May 2023 Board Highlights

UUSM 2023 Board of Directors

The UUSM Board of Directors met on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, to review monthly reports and discuss various church activities. Board Members present at roll call included President Eileen McCormack, Vice President Norm Richey, Treasurer Vilma Ortiz, Secretary Larry Weiner, Members-at-Large Michael Monte and Linda van Ligten, and Past President Beth Brownlie.  Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae was also present, as were congregational members Teresa Castelli, Sarah Robson, Audrey Erbes, Beth Rendeiro, and Karl Lisovsky.  Congregational members Jacki Weber and James Witker arrived later.  Board Member Siobhan Braybrook was absent.


Call to Order, Opening Readings, and Check-In

Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:04 p.m. Linda did a personal reading and then read the Second Principle and Third Source. The Board and guests did personal check-ins and answered the question, “Has creativity ever healed or saved you? OR If you were told you could magically recreate one aspect of your life, what part would you pick?”


Opening Remarks and Announcements

The Board read our Covenant, and Eileen reminded attendees to be kind to one another.


Membership report

Current membership is 265.  Two new members were read into the rolls: Aaron Young (who should have been read into the minutes and membership roll last month) and Ellen Gill.  Abby Arnold and Dan Wunsche have resigned their memberships.


Standing Monthly Reports

Monthly standing reports were noted but not discussed. Norm moved and Larry seconded that the board accept the Standing Reports and the April minutes as presented. The motion passed unanimously.


Minister’s report for May

In his monthly report, Jeremiah gave a glowing account of the congregation’s health, including the things we are doing, the people we are seeing, and the challenges we have overcome in the past few years.  He further reported that:

  • Our “Soul Matters” theme for the month is the “Path of Creativity,” and we have followed that path in the creative ways we’ve emerged from the pandemic and the successful pledge drive we’ve just completed. 
  • Our Worship Life included several services over the past month, as well as the amazing Green Living Fair produced by the Green Committee in honor of Earth Day.
  • The Pastoral Care Team met this month and Jeremiah personally made a number of hospital trips to visit ailing congregants.
  • Jacki Weber and the amazing Stewardship Campaign Team were acknowledged for the one-on-one conversations, house parties, courtyard conversations, and phone calls that led to the successful pledge drive.
  • Jeremiah, along with a number of other leaders in our community, has put together a Spirit Level Grant Proposal to create a matching grant fund for a “Ministerial Specialist for Religious Education and Congregational Life.”
  • The pledge drive and outside sources of funding will allow us to present a budget with a small deficit and allow us to become a Fair Share congregation (one contributing its full requested contribution to the UUA) for the following year.
  • How we plan to locate and hire a professional educator to move the Children’s and Youth Religious Education program forward.
  • We are making progress, with the help of the UUA’s Melissa James, toward reconstituting our Healthy Congregations/Right Relations Team.
  • Our IARAO Commission (with help from the Adult Programs Committee) is moving forward with the UUA common read, a book called Mistakes and Miracles, and also exploring the possible adoptions of an 8th principle and the UUA’s Article II Study Commission’s recommendations.
  • Our new Committee for Shared Ministry (COSM) met with Melissa James to learn how this committee operates in other congregations.
  • The Board and the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee are working to institute new practices of collaborations and consultation in church leadership systems, to support our developmental goals of interdependence, transparency, collaboration, and appropriate functional organizational protocols.
  • We are working to provide a positive experience at our 2023 Annual Meeting planning by practicing our Covenant of Right Relations.
  • Our Faith Forward: From Visitor to Leader leadership development program continues to develop 15 new and emerging leaders with monthly programs.
  • Jeremiah and Bettye Barclay continue to offer monthly workshops on Mysticism that are being enjoyed by 20 members of our congregation.
  • Rev. Amelia Mumina continues to offer Heart Openings Embodied Spiritual Practice Circle: Alternative Workshop Space practice monthly.
  • Jeremiah has reached out to Rabbi Shira Freidlin of The Santa Monica Synagogue and we will be going to celebrate Shabbat and Shavuot with that congregation on May 26th.  Participants will return to our campus afterward for a vegetarian meal and conversation.
  • Jeremiah continues to meet with the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council and the UCLA Hospital Ethics Committee.
  • Our Board leaders presented an article to the congregation on the progress of the Developmental Ministry effort.

In conclusion, Jeremiah thanked everyone for their good works and reminded attendees to continue to lean into sustainability to avoid possible burnout as we move forward together.


Treasurer’s Report

Vilma said there are no surprises in this month’s Treasurer’s Report. Also, thanks to an incredibly successful stewardship drive and Karl Lisovsky’s work with D4$ (and pending the outcome of our Spirit Level Grant application), we should be able to present a budget with a remarkably small deficit.  Vilma said the Board will meet on May 16th to discuss and finalize the budget to present to the congregation at the annual meeting.

Vilma also announced that we no longer have earthquake insurance. She said that if we can even get a quote, we would have to have the building evaluated, and it would most likely need to be retrofitted before we could obtain a new policy. And even then, she said, we might be looking at premiums of $40,000 a year or more, and a $600,000+ deductible. So given all of that, she said, it may make more sense to save the money now, and if there is a really bad quake with a lot of damage, rely on the government for assistance.

Vilma moved and Norm seconded that we move the balance of the Pipes Lecture fund (about $9,000) to the Minister’s Equity fund. The Motion passed unanimously.


Forbes Hall Repair Update

Over the last month, the Board held two email votes on change orders to the Forbes repairs. Prior to placing these votes into the minutes, Linda said she’s generally uncomfortable with email votes, because they don’t give Board members the opportunity to break down and discuss the issues in depth, face to face. She asked that the Board do everything possible to avoid emergencies that require email votes in the future. In response, Vilma noted that the first of the two votes was a true emergency, because change orders do come up suddenly during construction and it’s important to facilitate the work ASAP. And the second vote, she said, was for something that should have been handled several months ago.

In the two email votes, the Board:

  1. Authorized the Facilities Development and Maintenance Committee (FDMC) to procure new lighting, inverter, and ceiling work to complete the Arizona Structural Repair Project at a cost of $14,166.05, with funds coming from the Facility Capital Expense Fund. 
  2. Authorized the FDMC to procure Oakmont Builders to perform the structural/framing and ceiling work to complete the Arizona Structural Repair project at a cost of $14,545, with funds coming from the Facility Capital Expense Fund.

The expense was the result of additional structural work not in the original plans, but required by the City of Santa Monica, for the ceiling of the Arizona entry in November 2022. 

Each of the two motions passed with 5 votes in favor and 2 abstentions.


Youth RE Update

Beth reported that we are moving forward brilliantly in rebuilding our youth RE program.


Adult RE Update

Beth Rendeiro, James Witker, and Sarah Robson attended the meeting to clarify the function of the Adult RE committee.

James recounted the history of the committee, which began in 2012 as the Adult Programs sub-committee of the original Lifespan RE Committee, under Director of Religious Education Catherine Farmer Loya. Later, said James, the Rev. Greg Ward suggested broadening the committee’s umbrella from simply Adult RE to Adult Programs, also under the auspices of the DRE.

Today, James said, the committee sees its mission as doing everything possible to help people who want to offer classes and programs to promote themselves to the community, while also making sure that the offerings are consistent with the mission and vision of the church as a whole. James said committee members do not want to tell any group what it should or shouldn’t do, unless it sees an offering as contrary to our mission and vision.

What has happened recently, however, James said, is that some groups have started offering programs without running them through the Adult RE committee first, which has sometimes led to scheduling problems. So the question now, he said, is determining what falls under the umbrella Greg Ward originally envisioned and what should fall under it moving forward.

James suggested that the Board clarify when a program should be considered a part of a standing group and when it should be run through the Adult RE committee…and the Board asked James and the committee to come up with a proposal for those distinctions.

Finally, the committee also announced that it will be leading a Town Hall to inform the community of what the UUA Article II Commission is working on, which may include the elimination of the UUA’s Seven Principles. The event was scheduled for noon on Sunday, May 21st, after the service.



Jacki Weber presented a PowerPoint analysis of the results of the Pledge Drive/Stewardship Drive, which was also meant to be a census to help discern the continued participation of community members in the wake of the pandemic. Jacki said it was designed to be very comprehensive, to elicit as much feedback as possible.  And it was also intended to help offset financial losses incurred during the pandemic period, by asking people to make their very best pledge and then give even more.

According to the presentation:

  • 168 pledging households gave an average of approximately $2,300 each, which is generous.
  • 70+ conversations were held, and provided a great deal of feedback.
  • More than half of conversants — and a quarter of all respondents — expressed concern with continued deficit budgeting and the need to right-size our budget after the significant decrease in membership over the last five years.
  • Of 105 pledgers who cared to express enthusiastic support of programs:
    • Many (73) expressed enthusiastic support of “whatever needs supporting”
    • 33 expressed enthusiastic support of youth and families
    • 33 expressed enthusiastic support of faith in action
    • 18 expressed enthusiastic support of pastoral care
    • And 17 expressed enthusiastic support of professional worship and music.

(People were allowed to mark more than one of those items, but this is where the emphasis landed.)

Jacki reported that people also want to be heard about many things — from music and worship to pastoral care and RE — but they are unclear about how they can best give feedback about what is working well and what is not.  She said they are also unclear about the ways in which the congregation is better positioned to move into a settled minister search, and what needs to be done to get there.

One next step Jacki recommended is the purging of the membership rolls. Based on the fact that many people have not given anything recently and/or were unreachable, she said, it’s apparent that our current active membership total of 265 is inaccurate. She said any removal from the rolls will be handled very gently and lovingly by Vilma and Norm and the Membership Committee.

The second recommendation from the Stewardship Committee, Jacki said, is the “unpacking” of the feedback that was gleaned from the pledge forms and conversations and during the drive. Board members suggested that this would perhaps best be done by the Committee on Shared Ministry.


Executive Session

The board moved into executive session from 9:15 to 9:33 p.m. After returning to the main session, Vilma moved and Norm seconded that the Board appoint Barbara Kernochan to serve on the 2023-2024 Board as Past President. The motion passed unanimously.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:39 p.m.


Draft minutes used to create this report were provided by Larry Weiner, Board Secretary