The UUSM Board of Directors met via Zoom on Tuesday, September 12, 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 Lois Hutchinson, Teresa Castelli, and Dan Nannini.
Call to Order, Opening Readings, Check-In, and Opening Remarks
Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:03 p.m. She read the First Principle and the First Source, and a reading about the First Principle. Then attendees did a personal check-in, answering the question, “What is your favorite way to welcome in joy?” Select board members read our Board Covenant.
Current membership is 247. New members Sandra Trutt (reinstated) and Tracy O’Neill were read into the membership roll. Also, our membership number was corrected downward from the 269 reported in June because inactive members were removed from the roll.
Norm moved and Audrey seconded that the Minutes and the Standing Monthly Reports be accepted as presented. The motion passed unanimously.
Minister’s Report for September
Rev. Jeremiah’s report noted that the congregation is embarking on its 96th church year, and that we’ve just completed a year of “rebirth and rebuilding” while emerging from the global pandemic. He invited everyone to “reflect upon how we are cultivating sustainability, spaciousness, resiliency, and regenerativity as a religious community,” and said he hopes that this year we will move toward “thriving creatively and sustainability” as a community, and that we will “need to continue to find a balance, programmatically and financially, to help undergird a healthy equilibrium and provide for ongoing stability for the future.”
Jeremiah also welcomed this year’s new board members (Barbara, Rebecca, Trish, and Audrey), and thanked the board’s returning members (Eileen, Vilma, Larry, Norm, and Linda) “for the love and commitment you’ve demonstrated to the people of UUSM and our shared living tradition by being willing to serve in this important way.”
Jeremiah further reported that:
- Our developmental priorities for the new church year include 1) our ongoing work such as our commitments to leadership development with the Leadership Development and Nominating Committee, and liberatory ministry with the Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission, 2) commitments to work that is still in its early stages, like our newly formed Committee on Shared Ministry and reinvigorated Right Relations Team, and 3) new commitments to developmental progress like professional ministerial staffing to support religious education and congregational life, and our work around Mission and Vision discernment this year.
- Some of our other major developmental priorities for the year include:
- Mission and Vision Discernement
- Religious Education Program Development
- Congregational Policies and Handbook Development
- Financial Stability and Sustainability
- Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM)
- Right Relations Team and Accountability Systems
- Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Work (IARAO)
- Leadership Development and Nominating Committee (LDNC)
- Settled Ministerial Search (Preparing for 2025-2026 Settlement)
- Our community over the summer months was led in worship by new and familiar faces to our congregation. Guests from the wider movement and community (like our 2023-2024 honored guest teacher, Rabbi Shira from the Santa Monica Synagogue, Pastor Cue from the Row Church, and the Rev. James Ishmael Ford), joined with other ministers, chaplains, and lay leaders to offer summer services that were compelling, spirit-filled, and joyful. Jeremiah said he has caught up with some of the services he missed while away and was impressed with their overall quality, the diversity of relevant religious topics explored, and our always extraordinary ministry of music.
- We inaugurated the 96th church year this past Sunday with our annual multigenerational “Ingathering and Water Communion” service which included welcoming our new Ministerial Specialist, the Rev. Amelia Mumina Marie, and a new member ceremony. The sanctuary was full with people and good energy despite its length and the heat, and Jeremiah said he thinks we generated some good spiritual merit as a community (as our Buddhist siblings might say) in those conditions for the year before us.
- Our congregational theme for September is “Welcome.” All are invited to reflected on what radical inclusion and embrace might be like in our congregation and in our broader movement.
- Our Worship Associates are resuming regular meetings and we are working to recruit new WAs for the new church year, and to plan annual WA retreat.
- Our Pastoral Care Team and the Pastoral Care Executive Team have resumed meeting and spent their time together getting caught up after the long summer months and preparing for the Celebration of Life for beloved congregation member Hildreth Simmons.
- A good deal of time was spent recruiting, interviewing, consulting, and now onboarding Rev. Amelia Mumina Marie as our new half-time Ministerial Specialist for Religious Education and Congregational Life (MSRC). Jeremiah said countless volunteer hours went into this effort over several months, and he especially thanked the RE Search Team and the Board for being so committed to bringing this dream into reality. Jeremiah said this is a major achievement we should celebrate at the beginning of the church year. (See below for more details on this new position.)
- We welcomed 16 new members recently in our annual New Member Ceremony. Jeremiah met with the new members following the long service, followed by a delicious Dining for Dollars pasta lunch hosted by Julie Nyquist. Jeremiah thanked Julie, Norm, and Gretchen for helping to make such a wonderful morning and afternoon possible.
- Jeremiah is working working with various leaders to articulate a plan for a sustainable Soulful Sundown offering this church year.
- Jeremiah is resuming his monthly meeting with the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council and its Leadership Team, and will continue to serve as a Vice President.
- Jeremiah is also resuming monthly meetings with the UCLA Hospital Ethics Committee next month and was invited by its leadership to serve on a specialized subcommittee, but is currently unavailable for that service at this time.
In conclusion, Jeremiah said the new church year is off to perhaps the strongest start since he’s been here, and recognized “the many people, our staff, and especially the work of the Board over the past many years to get us to where we are today. We have a lot to celebrate and to be optimistic about in this time of ingathering, welcome, and new beginnings!”
Dan Nannini presented changes to the employee manual, crediting Nurit Gordon and Gar Allen with 98% of the work. Dan said some changes were made to bring us into compliance with current state laws, and some were made simply to improve readability.
Larry moved and Barbara seconded that the changes to the Employee Manual be approved, and the motion passed unanimously.
Rebecca said in her Treasurer’s Report that we are doing very well with income and expenses, and that she will work with Vilma to create a written report for the next Board Meeting.
Barbara spoke about the necessity to revise old policies and create new ones to both fill in gaps and create consistency and clarity following the By-Laws revisions completed earlier this year. For example, she said, we need a clear policy for selecting the members of the Finance Committee, as well as policies for communications and the newsletter. Barbara said this could be long and tedious work, so a task force will be created with Barbara, Patricia Wright and others to research both policies from other congregations and recommendations from the UUA.
Forbes Hall Repair Update
Vilma reported that pretty much everyone is frustrated that the work is not complete, though progress is being made. She said we are now at the stage where the end is in sight, but a predicted completion date is still not possible. Currently, she said, workers are installing fire alarms, exit signs, and flooring, and are painting drywall.
Congregational Operating Systems
As the board liaison to the Communication Committee, Norm presented a slideshow on the challenges we’re facing integrating all aspects of the website, calendaring, and the dissemination of information in general. Lois Hutchinson spoke about needing to avoid possible volunteer burnout, and requested that a task force of tech-savvy Board Members be established to look at the current state of our congregational operating systems and come up with a plan for moving forward. Possible next steps might be to have Beth Brownlie report to the Board on how the One Church information management system is working for the Youth RE program. Also, could our newly forming Chalice Circles use One Church or another church management system called Breeze? Possible members of the task force might include Lois, Eileen, Jeremiah, Norm, Beth Brownlie, and Vilma, who could continue this discussion.
DRE Search Committee
In March of this year, UUSM applied for a Spirit Level grant to hire a 20-hour-a-week ministerial specialist to help rebuild our Youth RE program. A committee was formed in May to select the new congregational Ministerial Specialist, and we learned in June that we had received the grant to help fund the position. Jeremiah also reported to the board in June that the search committee members had been assigned. The committee interviewed seven candidates over the summer, but only one was grounded in Unitarian Universalist values. That candidate stood out and the committee recommended hiring the Reverend Amelia Mu’mina Marie.
On August 25th Vilma reached out to the Board to vote to authorize an email vote of the Board to accept or reject the committee’s recommendation that Rev. Amelia be our choice for the position. The email vote results were:
- Vilma moved and Larry seconded that the Board approve an email vote to decide on selecting a Ministerial Specialist. The motion passed by a vote of six in favor and one abstention.
- Vilma moved and Larry seconded that the Board hire Reverend Amelia Mumina Marie as our Ministerial Specialist. The motion passed by a vote of six in favor and one abstention.
- Larry moved and Norm seconded that 80% of Reverend Amelia’s salary be designated a housing allowance. The motion passed unanimously.
Board member Linda Van Ligten also noted at this month’s meeting that she hopes all board members will contribute to the matching funds required for the Spirit Level grant, which was met with general agreement (though no official actions).
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 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.