Our Bylaws Refresh Task Force has taken over a year to create a refreshed set of Bylaws. The Task Force integrated UUA best practice recommendations and reviewed several exemplary Bylaws that were recently refreshed by other UU Congregations. The Bylaws Refresh Task Force had been constituted to realize one of UUSM’s developmental ministry priorities: to update our Bylaws, last amended in 2013, to bring them into alignment with UUA recommendations and create a foundation for our future.
Working closely with our Developmental Minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae, and UUSM Board of Directors Past President Beth Brownlie as board liaison, the Task Force reviewed the existing Bylaws and made recommendations to reflect our current circumstances, thinking, and our church’s covenants, mission, and vision. The Task Force was committed to working in a transparent fashion, with substantial congregational outreach and input and periodic reports to the Board. The Task Force members are: Patricia Wright, Chairperson, John Zinner, Bob Dietz, Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae (ex officio), and Beth Brownlie (Board Liaison).
The Task Force had several meetings with the Nominating Committee, the Board of Directors and other leaders, and then shared the proposed Bylaws with the wider congregation through a Sunday service, Town Halls, and other communications. We’d like to express gratitude for the thoughtful feedback that we received from the larger community. Some suggestions were incorporated into the final version. Where changes were not incorporated, the Task Force tried to respond with transparency, explaining the reasoning behind the decision (which was often based in current UUA best practices).
We put a survey out to the entire community about the proposed name addition that will be included in our Bylaws. The result of that survey was 84.51% in favor of the name change, 15.49% opposed.
Here is some history on our name:
Historically, we have changed our community’s name multiple times to evolve with a changing community and world. Our community was founded as All Souls Unitarian Church in 1926. We changed our name to the Unitarian Community Church of Santa Monica in 1951. We changed it again in 1995 to the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica. We noted the last time our community reflected on the possibility of changing our name was over a decade ago, and that discourse centered on removing the word “church” from our name.
In their deliberations, the Bylaws Refresh Task Force found excellent reasons to maintain our name and also to change it to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica. They decided to keep the name and add a new one. Here are some reasons why we have proposed this name addition.: “Congregation” is considered by some to be a more broadly inclusive term, “Congregation” may be more appealing to LGBTIAQ+ people and those with non-Christian religious identities, “Congregation” is consistent with name change trends in UU and liberal Jewish communities, “Congregation” is somewhat shorter than “Community Church”, which may make it more marketable in the digital age.
Here is Article I, with the name addition.
ARTICLE I. NAME
The name of this organization shall be the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica (UUSM), also known as the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica, herein referred to as the Congregation. This organization is incorporated in the State of California.
Highlights of changes in the Refreshed Bylaws:
- Modeled upon other UU congregations’ both/and approach to honoring a historic name and simplifying a name for contemporary uses and to make it more accessible and inclusive, we’ve proposed calling our community the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica and the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica, and then referring to UUSM as “the Congregation” throughout the document. This would allow us to use both names.
- Creates the category of “Honorary Member.” This is for long term members whose participation in the community is limited.
- Required the Board to approve all new members. We felt this was a necessary safeguard to protect the community.
- Allows for Board Members to be excused by the Board for repeated absences that are justified.
- Accounts for the digital times in which we are living (e.g., a provision for virtual meetings).
- Changes the Nominating Committee to the Leadership Developmental and Nominating Committee with a broader and more holistic definition of its work.
- Includes a section on Additional Congregational Ministers.
- Includes a section on Affiliated Community Ministers.
- Removes antiquated and outdated provisions that are not consistent with current UUA best practices or reflective of the Guiding Principles (e.g., Clarity, Trust, Transparency, Simplicity, and Interdependence).
- Incorporates extensive general editing for clarity and conciseness.
In closing, we’re proud of the work of the Bylaws Refresh Task Force, and of all of our members who took the time to participate in the process. We’re pleased with the finished product, and excited to participate in our special meeting on Sunday, February 26, 2023 at 12:00 pm in the Sanctuary. Hope to see you there!