May Board Highlights

UUSM Board 2023-24

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica Board of Directors met on May 14, 2024. Board members attending included President Eileen McCormack, Vice President Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer Rebecca Crawford, Secretary Larry Weiner, and Members-at-Large Norm Richey, Audrey Erbes, Trish Brassard and Linda van Ligten.  Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae and congregational members Cassie Winters, Kim Kalmanson, Shanna Shaked, and Julie Nyquist also attended. Board member Barbara Kernochan was absent.

Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m., and Trish read the Second Principle, the Third Source, and a chalice lighting prayer. Jeremiah read the proposed UU Value on Pluralism (which is also this month’s worship theme):

We celebrate that we are all sacred beings, diverse in culture, experience, and theology. We covenant to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We embrace our differences and commonalities with Love, curiosity, and respect.

Attendees did a personal check-in and then answered a question related to the theme: “Our friends and family each carry/believe/tell a different story about who we are. Whose version of you most closely matches your authentic self?”

Finally, Eileen reminded attendees to please raise their hands before speaking during the meeting.

Membership, Minutes, and Standing Reports

Norm read one new member – Carol Lim – into the membership roll.  After this addition, our current membership is 253.

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

Minister’s Report

In his report, Jeremiah spoke more about Pluralism.

“While diversity is the coexistence of difference,” he said, “pluralism is engagement with all of the diversity. It is a good thing we are a diverse people who come from many different backgrounds, identities, and social locations! Our liberal tradition is also rooted in our unique heritage and it embraces many sources of inspiration, faith, and wisdom. We do still have room to extend our welcome and embrace to be better allies with vulnerable communities and in greater solidarity with diverse movements involved in the work of collective liberation in our society.”

He also noted that our national movement will consider adopting the Pluralism value statement later this year, and our congregation will consider adopting the new UUA 8th Principle (see below). In the meantime, he said, “Let’s sit with these ripe possibilities as we, too, strive to “embrace our differences and commonalities with Love, curiosity, and respect.”

Next, Jeremiah reported that:

  • Our congregation has gathered for five Sunday worship services since the last board meeting. In April, Rabbi Laura Geller and Jeremiah offered the service Exploring the Power of Passover for All of Us, which considered the many meanings of this important Jewish holiday. Our annual Earth Day Celebration was offered by Jeremiah, and it included a new ceremony for connecting with the qualities of the elements as variously understood by different Earth-based spiritual traditions. Our Liturgical Year considered one of the purposes of religious community and our liturgical year as one of this congregation’s unique expressions of Unitarian Universalism. Coming of Age was offered by our youth and facilitators, and we learned more about their emerging moral and spiritual convictions in this special service that really showcased the many good things happening to realize the religious education mission of this community. And finally, Jeremiah offered Our Better Angels, which considered these celestial beings in sacred traditions and what it takes to cultivate them. Jeremiah also noted that the sanctuary continues to be comfortably full on Sunday mornings and there is a good spirit on the campus, which many visitors have noticed.
  • UUSM hosted the Interfaith Council’s Annual Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Service, Affirming our Common Humanity: Remembering the Past, Defending the Future, on Monday, May 6th. Jeremiah served on the planning committee for the service, and as one of the service leaders, along with many other clergy members from around Santa Monica. The service was well attended and everyone was impressed with our community’s hospitality, campus, and the service itself.
  • We co-sponsored the Annual DRUUM Public Worship Service on Wednesday, May 8th, which featured our Music Director Saunder Choi and Choral Section Leaders Jyvonne Haskin and Chloe Vaught. Jeremiah attended as a UUSM representative, and we also livestreamed the service from our sanctuary. It was attended by about 175 members and allied white friends of the largest BIPOC organization in Unitarian Universalism. The President of the UUA, Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt, was also in attendance. Our sanctuary has been blessed by many leaders in our larger community both in person and virtually in the past few weeks!
  • Our Stewardship Committee provided stability and kept the congregation engaged with the work of stewardship over the past many weeks. Despite a scaled-back campaign this year, the community was engaged through direct communications, mailed materials, house parties, Sunday service testimonials, a stewardship table, and courtyard connections. Thank you to Denise Helton, Kikanza Nuri-Robins, Sue Bickford, Sarah Robson, Gretchen Goetz, Eileen McCormack, Vilma Ortiz, and Nurit Gordon for all of their efforts, as well as to those who hosted parties and offered testimonials.
  • Our 2024-2025 Budget Planning process has resulted in a balanced budget to present to the congregation in June. We believe the final draft of the budget is ready and any further changes will be small. Jeremiah noted that we have now nearly rebuilt our rental income after it was decimated in the pandemic, and this year’s balanced budget is the result of years of strategic leadership and planning. A special thanks to Rebecca and the Finance Committee for their work.
  • Jeremiah continues his monthly Worship Team and Worship Chair Meetings to prepare for services and discuss issues relevant to the worship life of the congregation.
  • The Pastoral Care and Pastoral Executive Teams met, received reports, and explored the possibility of pastoral care packages for new parents in the community.
  • Jeremiah continues to provide Spiritual Counseling and Pastoral Support to multiple members on a short-term basis.
  • In addition to a monthly Leadership Team Meeting with senior staff and Rev. Kikanza, Jeremiah also continues to have regular Governance Meetings with Eileen, individual Administrative Planning Meetings with Rev. Kikanza, Saunder, Nurit, and UUA staff and colleagues on a monthly to bi-monthly to weekly basis, and with other congregational leaders as needed.
  • An Interim DRE Interviewing Committee was organized, received charter approval from the Board, affirmed a covenant, revised interview questions, and developed questions to check with references. The committee interviewed one candidate and moved into the second stage of the interview in mid-May. Jeremiah thanked the many members who stepped up to help with this important work.
  • On Saturday, May 11, our Board and members of our Religious Education (RE) community held a Listening Circle / Board and RE Meeting, which provided constructive dialogue on learning from the past and preparing for the future in religious education. This was the third meeting in the past six weeks to listen to concerns, address challenges, and make plans for the future.
  • Jeremiah met with the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee (LDNC) to finalize a slate for the Board and invitations to LDNC leadership positions. Jeremiah and the committee members also reached out to potential candidates following the meeting.
  • The Santa Monica Synagogue will be our newest renter in the fall. Details are still being finalized, but Jeremiah said we’ve devoted significant time to bringing this possibility into reality and he’s grateful for everyone’s efforts. During the negotiations, we offered campus tours, Rabbi Shira and and Jeremiah met as needed, representatives from our Boards collaborated, and we provided two electronic updates to the congregation and discussed the possibility with Rabbi Laura Geller at the recent “Getting Good at Getting Older” workshop.
  • The Mission and Vision Renewal Facilitation Team has agreed to put the mission and vision developmental work on hold until there is greater stability and a new equilibrium in the congregation.
  • The Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) took a break and did not meet in the past month.
  • The Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission (IARAO) has identified a member and friend who are interested in serving on the Commission (see motion below). The Commission’s large project is proposing the adoption of the 8th Principle of UUism by the congregation at the Annual Meeting. Also, as requested by the Board, the IARAO is providing weekly tables on the issue after Sunday services, and an online Town Hall before the annual meeting. They also plan to publish an educational article in our online news magazine.
  • The Board is now actively considering church policy revisions, reflecting on them, providing feedback to the Board Policies Team, and adopting revised policies.
  • The UU Animal Ministry is developing Dining for Dollars offerings and meeting with the national organization to inform its work. The Animal Ministry has also requested that we provide vegan options as a standard practice when food or refreshments are made available to the community. Jeremiah said he supports this reasonable request for greater inclusion.
  • The Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council and Leadership Team’s annual Spring Luncheon was a great success and Jeremiah completed his service on the Holocaust Remembrance Planning Committee, which resulted in the event being held at UUSM this year (as noted above).
  • Jeremiah participated in the regular monthly meeting of the UCLA Medical Center Ethics Committee as part of his service to the wider community. The committee considers questions of clinical ethics in medicine and hospital policy.

In conclusion, Jeremiah said he is grateful for the leadership of this Board, which has navigated many complex issues, continued to make progress on multiple fronts, and worked on the many goals that are before us in developmental ministry.

Treasurer’s Report

In addition to her monthly summary of financial activity, Rebecca said this month’s report reflects healthy pledge receipts and rental income, and we should end the fiscal year “with the income side being very close to what the budget predicted.” On the other hand, she said, expenses have been above predictions – particularly for facilities, maintenance, and our ministerial specialist – and will end up about $13,000 more than we budgeted. That said, though, our Dining for Dollars auction at the end of May should generate enough income to offset the larger expenses.

Also, Rebecca reported that efforts to collect matching funds for our Spirit Level grant have been quite successful, the music fund is doing well, and 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.  She concluded with the news that there will be a town hall meeting on the budget soon. [Editor’s note: that meeting was held on Sunday, June 2.]

New Members for the Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission

Linda moved and Audrey seconded that Shanna Shaked and Lee Richman become new members of the IARAO (with Lee’s appointment contingent on becoming a church member). The motion passed unanimously.

2024-2025 Budget Approval

Rebecca moved and Trish seconded that the board present the 2024-2025 Budget to the congregation at the Annual Meeting on June 16. The motion passed unanimously.

Proposed 8th Principle

Larry moved and Linda seconded that the proposed 8th Principle be listed as a voting item on the Annual Meeting ballot. The motion passed unanimously.  The principle reads:

“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

Forbes Hall Repair Update:

Vilma reported that work on the Forbes Hall entry has ground to a halt. She said she will “poke” the contractor.

Executive Session and Adjournment

After the above business, the board moved into executive session.  After the executive session, the meeting was adjourned at 9:27 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.