The UUSM Board of Directors met via Zoom on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, to review monthly reports and discuss various church activities. Board Members attending included President Eileen McCormick, Vice President Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer Rebecca Crawford, Secretary Larry Weiner, Members-at-Large Norm Richey, Linda van Ligten, Trish Brassard, and Audrey Erbes, and Past President Barbara Kernochan. The Reverend Jeremiah Kalendae also attended, as did congregational member Amy Brunell.
Call to Order, Opening Readings, Check-In, and Opening Remarks
Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:01 p.m. Rebecca read the Third Principle, the Third Source, and a passage by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Board members did a personal check in and answered a check-in question based on this month’s worship theme of generosity.
In her opening remarks, Eileen reminded attendees to raise their Zoom hands and to not dialogue.
Membership and Standing Reports
Current Membership is 252. New members read into the rolls were Mary Ann Hoffman, Jef Travis, Jacinda Virgin, and Troy Harris.
Introducing his report to the Board, Jeremiah noted that in November, “we transition from the season of our beloved ancestors to the season of gratitude and grief,” as Thanksgiving/Thansgrieving reminds us “to practice gratitude, to share the abundance of our lives, and to also to grieve the painful legacies we remember this holiday season.” He said, though, that “the world is also once again on fire and we are called as people of liberal faith in this season to witness to the complexities and nuances of painful histories of oppression, violence, and trauma as we grieve and still hold space for hope, peace-making, and bridge building in the most difficult of circumstances.” He also introduced the monthly worship theme – the Gift of Generosity – which is a key characteristic of our Unitarian Universalist faith, and which the UUA’s Article II Study Commission has also found to be an underlying value not previously found in our current seven UU Principles. As a result, said Jeremiah, the group has proposed a new UU value statement that reads: “We cultivate a spirit of gratitude and hope. We covenant to freely and compassionately share our faith, presence, and resources. Our generosity connects us to one another in relationships of interdependence and mutuality.”
Jeremiah further reported that:
- In Worship over the last month, we’ve offered six services, including Mission and Vision Renewal, Rev. Kikanza’s Songs of Your Soul, the Dia de Los Muertos/Allhallowtide celebration (which also welcomed Rev. Ameila), the annual Day of the Dead and Garden of Eternity service, the A Year to Save the Earth special music service, and the Holy Land service, which invited the congregation to reflect more deeply on the war in Israel and Palestine as we joined the UUA in calling for the necessary steps toward peace. Jeremiah said our sanctuary has been “pleasantly full most Sundays,” and “we’ve received a remarkable amount of positive feedback about the quality, depth, and inspiring nature of the services.”
- Recruitment efforts for Worship Associates have brought Susan Hendricks-Richman and Bettye Barclay to the Worship Team and a mid-year date has been set for the group’s retreat. Members are also “exploring ways to be more inclusive of gender diversity and disabilities in our liturgy,” and there is still room for additional worship team members, so church leaders are encouraged to keep recruiting.
- Our Pastoral Care Team and Executive Team met and had a luncheon retreat at Beverly Alison’s home last month. The team reached out to the Jewish, Muslim, and Middle Eastern members of our community following the outbreak of war in Israel and Palestine. Meeting discussions included the topic of proving pastoral care in difficult times like in the midst of war and after receiving difficult news. The Pastoral Associates also made themselves available following the Holy Land service.
- Jeremiah has made multiple Spiritual Counseling and Home Visits with elder members of the community and has held multiple spiritual counseling and/or pastoral care sessions in the past month with members of the community who are experiencing difficult times.
- Following the service on our Mission and Vision Renewal, the Mission and Vision Renewal Team developed a simple application and worked to recruit a team through pulpit announcements, a social media post, and a letter Jeremiah and Eileen wrote to the congregation. The letter went out late due to a technological glitch, but the team now has a number of applications and will consider them to find the right team members for this work.
- We are resuming monthly meetings of the Ministry/Staff Leadership Team following our Board meetings, to coordinate across the various dimensions of church life.
- Jeremiah and Nurit facilitated a Staff Conflict Intervention, which they hope will result in more harmonious staff functioning.
- Jeremiah meets with Consulting Minister Kikanza Nuri-Robins “at least monthly,” in addition to interacting with her on the teams on which they both serve. Rev. Kikanza has agreed to continue supporting the ministry of the congregation with 1) regular worship leadership, 2) offering rites of passage, 3) serving on the Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM), 4) attending Ministry/Staff Leadership Team meetings when available, and 5) meeting monthly with Rev. Jeremiah.
- The Committee on Shared Ministry met and discussed uniting RE programming, Soulful Sunday, rides to church, and other areas for inter-congregational coordination and capacity building. Jeremiah reported that the group has also recruited Leon Henderson-MacLennan to serve on the Committee if the Board approves, and Jeremiah met separately this month with Sabina Mayo-Smith, who chairs the Committee
- The Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression (IARAO) Commission met this month and is continuing its dive into implementing practices to make us more inclusive and accessible. We are also bringing in a consulting service to work with groups around IARAO awareness, beginning with Religious Education and the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee.
- There was a meeting about Church Administration Systems, to identify ways to streamline the programs we are using and address volunteer burnout, especially in the communications functions of the congregation.
- Jeremiah, who’s a consultant to the Board Policies Team, joined that group for part of its meeting this month, to provide feedback on process and substance as it relates to policy development.
- We are still working to get the Right Relations team operational again. (Jeremiah said he had hoped to have additional updates this month, but there are none yet.)
- We had some security concerns following a disruptive person on the campus in early November. The leadership team activated the Disruptive Person Policy, and we enlisted a security guard for two Sundays to ensure professional management of any potential disruptions. The person in question did not show up the following weekend, and we are hopeful they will not return.
- The UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee has advised us of sexual misconduct by a former interim minister of the congregation, which was part of a larger pattern stretching back 40 years. The individual in question has resigned their ministry credentials and is no longer welcome to serve congregations in the UUA. We will be sharing this information with the congregation this month before it is publicly released next month. [Editor’s note: an email about this issue was sent to the congregation on November 29.] Jeremiah has been working on a coordinated response with other area congregations that were affected.
- Jeremiah wrote the first of three articles about how the Spirit Level Foundation Grants we received were used for our technological infrastructure and capacity-building around Sunday morning worship. The articles will help the Foundation publicize the success of its partnerships, and will help us demonstrate our track record of success.
- Jeremiah reported that we also expect to receive a very generous gift of $5,000 toward the Spirit Level Matching Grant for our Ministerial Specialist. He said we paused fundraising after our very successful campaign this past spring, so as to not fatigue the generosity of the community. But since December marks six months since the conclusion of the campaign, we’ve received this large gift, and the holiday season is a time for giving, Jeremiah suggested we launch our campaign to match this grant in December.
- Our 2023-2024 Board Retreat is coming up on Saturday, December 9th, from 10am-3pm. Jeremiah and other congregational leaders are beginning to plan for the retreat and board members’ input is invaluable and most welcome.
- The Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council (SMAIC) and its Leadership Team (of which Jeremiah is a member) met, processed hate mail received by the SMS, and formulated a collective response. Jeremiah wrote a press release calling for peace in Israel and Palestine, and a second release condemning Anti-Semitism, particularly that which was directed at the Santa Monica Synagogue. Thanks to Gretchen, the Interfaith Council hopes to have a new logo soon. The Council also hosted its first in-person Luncheon on Oct 12, and Revs. Kikanza and Amelia joined Jeremiah there.
- UUSM was invited, along with the broader community, to send representatives to a Shabbat service at the Santa Monica Synagogue, to be in solidarity with the community following the receipt of vile hate mail. Norm Richey, Sarah Robson, and Linda Van Ligten represented UUSM. Jeremiah also provided collegial support to Rabbi Shira in the wake of the international conflict and hate mail.
- Jeremiah has met twice with the UCLA Hospital Ethics Committee in the last month to consider complex ethical cases facing healthcare providers in our community and hospital policy related to ethical matters.
Jeremiah also read Rev. Amelia’s report for the month of October, in which she outlined how she spends her time, the challenges and patterns she’s noticing, her goals and accomplishments, and her overall “takeaways.”
Under the heading of “Time,” Amelia wrote that she worked on preparations for the Time for All Ages portion of our services, two Intergen worship services (Blessing the Animals and Dia de los Muertos), Heart Circle for Peace, Soulful Friday Family Fun, and the Youth Lock-In at UUSM for OWL and COA youth. She said we are also continuing to implement and make preparations for safer congregations updates, including an upcoming group Live Scan event, an earthquake preparedness workshop, and inclusivity awareness best-practices training (the January workshop, date TBD, will be co-facilitated by long-time congregational members and RE teachers Sabina Mayo-Smith and Kim Kalmanson). Amelia said she also this month participated in meetings with the Santa Monica Interfaith Council, UUSM Leadership, WA members, the Pastoral Care committee, Meditation Group, Communications Volunteer Team Leader, Lois Hutchinson, the RE Teaching Team, the RE Leadership Team, and the COA Leadership Team. And, finally, she’s had several Pastoral Care visits (in person and by phone) with parents, caregivers, and teaching team volunteers as needed.
In the category of “Noticing,” Amelia said she’s already seeing “small shifts towards becoming a more unified congregation. It feels like there’s enthusiasm from the community and a real desire for connectivity and wholeness; everyone is saying, “How can I help?” and this is good and welcome.” And this enthusiasm, she said, “has meant that I’ve had the chance to meet with many groups/representatives of groups in our community and I’m hearing our devoted volunteers expressing: exhaustion, feeling over-worked, worn-out, and stretched beyond what’s comfortable in their commitments. It seems like people have been treading water, expending a great deal of energy (throughout covid, etc.) to keep everything going without a lot of energy coming back. I see an opportunity for ritual, gratitude, and celebration, an affirmation for all those needing a pat on the back and a reminder of why we do this hard, important work of being a community after all.”
Considering Patterns and Challenges, Amelia said she’s “less concerned about our many methods of communication than I was a month ago,” but “I remain concerned about the topic more generally.” Unfortunately, she said she was not able to attend the meeting on this topic, but she said, “I conferred with Beth Brownlie beforehand around our shared goals/needs and look forward to hearing more about how this went and where we are now. Upon reflection, here’s what I hope for: a simple document, accessible to all, that lists our primary communications as a congregation: announcements, the digest, the RE Families Email Newsletter, the website, and the calendar(s), along with which people are responsible, when submissions are due for each, and what format(s) they should be submitted in. This seems like a very useful next step, if we already have this somewhere please share it. I hope to attend the next meeting and look forward to exploring/learning breeze between now and then.”
And, finally, regarding Goals and Accomplishments, Amelia said she wants to pay attention to communication patterns and media to see how these might be streamlined and simplified moving forward…to cultivate the awareness that we are one community where RE is part of the whole and that the folks in the sanctuary know our kids and are known by them…and that she’s working on and looking forward to the new children’s chapel, the first of which was scheduled for Sunday, November 19.
In her report, Rebecca spoke of having a second Dining for Dollars event and also brainstorming about how to build rental income. She also said that we have gone a bit over budget on Reverend Amelia’s salary, and asked when we would begin asking people to begin to fund the matching grant for Amelia and to monitor how we do. The finance committee will be meeting on second Sundays after the service.
UUA Common Read
Eileen posed and board members discussed the following questions about the the UUA Common Read book, Mistakes and Miracles:
- What sparkling moments on the road to multicultural, anti-racist beloved community provide a foundation for the work to come? What can you build on?
- What is the balance between the outward turning justice advocacy and service work that your congregation does, and the inward turning, educational and institutional change needed to become a beloved community?
- At UUCP, when the struggle for immigrants’ rights becomes personal, the real work of building multicultural anti-racist beloved community can begin. What stories and experiences have made this work personal for your congregation?
Mission and Vision
The Executive Committee is still taking applications for 5-6 people for the new Mission and Vision Task Force, and will be choosing the members soon.
Support for Amy Brunell
Congregation member Amy Brunell asked the Board (both in person and via a more formal statement to the board) to support her to move to the level of aspirant in her quest to become a minister. She said she loves Starr King School for the Ministry, but it is a very expensive process. A motion to support Amy will be on the agenda for the December board meeting.
Forbes Hall Repair Update
Vilma reported that the Forbes Hall bathrooms are open and the upstairs is now accessible, but the door to the outside is still not ready. She said there is still be a long punch list of things to complete, but we are hoping to have a ribbon cutting soon.
Personnel Amendment to the Employee Manual
It was moved by Norm and seconded by Larry that the Board amend the Personnel Policy Manual, Section IV, Part E to expand paid sick leave accrual to 80 hours for Part Time and Limited Time employees. This will bring us into compliance with state law, which is changing January 1, 2024. The motion passed unanimously.
Board Policies Task Force
Barbara moved by Norm seconded that the Board approves the Charter for the Board Policies Task Force. The motion passed unanimously.
Board members discussed suggestions for making the “Soulful Sundown” event more sustainable. They decided the event needs a charter before they can evaluate a request for more funding.
Executive Session and Adjournment
The Board moved into executive session for 17 minutes, and then the meeting was adjourned at 9:20 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.