UUSM December Board Highlights

2021-2022 UUSM Board of Directors

The UUSM Board of Directors met Tuesday, December 14, 2021 via Zoom.

Gathering

Beth Brownlie (President)
After Reverend Jeremiah lit the chalice. Vilma Oritz led a moment of reflection on the 4th principle and 4th source. She spoke about our commitment to a free and responsible search for truth and meaning and how such a quest is derived from both Jewish and Christian teachings. These teachings call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Check-In

Eileen McCormack and Beth Brownlie
In conjunction with our December theme of Joy, the members were prompted to share the people, things, events, and people that bring them joy and how joy comes to be shared with others. For quite a while, each board member shared their experiences of family and friends which genuinely brought them joy.

New Members

Norm Richey
Norm cited that our total current membership is at 262 because of the death of Sherman Newson back in September. We were only recently notified of his passing.

Standing Reports

Eileen McCormack
The following reports had been submitted and were approved, along with the Consent Agenda, and October and November Board Minutes:

  • Membership Report for October and November
  • Generous Congregation for October and November
  • Statement of Income and Expenses for October and November
  • Balance Sheet for October and November
  • Sunday Service Attendance October and November
  • Administrator’s Report October and November

Pastor’s December Report

Reverend Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae

Introduction
Happy Holidays! Our Soul Matters theme for community reflection this month is “Opening to Joy.” I’ve been rereading one of my favorite books, “The Revelation of Divine Love,” by Julian of Norwich. This 15th century mystical text, which is also the first book written by a woman in the English language that we know of, records a series of sixteen mystical experiences she had along with her interpretations, and it is considered one of the classical masterpieces of feminist theology. Julian is even considered a proto-Universalist, as she was continually reassured by the divine throughout her experiences that “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things shall be made well.” Most readers commonly attribute these words to her body of work. I was struck by another of her reflections – one on joy – as I was reading it with the lens of our monthly theme. Julian writes, “The fullness of joy is to behold the divine in everything!” So, perhaps, our “opening to joy” this month might be illuminated by Julian’s instructions to behold the sacredness of all things or the all pervasive presence of divinity and rediscover the fullness of joy in life.

Worship
In November, we considered the congregational theme of “Holding History” and in December, we’re considering the “Opening to Joy” theme. Our congregation has conducted five services of worship since our last meeting. In November, “The Danger of a Single Story” was offered by the Rev. Dr. Kikanza Nuri-Robins. She asked us to consider how appreciation of multiple perspectives helps us in our lives and ministry. “Honoring Thanksgiving/Thanxgrieving” was offered by me and it reflected upon holding gratitude and grief in this season in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples through my traditional telling of the story of the first Thanxgrieving. In December, “8 Elements of Effective Congregational Ministries Revisited” continued my series on the basics of Unitarian Universalist religious life, identity, and practice, with emphasis on the role of shared ministry in our tradition. “Cultivating Gratitude and Joy” was offered by UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. This was a special project and gift of the UUA to help alleviate some of the stress on religious leaders this season and to provide the first joint national service with the UUA President. Lastly, the powerful service, “Forgiveness: Restitching the Fabric of Society” was offered by Joshua Berg who will begin serving as the Sabbatical Minister at the Emerson Church. We hope he will join us again for worship in the spring or summer.

Pastoral Care
Our Pastoral Associates took a break from meeting this month but I did meet with our Care Ring team this month and then with our Pastoral Associates leadership to plan the Holiday Pastoral Circles. Bettye Barclay plans to complete her service to the Pastoral Associates next month. We are most grateful for her years of steady and wise pastoral leadership.

Holiday Circles
Our Pastoral Care Teams will host two community circles for members and friends to check in around the stresses and difficult feelings that sometimes accompany the holidays. One will be held in an online space and the other will be at the church. The information for these meeting is as follows:

Holiday Pastoral Care Circle (Zoom – Online)
Tuesday, December 21, 7:00-8:30 pm / Host: Bettye Barclay

Holiday Pastoral Care Circle (At church in Forbes)
Wednesday, December 22, 3:00-4:30 pm / Host: Linda Van Ligten

To register (which is not required) or to request the Zoom link, members and friends can email pastoralcare@uusm.org.

COVID Steering Committee 
Our Steering Committee met and we discussed the fluctuating nature of the pandemic and the practices of Neighborhood UU Church in Pasadena. Our COVID County Data has been shifting between “High Risk” and “Medium Risk” for about 2+ months now. The new UUA Guidance treats these as essentially the same category. This allows for medium-sized groups to gather following the basic protocols of masks and distancing. Based on this information, we decided to expand our church seating capacity beginning on Christmas Eve to the following:

Sanctuary – 20 Members & Friends + 5 Staff Members*
Forbes Hall – 20 Members & Friends + 5 Staff Members*

*Total Number of Members & Friends is reduced by 10 in Forbes when Choir Present

On Sunday, December 5, I was able to visit Neighborhood UU Church, which has reopened faster than the UUA recommends, to assess how things are going with them. I discussed their practices and the challenges they’ve faced with their Interim Minister, Rev. Dr. Teresa Cooley. This firsthand appraisal in addition to the new December 1, 2021 UUA Recommendations, convinced me and the rest of the Steering Committee that we could safely begin to expand our capacities on Sunday morning. We will continue to evaluate and assess the possibility of other normative practices (i.e., singing, food/drinks) resuming in the coming weeks and months.

Bylaws Refresh Task Force
Our Bylaws Refresh Task Force has met twice in this period. We put most of the finishing touches on our first draft of proposed bylaws. A special thanks to Patricia, John, Bob, and Beth for their extensive contributions towards achieving this developmental goal.

Intersectional Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Commission 
The leadership team and I are meeting to prepare for initiatives in the New Year.

Social Media Team
I also met with the social media team this month and we explored the various types of ads we are using. We will be increasing our expenditures to be consistent with what was authorized. We will be promoting cross-posting with our Generous Congregations partners to expand reach and encourage community giving.

UCLA Hospital Ethics Committee
My service to the Ethics Committee is ongoing. I have attended a regular meeting and a clinical ethics consultation meeting in this period. This work continues to be rewarding and helps to keep me apprised of an array of ethical issues in our larger community and those which members may face themselves.

Regarding the question of the vaccinations. I would hope our position was understood from the email that Beth and I recently sent. We mentioned vaccines being required on campus. I think we’re just going to have to ask people. We’ve surveyed the community. In that survey and, with the exception of one person, we found that everyone has been vaccinated. I think the chances of someone attending who isn’t vaccinated is highly unlikely. But we will still just ask people to make sure and when people register to attend, we will ask them to send in a copy of their vaccination card if they haven’t already. It’s not ideal but it is how we are adapting to the challenge.

Conclusion
Thank you for continuing to model non-anxious, self-differentiated, and values-based leadership through the multitude of changes we’ve weathered in recent months. Let’s remain optimistic as the holiday celebrations continue and the New Year arrives. Happy Holidays, everyone! Let’s be the beacons of peace, good-will, and holiday cheer!

Adult RE Report – Semi Annual Adult RE Report

Larry Weiner summarized it because several committee members were unable to attend the meeting.
Sarah Robson and James Witker have been doing an outstanding job of teaching Karen Armstrong’s challenging book “History of God.” Sarah also submitted a thorough summary of the committee’s class offerings.

Reports on last year’s leadership classes were excellent.

The Adult RE Committee has been very active, polling the congregation about educational needs and preferences. The team has been doing a splendid job.

Website

Norm Richey reported for Lois Hutchinson and the Communications Team
Our current websites are out of date. The Communications Team has been working overtime in the transition to the new website. Their report was fantastic. As a result of the thousands of hours of work, the website is going through its metamorphosis in order to become that beautiful butterfly. Ultimately, the new design will handle three interrelated areas of technology: event planning, the newsletter, and the membership database.

The switch to the new website is a complex project. Staff and committee members have been working on the site despite their own very demanding full time jobs. Things are moving along. As complex as these website-related tasks are, the project will culminate in an excellent public-facing site and a sophisticated internal resource for members. So, it’s moving along – while not as fast as everyone would like, but it’s moving strategically. It will be an excellent interactivity of ministry, information, and marketing.

Faith-Forward and Leadership Developments

Norm Richey
The pandemic has caused multiple challenges. The stated goals were hospitality and inclusivity, but our community is also committed to maintaining safety for all. We think a balance of these three approaches is legitimate. We will continue to focus our conversations within the COVID steering committee.

PWR’s Fall Leadership Development series – Leading from the Heart
October 13, November 10, December 8
The initial proposal was that the program be for four hours for the next couple of months. This will allow for some of the data entry. This will be followed by a concluding two hour period.

The program will be planned for January and will be held on consecutive Sundays. And we’ll plan them with the facilitators.

We’re going to be one of the pilot churches across the country that will be conducting these events. We’re going to be working closely with Murray Luna who is a certified membership professional. She does a lot of work with the Faith Forward program. We have been approved for the program and are excited about that we will be working with her. We will be begin working with facilitators who will be participating in the Leadership Series. This will be once a month for several months once we get started. We are looking forward to it.

Treasurer’s Report

Vilma Oritz

Finance Reports for November
I provided a Treasurer’s Report that had information for both October and November. I didn’t have the financial records last month. Our pledge income continues to look pretty good. Most months, we’re just a little bit under what we expect to receive, which is $25,000 a month. Overall, we’re taking in about as much money as we expect on the expense side. November’s expenses were somewhat high.

In terms of the year-to-date expenses, we have spent more than we then we budgeted but some of our expenses are lower. For instance, with everything that has to do with Sunday worship, we don’t pay for parking and so on. But we’ve invested in a number of other important things like getting all of the equipment set up so that we can livestream our services. We are investing in getting our website set up. That is where we have some higher expenses than anticipated. We have a little bit of rental income but we had one or two groups that have continued to pay rent even though they’re not using our building. That is a small amount.

Forbes Hall Repair Task Force

Abby Arnold
We want to make sure that the building is going to be able to meet the demands with the proposed changes. We are optimistic and believe we will get an approval by the end of the year. There doesn’t seem to be any major glitches with it. Once the plans are finally approved, our contractor will give us a final bid and we’ll be able to move ahead with construction. So, it is in process. The staff has been good about providing updates and maintaining communication with our members. It also helps that everyone is mindful of the overall process. By keeping the communication high, we hope it prevents people from becoming anxious as the process unfolds.

One issue we’ve dealt with has to do with whether or not we should have a ramp at that entrance on Arizona. The fact is that there are federal and state laws involved. We don’t have a choice. It is a sticky problem that our architect and the city building approval people will need to work out. There are a combination of complex requirements involving ramps, stair steps, handrails and angles of the incline.

COVID Response Steering Committee

Eileen McCormack and Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae
Jeremiah covered most of the important points in his in his minister’s report above. After Christmas services, we will continue the process of opening up and keep reevaluating our working document. We will calibrate our responses according to whether we are in the red, orange or yellow zone of COVID monitoring. It certainly has been a changeable environment for the last few months.

It’s a pretty big increase as we change from having about 20 people in the building to having 50 by using both Forbes Hall and the sanctuary. Not everybody is going to be in the sanctuary. If people sign up to attend, it’s going to be first come first served to attend in the sanctuary and then we will populate Forbes Hall. We realized we can use Forbes Hall because it has the screen in there along with being able to see the music performances. It’s a trade off either way because you get something in each space that you don’t get in the other space. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

The UUA guidelines allow us to have a maximum of 50 people, which is pretty good. There might be some room to expand that number in the coming weeks.

I hope we keep moving in this direction because we’ve been in this lockdown space and we need to return to our sense of community. People are starting to go to theaters and restaurants. At some point, we’re going to have to accept the fact that there’s a risk and that people need to participate in certain activities in the community. We’re hoping we are in a paradigm now of gradually reopening things.

This is the hopefulness I think of for 2022. We have learned to do online streaming. We have learned how to do online worship. We’ve got that down. Our next logical space will be our experimentation with how do we bring people back to church safely. That’s going to be the work of this next year.

The board concluded its meeting with an executive session and then adjourned.

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