By Norman Richey
[30-minute read. Please feel free to grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in!]
This year’s Annual Meeting presented us with many challenges given the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for physical distancing. For the safety of all church members, it was apparent that we could not have an in-person Annual Meeting, probably the first time in our congregation’s history. We could, instead, have a pre-recorded meeting on our UUSM Facebook page as we have done every Sunday Service for the past few months. View the Annual Meeting in full on YouTube.
Since we were not having an in-person meeting, the voting procedure had to change also. Voting this year was done in advance in one of two ways: vote by mail or vote electronically.
The Annual Meeting began with Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae lighting the chalice and giving a reflective message.
“We light this chalice with gratitude for the church year that is nearing its completion. May its light help us to live in the present moment aware of the many blessings born of beloved community. And may that light of wisdom and love help guide us into our brighter future. May it be so, amen, and blessed be.”
Call to Order and Remarks by President Jacki Weber
Jacki acknowledged officials of the meeting: Inspector of Elections, Ken Alexander; Mail-in paper ballot counters, Ken Alexander and Nurit Gordon; Parliamentarian, Lois Hutchinson; and to record and coordinate the Annual Meeting, Rev. Jeremiah and Director of Music Saunder Choi.
A Call to Covenant was then made by Jacki, and Beth Brownlie recited our Covenant. This was followed by the presentation of the minutes of the 2019 Annual Meeting by Jacki.
Resolution 1: The UUSM Congregation approved the minutes from the Annual Meeting on May 19, 2019.
Jacki commented that members overwhelmingly voted to approve the minutes. Jacki proceeded to acknowledge the 2019 – 2020 Board.
“Next, I want to thank our leadership on the Board of Directors and the Nominating Committee. I will be stepping down as President after this meeting and I am so pleased to be succeeded by Beth Brownlie, this year’s Vice President. Thank you to our Executive Committee members Norm Richey, Secretary, and Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer. Norm will be stepping down as Secretary to be a Member-at-Large so, he can devote his energies to the membership committee. Vilma, you are a treasure of a Treasurer… Thank you to our Board Members who will continue in this coming year: Eileen McCormack, who I’m delighted will become our Vice President; Larry Weiner, who we welcome as our Secretary; and Abby Arnold, who will continue as a Member-at-Large. And, finally, deep gratitude to Barbara Andres for her service. She leaves prematurely to undertake important academic work. And also, Past President Ron Crane, I am happy to follow in your footsteps. Our Nominating Committee has had the unenviable job of recruiting new leadership to the Board of Directors at a time when we need to rethink how exactly we develop leadership at this church. Nonetheless, they have put together a wonderful slate of candidates, and I know I speak on behalf of the congregation when I bow deeply to you. Nalani Santiago and Linda van Ligten will be rotating off the committee while Karl Lisovsky and Barbara Kernochan will continue their service. And Pat Gomez, you are an amazing chair of the Nominating Committee. Thank you all so much.”
Jacki then presented the slate of the Board of Directors candidates for the coming year: Beth Brownlie, President; Eileen McCormack, Vice President; Larry Weiner, Secretary; Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer; Norm Richey, Member-at-Large; Roberta Frye, Member-at-Large; and Mike Monte, Member-at-Large.
Jacki announced that the UUSM membership approved, by a preponderance of votes, the candidates for Board of Directors.
The Nominating Committee Slate — Pat Gomez, Chair, Sheila Cummins, Barbara Kernochan, Karl Lisovsky, Chela Metzger and Natalie Kahn — was presented. The Nominating Committee was also elected with a preponderance of votes. Jacki thanked the newly elected Nominating Committee in advance for their service in the coming year.
At this time during the Annual Meeting, Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae presented the Minister’s Report.
Excerpts from Rev. Jeremiah’s Annual Report
What a truly transformative church year we have been through together! We thrived as a congregation, continued important developmental work, and responded to a multitude of unprecedented challenges with courage, perseverance, and grace. I am so proud of this community and grateful to be able to serve alongside you in this developmental ministry.
When I arrived ten months ago, in my first report to the Board of Directors I shared what I believed were three additional dimensions to our ministry together that would be of critical importance in the years before us.
- The first was prioritizing creating a culture of sustainability and regeneratively as a congregation
- The second priority was a recognition that we would need to deepen our commitments to intersectional anti-racism and anti-oppression work.
- The third priority was that we would need to practice hospitality in new and inclusive ways that invited us to appreciate the rich spiritual and philosophical diversity of our liberal religious tradition.
It is clear to me that 10 months later these priorities are more important than ever as we’ve had to constantly adapt to quickly changing circumstances in a global pandemic, have been summoned to respond to the calls for racial justice, and have to reimagine church and how we create an inclusive beloved community when physical distancing is necessary to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Our Board of Directors, with the wise and determined leadership of Jacki Weber and Beth Brownlie, led us through the multitude of challenges this year brought to our doorstep. In addition to Jacki and Beth, I want to name Ron Crane, Vilma Ortiz, Norm Richey, Eileen McCormack, Abby Arnold, Barbara Andres, and Larry Weiner. I am so grateful to be serving alongside such a dedicated and truly wonderful group of congregational leaders. With their leadership, we developed a multi-year plan for developmental ministry, we embraced sustainability and regenerativity as practices for our time, we deepened our anti-racism and anti-oppression commitments, and launched a more intentional path to membership and a broader cultural embrace.
We continued to move towards optimal financial health and completed a very successful stewardship campaign in the midst of the pandemic. With the extraordinary financial leadership of our Treasurer, Vilma Ortiz, we prepared a modest budget that prioritized the wellbeing of our staff, essential investments in our community, and institutional financial health and sustainability.
We responded quickly and competently to the pandemic and transitioned our entire community, in every way possible, to online venues as we kept the church open even when we had to close the doors to our beloved sanctuary. I really want to uplift and celebrate these leaders of our congregation. I hope you feel blessed or at least know how lucky you are to have such amazing leaders at the helm of this congregation.
Ours is a shared ministry which means our success is dependent upon a multitude of staff and congregational leaders fulfilling their professional roles and ministries. I am so grateful for our staff and want to specifically lift up our senior members — Nurit Gordon, Cleo Anderson, and Saunder Choi — for the skill, resilience, flexibility, and commitment they each demonstrated in this unprecedented year.
Our members and friends are the foundational strength of this community. I would like to thank each of you for your contributions to our vibrant congregational life.
I also want to thank our amazing COVID-19 Steering Committee and Pastoral Task Force for their exemplary leadership in extremely complex and stressful times. Kikanza Nuri-Robins, Linda Van Ligten, and Bettye Barclay have marshaled our pastoral capacities like never before in the history of our community.
Additionally, our Healthy Congregations team, with the leadership of Audrey Lyness, helped transform this community from being not only a liberal religious congregation but also a beloved community where we practice “what it means to be human” with each other and the larger world.
One important ongoing congregational initiative of this past year was our reflection on the 8 Elements of Effective Congregational Ministries. We adopted this model to consider how we are all responsible for the ministries of this church.
These 8 Elements include: Spirituality, Fellowship, Religious Education, Pastoral Care, Leadership Development, Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression / Social Justice, Invitation, and Stewardship.
If there was ever a time to really live into Unitarian Universalism as the “ministry of all the people” — this is it!
Our worship underwent significant evolutions this year. As an aspect of building community, we transitioned to one service and this allowed us to be together as one unified community for the first time in many years.
Some of the spiritual themes we considered together as a community this church year included: Wisdom, Liberation, Resilience, Thresholds, and Awe.
We are currently discussing how we might better bring anti-racist and anti-oppressive elements in our liturgy to honor the indigenous lands upon which we gather and the ongoing work to dismantle white supremacy culture and racism in our lives and in our society.
Our community also experienced many losses of beloved members and friends this year. I would like us to take a few moments to hold them and their families and friends in our hearts as we remember that mighty cloud of witnesses that surrounds and embraces this community. These beloved members and friends joined the ancestors in the last year:
- Geralyn Lambson
- James Morison
- Carol Serling
- Sheila Bjornlie
- Joanne Brownlie
- Dayla McDonald
- Stuart Moore
Because they are remembered — they live.
Lastly, I would like to report not just on some of our many achievements but also chart a course for where we are headed in the new church year which begins in September. As we plan for the next church year, these are some of the broad goals for our ministry together:
- We will continue to create dynamic worship and interactivity on Sunday mornings. We are prepared to continue to create our virtual sanctuary as long as is necessary to protect the health of our members and staff and our COVID-19 Steering Committee will continue to discern when we can return to the sanctuary in the next church year.
- We will continue to center sustainability and regenerativity, intersectional anti-racism and anti-oppression commitments, and hospitality and inclusion as vital to our developmental work, membership growth, and spiritual wellbeing. We will be mindful that intersectional anti-racism/anti-oppression commitments include climate, water, and environmental justice.
- We will continue to build beloved community by attending to the social fabric of our congregational life while physically distanced through a new small groups ministry program and by continuing to create and support online forums and platforms for our togetherness.
- We will continue to expand our religious exploration and education opportunities all ages as we learn how best to meet emerging needs in new online contexts for lifespan religious learning.
- We will continue to develop and expand our pastoral care capacities to meet the needs of our community and provide more comprehensive pastoral coverage.
- We will enter into an intentional period of mission and vision discernment as we begin the process of modernizing our bylaws in the new year.
- We will continue to create a culture of abundance and gratitude where we celebrate the many gifts and resources of this community and we remember that we already have what it takes to create a bright future for all.
In my written annual report, I will include some more details around achievements of the past year, so I hope you’ll check that out when you receive it in the coming days. I wanted to hold this verbal report in a spirit of brevity, thankfulness, and hope. I love you and I hope our summers are rejuvenating and help us to prepare for the year to come.
This message was followed by a report from our Director of Religious Education, Cleo Anderson, who summarized the activities and work done during 2019. The written report will be available soon.
President’s Report by Jacki Weber
Good afternoon! I am pleased to deliver this report of your Board of Directors.
What a year! I hope this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and well. I hope that, in this quarantine season, you are finding space to discover something new for yourself — that you are able to make lemonade from lemons.
After last year’s annual meeting, we bade Reverend Greg Ward and DRE Kathleen Hogue farewell and began a new fiscal year anticipating tremendous change. In August, we would welcome a new minister and a new director of religious education and a host of new programs.
Fall came; Reverend Jeremiah Kalendae brought a new kind of leadership to the church — one that encouraged the congregation to nurture deeper connections to spirit, a stronger sense of shared leadership, and a full embrace of the anti-racist/anti-oppression work that we are called to undertake as Unitarian Universalists.
We began thinking in coalition, as everyone who makes Sunday so special worked together in partnership with a new Congregational Health and Safety Committee to coordinate Sunday worship in a welcoming and safe way.
A new membership program, Faith Forward, brought together the many aspects of the congregation to ground the community in Unitarian Universalist values and UUSM life.
Our stewardship and budget-building efforts produced a conservative budget for the coming fiscal year, with the smallest deficit budget in a very long time.
In March came coronavirus. We live streamed our very first online-only worship. A COVID-19 task force fashioned a pastoral care program appropriate to our new reality. And an amazing group of leaders pulled together in unprecedented ways.
Then came the eruption of the volcano of systemic racism and white supremacy in the form of the videos of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
What is evident today is that we are all called to active anti-racist work the likes we have not undertaken as a congregation in a generation. More on that later.
Here is where I will stop. And breathe.
I want to acknowledge the incredible commitment to progress, and effort to move forward together as a congregation over the last four years, and I want to bring to mind all of the exceptional people in this community who have walked in leadership through this year.
- Our Board of Directors — helmed by the visionary Vice President Beth Brownlie, unflappable Secretary Norm Richey, and incredible Treasurer Vilma Ortiz. Deep gratitude to past-president Ron Crane for his wisdom, curiosity, and kind heart.
- Our worship associates — who began the year creating transformative worship with Reverend Jeremiah and then upped their game when we went online in March.
- The communications team that transformed its tech game to not only produce a great online newsletter but then helped bring our live streamed services to Facebook, YouTube, and our website, complete with virtual coffee hour.
- Our Children and Youth RE leaders and volunteers.
- Our Sunday hosts, like greeters, ushers, and coffee committee.
- A membership committee continually trying new things to bring and hold our congregation members closer to the fold.
- Leaders of small group ministries like Heart-to-Heart groups.
- The Choir.
- The Green Committee, Peace and Social Justice, Hunger Task Force, and the new UU Animal Ministry.
- CARE-ring and Pastoral Care Associates.
- The many administrative committees that do very unglamorous but important work to help the congregation run smoothly including the communications, finance, investment, nominating, and personnel committees.
- Special thanks to Rev. Kikanza who aided last summer while we were in ministerial transition, and again this spring to support pastoral care.
- And finally, thank you to an outstanding staff: Rev Jeremiah, DRE Cleo Anderson, Music Director Saunder Choi (who sings, conducts, arranges, and produces our videos!)
- Also, Nurit Gordon, Cyndee Hayes, and Sibylla Nash.
We have accomplished so much, and as we have adopted the 8 Elements of Effective Congregational Ministry introduced by Rev. Jeremiah, hopefully we have had more fun doing it while growing our spirits and increasingly embodying the reality that we belong to each other.
Now we rest. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your president the past two years.
I am excited to welcome new leadership to the Board and the Nominating Committee at this meeting. I look forward to exploring what we can accomplish when we emerge from summer break rested and refreshed and ready to take on the next set of challenges in the coming year.
May it be so! Peace and blessings to you.
Treasurer’s Report by Vilma Ortiz
Vilma’s key points for the year:
- First, the good news: we have savings, approximately $917,000 in the bank as of the end of May. These savings are allocated into various funds — deficit, emergency, catastrophe, etc.
- We are fortunate to have an Endowment fund containing approximately $223,000.
- Due to the cancellation of Dining for Dollars and lost revenue from rentals our income is about $64,000 lower.
- Thus, our 2019 – 2020 Financial Status: Income is $488,000 and expenses $534,000 with an estimated deficit of $46,000.
- The Church received $71,000 from the U.S. government — a forgivable loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
- This leaves a carry-forward amount into next year of $25,000.
Vilma then turned her attention to next year. First, the income sources:
- Pledge and other income sources are anticipated to be higher than last year.
- We anticipate having fundraisers that will probably look different than previous years.
- Rental income will be lower.
- We have the carried forward amount of $25,000 and a Spirit Level Grant of $10,000.
- Thus, our income for next year is expected to be $576,000.
On the expense side:
- Ministerial and religious exploration costs are about the same as last year.
- Music expenses are higher due to increased compensation to our Music Director and the Section Leaders.
- The UUA fair share will increase to 75% of our fair share.
- Some administrative costs will be higher due to an increase in payroll expenses.
- The allocation for cleaning has increased due to the pandemic.
- Overall, our expenses are projected to be about $613,000.
Vilma stated, “Putting together the income of $576,000 and Expenses of $613,000 leaves a deficit of about $26,000 for next year. The deficit will be covered by the deficit fund, which has in it $38,000. If, for some reason, the financial situation worsens and we spend everything in the deficit fund, we will then cover any additional deficit from the emergency fund that has $97.000.”
Vilma was then pleased to announce the results of the congregational vote on the annual budget.
Resolution 2: The UUSM Congregation approved the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Installation of Officers and Members of the Board by Jacki Weber
Jacki Weber performed the installation of officers and members of the Board with these words:
“As the outgoing President of this congregation it is my honor and pleasure to welcome and install the duly elected members of the Board of Directors for the coming year: Beth Brownlie, President of the Congregation; Eileen McCormack, Vice President; Larry Weiner, Secretary; Vilma Ortiz, Treasurer; and Members-At-Large, Abby Arnold, Roberta Frye, Michael Monte and Norm Richey. Welcome.”
Jacki then invited the new President of the Board of Directors to share closing remarks and extinguish the chalice.
Closing Remarks by President Beth Brownlie
President Beth Brownlie extinguished the chalice with these words, “I extinguish the chalice here that it may glow gently in your hearts. May it light your path as you leave this space and guide your way until we are together again.” She then added her own closing remarks for the meeting:
“I would like to thank you all, our beloved community, for choosing me to lead you. I believe in collaborative leadership and in my six years on the Board, I have seen this starting to work. Our Congregation has made significant progress in how we relate to each other leading to more effective communication and collaboration. Our small community and the greater UU movement serve as a beacon to the world that we can change our ways and make an impact. Small changes lead to big changes. Our community’s work over the past five years with Community Services Unlimited, as one example, has helped meet the challenges of providing good nutrition and a healthy sustainable building in an underserved community. [This is] collaborative work with agents of change led by example on a path to meaningful equity. These relationships across cultural boundaries teach us how to be better white allies while working long term to address environmental injustices. I’m not sure exactly what the future will bring for us, but I know we will continue to hold each other with kindness and work together, siding with love and collective liberation.”
The Annual Meeting was then adjourned.
Please note: This virtual Annual Meeting is considered an “interim” business meeting. Election and voting results will be ratified at a future meeting when the congregation is able to come together once again and be physically present for one another.