October Board Highlights

UUSM Board 2023-24

The UUSM Board of Directors met via Zoom on Tuesday, October 10, 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 members Susan Hendricks, Amy Brunell, and James Witker.

Call to Order, Opening Readings, Check-In, and Opening Remarks

Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:01 p.m. Vilma read the Second Principle and the Second Source. Jeremiah did readings based on both.

Board members checked in by answering the one of two questions: “If you could talk to one of your ancestors (personal or spiritual), who would you choose? And what would you ask them?” or “What story do you want to be remembered by?”

In her opening remarks, Eileen reminded attendees to avoid back and forth talk.

Membership Report

Current membership is 248: New members Kathleen Egozi and Maribai Auer were read into the membership roll.

Consent Agenda

Audrey and Norm seconded that the September board meeting Minutes and Standing Monthly Reports be accepted as presented. The motion passed unanimously.

Minister’s Report for October

Jeremiah introduced his report by noting that we have “entered the season of our ancestors,” and our congregational theme for this month is The Gift of Heritage. Heritage, he said, is defined as “tradition” or “something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor,” and we receive the legacy of our ancestors, personal and communal, because we are the result of the lives, labors, and love of countless predecessors in every aspect of our lives.  “Let us think of the generations of those who gathered in our pews, appeared on our chancel, sang in our choir, worked in our offices, and kept our church grounds beautiful and held as sacred this month,” he said, “as we own the unique responsibility that has been passed down to us in our time.”

Jeremiah further reported that:

  • We’ve gathered for worship four times since our last meeting.  The fall season, a time of many holidays and special occasions in our liturgical year, got off to a strong start. In our Opening the Book of Life service, honoring the High Holy Days of the Jewish tradition, Jeremiah was joined by Rev. Amelia, to help our community get to know her ministry and new role. Next, Rev. Amelia also offered her own first service, Welcoming Wonder (a multigenerational service), and then both Reverends Jeremiah and Amelia led the St. Francis Day and Blessing of the Animals, a joyous and interactive all-ages service during which our sanctuary was filled with both human and non-human animals friends. And finally, Jeremiah offered the service “What is Ministry?” which considered ministry in the context of the Hebrew prophetic tradition and inaugurated our celebration of Rev. Kikanza’s 25th anniversary of her ordination to the Christian ministry. At the same time, he reported, we also commissioned our new Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM), and Jeremiah said he hopes we can make commissionings a more regular part of our Sunday services because they help everyone know who has taken on what responsibilities, and they also uplift and celebrate volunteer service.
  • Our Worship Associates Team is working to recruit new worship associates and plan for its annual retreat, as well as reviewing some of the basics of the WAs’ Sunday responsibilities as people get back into the rhythm of Sunday morning services. He also said that if people have recommendations for WAs or if anyone is interested in applying, they should contact him or send them his way!
  • Our Pastoral Care Team and the Pastoral Care Executive Team resumed monthly meetings and received reports of ongoing members and friends the team is following. They also explored ongoing spiritual interventions, and planned upcoming Celebrations of Life and a social gathering for the team to start off the new year. He said he has met with multiple church members for spiritual counsel and support and that’s he’s making an effort to reach out to longtime members and friends who have drifted away from the congregation or where there may be hurt feelings or a sense of alienation, and that effort is going well so far.
  • We’ve spent the past month onboarding Rev. Amelia, our new Ministerial Specialist for Religious Education and Congregational Life (MSRC), by giving her many opportunities to be with the congregation on Sunday morning and to begin meeting with families and our young people in religious education. She assisted with two multigenerational worship services, one regular worship service, and preached once — in addition to attending camp, attending to a multitude of administrative tasks, and starting to build relationships with the many stakeholders in religious education and the wider community. Jeremiah said he is thoroughly impressed with how Amelia has hit the ground running, and that we are working to get her moved into the church office soon. Cake was served at her first service, and the staff welcomed her at a special luncheon.
  • The Autumn Staff Luncheon was held at Thai Vegan II in Santa Monica, and it was a wonderful team-building and onboarding opportunity for the whole staff.
  • We will be resuming monthly Ministry / Staff Leadership Team meetings following Board meetings, to help coordinate across the various dimensions of church life.
  • Jeremiah has resumed meeting with our Consulting Minister, Rev. Kikanza, and she has agreed to continue to support the ministry of the congregation with 1) regular worship leadership, 2) offering rites of passage, 3) serving on COSM, 4) attending Ministry/Staff Leadership Team meetings when available, and 4) meeting monthly with Jeremiah.
  • The Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) met this month and discussed operational needs such as a ride-to-church program, the arrival of Rev. Amelia and RE needs, and planning the commissioning of the team, which happened this past Sunday.
  • Amy Brunell, who is currently a seminarian at Starr King School for the Ministry, has made a Congregational Sponsorship Request, asking that our congregation sponsor her as she pursues ministerial credentialing with the UUA. Jeremiah explained that this is accomplished by a vote of the Board and is one of the early steps in the multi-year process that unfolds on the path to ministerial fellowship and ordination in the UUA. Amy will visit the board meeting next month to share more about her call to the ministry and where she is in the process.
  • Norm, Lois, and Jeremiah (representing the Communications Team) are working to find a time to conduct a holistic assessment of our congregation’s technological matrix to see where we might enhance efficiency and/or streamline our processes and platforms.
  • The Right Relations Team didn’t meet this past month, but is making plans for recommencing in this new church year. Jeremiah said he hopes to have more to report next month.
  • The Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council also didn’t meet this month, but the Leadership Team did meet and planned its first in-person gathering with the entire council later in October, along with several other upcoming events and projects. Revs. Amelia and Kikanza will join the team for its next upcoming meeting.
  • Jeremiah is also meeting with the UCLA Hospital Ethics Committee, and has resumed his practice of studying medical and bioethics journals and deliberating with the committee on complex issues facing our larger community, healthcare in general, and the UCLA hospital system.

In conclusion, Jeremiah expressed deep gratitude to the board members for the skill, wisdom, and love they bring to their ministry of leadership with our congregation. He said we’ve made substantial progress as a community, weathered and survived unprecedented challenges, and have every reason to be hopeful about the future. (The full text of Jeremiah’s report is available here.)

MSRE Report

Amy Brunell reported there were 42 children at church last Sunday.

Rev. Amelia Mu’mina Marie, our new Ministerial Specialist for Religious Education, did not attend the board meeting, but she did submit her first written report to the board this month. The report was not discussed at the board meeting, but it was included with other reports available to the board, so we are summarizing it here to help introduce Amelia and her work.

In the written report, Amelia focused on challenges, patterns, goals, and accomplishments, as well as her overall “take-aways” during her first month with our congregation.  

Also in the report, Amelia said it’s been a joy to co-lead two services in October, and to help plan and lead Intergenerational worship on a third Sunday. She said most of her time this month was spent preparing for and leading those services, as well as with onboarding activities such as mandatory trainings, becoming familiar with church information and communications systems, getting to know families at church and Camp de Benneville Pines, and “more generally in what I call the ministry of diagnostic care.”

One thing she said she has noticed, though, is that it often “feels like we are two churches: the main congregation in the sanctuary and the RE Program in the cottage”… but “we want and need to be one church, and this is central to my understanding of the work that lies ahead.”

Also, she wrote that she has realized that our community uses many different communication methods (including Zoom, One Church, Slack, Google Drive, email, text, the online news magazine, weekly announcements, etc.) “and this can create unnecessary confusion and busy work/duplicate/conflicting information.”  She said we should pay attention to our communication patterns and look for ways to streamline and simplify them. But the fact that we’ve already improved the process for securing nursery and other childcare, as well as reimbursement for parents/teachers for snack and supplies, she said, shows we will continue to get better at this.

Amelia said another goal is to “cultivate the awareness that we are one community, where RE is part of the whole; the folks in the sanctuary know our kids and are known by them.”  And she said we’ll continue to address this by making our intergenerational services more accessible to all ages and embracing new ways of worshipping together.

In addition, she wrote that she would like to build a children’s chapel into our RE programming, so “our young people become familiar with the elements of the liturgy in ways that center them and allow them to grow creatively in their understanding and ability to lead with confidence and authenticity, in the sanctuary (during intergenerational services) and in life.”

And she would like to start a volunteer recruitment initiative to address the need for volunteers and “build awareness, connectivity, and mutuality.” She said she’s also “happy to see Sarah and Larry rejoin the COA team, bringing their years of teaching experience with them and connecting the energy of the sanctuary community with the RE community, may this be a sign of our growing unity and the first of many additions to our volunteer roster, returning and new folks alike!”

Finally, Amelia wrote, “I want us to feel like we are one church, one congregation and families/RE/the cottage is part of our living, collective body, and visitors/regulars/elders are part of our growing, learning, connected body, and together we are whole.”

Treasurer’s Report

In her Treasurer’s Report, Rebecca said that although our year-to-date pledges and overall income are ahead of budget, pledge income is below budget for September by about $4K, or about 16%. But she noted that there have always been months where pledges are low, so this isn’t worrisome right now.

On the other hand, she said, our Dining for Dollars income is also low right now. The big auction took place before the new fiscal year and we don’t plan to have another until the new calendar year… so this could end up being a problem.

Rebecca said rentals, another major income source, are on track so far this year. But, she said, Jacki Weber estimates our pledges will not increase much next year, so we will really need to focus on and increase rentals when the Arizona entrance is finished.

Finally, Rebecca reported the “bittersweet news” that Helen Brown left us a substantial bequest of $140,000. The money has been divided among the following funds:  $28K to the Capital Building Fund (20%), $49K to our Endowment (35%; deposited in UUCEF), $42K to our Catastrophe Reserve (30%), and $21K to the Contingency Reserve (15%).

Amy Brunell’s pursuit of Ministry

The Board will put this on the agenda for next month’s meeting.

Common Read:  “Mistakes and Miracles”

Jeremiah and Eileen led a discussion on the UUA Common Read, “Mistakes and Miracles,” and the board looked briefly at chapters 1 and 2 and will talk about the rest of the book over the next three or so Board meetings.

IARAO Task Force

Susan Hendricks and Amy Brunell visited the meeting on behalf of the IARAO task force to create a closer relationship with the Board and tell board members what they’re working on. In addition to supporting the Common Read, they said they hope to also lead a discussion of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change’s report, “Widening the Circle of Concern.” Eileen asked about leading a discussion for the congregation about the changes that may be coming when updating Article II is up for a vote next year. She said this is something the Adult RE Committee is also looking at, so it could be a joint effort.

Santa Monica City Council Apology to the Black Community

James Witker came to the meeting to promote the Sunday, October 15th event, at which we will discuss the statement of apology made by the Santa Monica City Council to the Black community for injustices done over the years.

Interim Policy for a Finance Committee

Rebecca introduced and Larry seconded two motions regarding a Finance Committee:  that the Board adopt the Interim Policy for a Finance Committee, and that the Board appoint Steven De Paul, Frances Tibbets, and Dan Nannini as members of the Finance Committee. The motions passed unanimously.

Forbes Hall Repair Update

Vilma reported that it is possible that the downstairs bathrooms in Forbes Hall will be available for use soon, but it’s still impossible to pinpoint a date for the completion of the full project.

Mission and Vision

Mission and vision work is part of the developmental ministry plan for this year, and a task force of approximately five people will be assigned to work on it. The board will discuss who the five people will be at its November meeting.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:25 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.