President's Annual Report 2014-2015

Looking back over the Board minutes and my notes from the year, I realize just how much we have done. I don’t know about you, but I tend to get caught up in the details of who needs to be contacted, what should go on the next agenda, and the like. It’s good to take a breath and reflect on what we’ve accomplished. Here are some of the highlights of the Board’s work this year.

Long Range Plan/Building Project/Capital Campaign
Much of the Board’s work this year focused on finalizing the Long Range Plan (LRP) and preparing for the capital campaign and building renovation project that the LRP outlines. The team that the Board formed in 2013 to complete the LRP finished their monumental task in October 2014. The Board called a special congregational meeting to vote on the Plan, and on December 7 the congregation voted to approve the Plan. Huzzah! The Board’s work, however, was just starting.

As part of the LRP’s approval, the congregation voted to allow the Board funds to hire a consultant to assess our readiness for a capital campaign. We hired Barry Finkelstein, a professional fundraising and capital campaign consultant and a Unitarian Universalist. Barry visited us at the beginning of February for a “Next Steps Weekend.” After meeting with the Board, staff, and congregational leaders and members, Barry came to the conclusion that we were indeed ready to move forward with a capital campaign and building project. He was impressed with our social justice projects and our cohesive sense of identity. He gave us a report outlining his recommendations for how to proceed.

The Board’s next step was to create charges for the three teams that will lead the project—the Steering Committee, Building Team, and Capital Campaign Team—and to find people to fill these positions. We have fully staffed the Steering Committee, and have a solid foundation for the Building and Capital Campaign Teams, but could use a few more good folk to help with these tasks. We are very excited to get started on this transformational project!

Empowering Abundance Ministry Task Force
Coming into this year, the Board knew that our Abundance Ministry—the team charged with stewardship and fundraising for the church—was struggling. They had no chair and were struggling to maintain momentum and navigate the myriad record-keeping and financial data systems the church uses. In September, the Board put together a task force, ably led by Chris Hahn, to help reinvigorate the Abundance Ministry. The task force recruited new leaders and  team members and held a retreat to orient the new team and get them started. Abundance Ministry has since been busy recruiting and training Abundance Ambassadors, sorting out the data systems, and working with Finance Council to identify the kinds of data needed. The team is still finding their way, but they are making great strides. Please support them in this important work.

Youth membership on the Board
For a number of years, the Board has had two youth members. In the past couple years, we’ve had a hard time recruiting youth to serve on the Board. As you can imagine, sitting in the community room with a bunch of stodgy adults talking about governance might not be the most appealing way for a young person to spend an evening. The youth, Religious Education leaders, and our youth coordinators have had ongoing conversations about how the youth might like to be involved in church leadership. This year the Board is proposing that the bylaws be amended to make youth membership on the Board optional. We want the position to be open to youth who are interested, but recognize that young people have many demands on their time and a wide variety of interests. I want to thank youth members Celeste Johnson and Justus Ruggiero-Boune for their service on the Board this year. You guys rock!

Black Live Matter banner
In January, the possibility of replacing the “Civil Marriage is a Civil Right” banner on our church with a “Black Lives Matter” banner percolated up through the congregation. The Board and Faith in Action Council recognized this was an important decision that the entire congregation needed to be involved with. Working together, we started conversations, facilitated forums, and finally held a vote, patterned on a congregational meeting vote, at the end of January. The vote was overwhelmingly positive, and the beautiful banner designed by Glenn Burrows went up on our building a few weeks ago.

Thanks and Celebrations
I started the year with a few personal goals. I wanted to help the Board coalesce and function as a team; to incorporate more spiritual practice into our work together; and to keep our focus squarely on governance. I feel like we were successful (sometimes more or less!) in these goals. We came together as a team despite, and in sometimes because of, our differences and disagreements. Thanks to Jeanne Abrams, Furman Brown, Colleen Bryan, Coral Cosway, Chris Hahn, Celeste Johnson, Justus Ruggiero-Boune, and Jim Stephens for all your hard work and camaraderie this year. A special thanks for Mike Morran and Beth Chronister for your support throughout the year. Thanks also to Peggy Streit and Craig Davison for your diligence and leadership as treasurer and assistant treasurer. Numbers people are amazing!

Throughout the year we had good conversations about our role as a Board and the work we should be doing—conversations that will be ongoing as the Board fine-tunes its role and processes. I hope the few spiritual practices we were able to squeeze into our meetings were beneficial to the group. Team-building and discernment in this church setting are spiritual practices for me, but sometimes it’s helpful to be more explicit about the unique spiritual nature of our work on the Board. Thank you all for taking the journey with me!

I was blessed this year with a task not all board presidents get to do: to ordain a minister. Beth Chronister’s ordination was one of the best rockin’-good times we’ve had at First Unitarian, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. I’m so glad you’re here, Beth!

I want to thank the whole congregation for their support and engagement this year. I’m really excited about the direction we’re moving in, and you all are a huge part of making that happen. What a blessing to be part of such a vibrant and dynamic spiritual community!