monthly Leadership Team Meeting with Senior Staff and Rev. Kikanza, Jeremiah also continues to have regular governance meetings with Eileen, and individual administrative planning meetings with Rev. Kikanza, Rev. Amelia,* Saunder, Nurit, and UUA staff and colleagues on a monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly basis, and administrative meetings with other congregational leaders as needed.
  • Jeremiah met with the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee (LDNC) and provided guidance on effective processes for identifying potential congregational leaders…and the team moved forward with implementing those processes.
  • Jeremiah gave a presentation to our Faith Forward Membership Program after the Sunday service, and it was well received.
  • Reporting on the 2024-2025 budget planning process, Jeremiah said a first draft of the budget is complete and we are waiting for additional information from stewardship and on possible long term rentals before we can finalize it.
  • Jeremiah has met with Stewardship Committee leaders, and the first Stewardship Committee meeting was lively and productive. Also, he said Rev. Kikanza has agreed to provide additional ministerial support to stewardship this year in her consulting minister role, and the committee worked on developing a calendar, messaging, logistics, and identifying the various activities of stewardship. We expect to start reaching out to people soon.
  • The leadership of the Santa Monica Synagogue provided UUSM with an additional list of considerations. Some were unexpected, so we are working to set up a meeting with both organizations’ leadership teams. Jeremiah has had separate meetings with Adam and Rabbi Shira to explore some of the details in the last month, but we will also need a larger conversation with the leadership of the community.
  • Rev. Kikanza and Jeremiah met with our UUA Congregational Life staff liaison to begin formulating a process for the developmental work of the Mission and Vision Renewal Facilitation Team. The team also had its first meeting and is beginning to further develop the process to engage the community in this period of intentional discernment.
  • The Committee on Shared Ministry considered our interfaith partnerships, how we might strengthen them, and what we might do to facilitate positive relationships with them.
  • The Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission (IARAO) met and its work is ongoing. We have also opened up the application process to replenish the community as two members have completed their service.
  • Jeremiah has been consulting with the Board Policies Team and provided a review of the history of our safer congregation policies and what it will take to implement them more completely, which will likely be a 12-18 month process. Jeremiah also met with Beth Brownlie to discuss the history of the development of these policies and to explore their implementation.
  • Our Right Relations Team continues to meet and is developing programming for three workshops it is planning on the Covenant of Right Relations.
  • Fundraising to meet our Spirit Level Matching Grant of $30,000 is doing well, and if you haven’t yet made a contribution, please do!
  • Jeremiah developed two Collegial Covenants – one to support Amy Brunell in her pursuit of UU ministry, and another to help guide the relationship between Jeremiah and Rev. Amelia.*
  • Jeremiah met with the Greater LA Ministers (GLAM), the regional UU clergy association, for the first time since the pandemic, at the UU Church of Studio City. He said the meetings typically conflict with our Worship Team meeting, but they wanted to thank the congregation for sharing him, so they changed the monthly meeting date so he could attend, which was gracious and most appreciated.
  • Our new UU Animal Ministry has developed its charter and is working to offer new Dining for Dollars opportunities with vegan foods to support the church.
  • Jeremiah met with the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council and Leadership Team, which is preparing for the Ramadan Iftar at Mount St. Olive Church, and the Council’s Annual Spring Luncheon. He also met with the Holocaust Remembrance planning committee, as we will be hosting that service this year. The group also processed some of the ongoing hate and threats being directed at the larger Jewish community, and Jeremiah reaffirmed our solidarity with our Jewish siblings in the face of such threats.
  • Finally, Jeremiah met with the UCLA Medical Center Ethics Committee last month as a regular part of his service to the larger community and to consider questions of clinical ethics in medicine and hospital policy.

In conclusion, Jeremiah said we are very busy with stewardship season just around the corner, the ongoing conversations with the Santa Monica Synagogue, and many developmental ministry projects. We should be mindful of personal and institutional sustainability as many people are quite extended at the moment. As always, he said he is profoundly grateful for the board’s “grounded, wise, and skillful leadership of this truly historic liberal religious community.”

Treasurer’s Report

In her Treasurer’s Report, Rebecca said we are doing well. She also gave a detailed presentation of the Investment Committee’s Report, highlighting the spreadsheet at the end of the report.

Peace and Social Justice Report

Roberta Frye and Kate MacQueen came to the Board to ask that the Board and congregation support a resolution that will be presented to the Santa Monica City Council on the situation in Gaza. 

Larry moved and Audrey seconded that the Board support this resolution and express our support to the Santa Monica City Council. The motion passed unanimously.

Policies Committee Update

Barbara said the Policies Committee has done much work on the financial policies, and with the exception of one piece regarding facilities expenses not voted on by the congregation, this section is complete and will be on the April Board agenda. She said drafts of the fiduciary and subsequent policies will be sent to the Executive committee for consideration before deciding to move them to the full Board for consideration. Also, she said finalizing the Safe Congregation policies is complicated, as they are very long and there are many stakeholders. 

Animal Ministry Charter

Congregation member Jef Travis presented the new Animal Ministry Charter. Audrey moved and Barbara seconded that the charter be adopted, and the motion passed unanimously.

UU The Vote Update

Norm moved and Larry seconded that the Board approve requesting a $3,000 grant, to be matched by $1,000 in community member donations, from the Spirit Level Foundation for our UU the Vote activities. The motion passed unanimously. Increments and timing of the request will be determined by the UUSM UU the Vote team leadership.

Stewardship update

Jeremiah said we have a strong Stewardship team and plan, and he is looking for a few good folks to host house parties to generate enthusiasm.

Forbes Hall Repair Update

Vilma reported that the new Forbes Hall steps and ramp are awaiting inspection and approval. Norm volunteered to purchase champagne for the ribbon cutting.

Executive Session and Adjournment

The board moved into executive session, and after that session ended, the meeting was adjourned at 9:38 p.m.


*Please note that this report was prepared and presented before Rev. Amelia’s recent departure from the church.

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.