The UUSM Board of Directors met Tuesday, January 11, 2022, via Zoom.
Beth Brownlie (President)
After Larry Weiner lit the chalice, he shared a reading from the fifth principle and the fifth source. It was about humanist teachings which counsel us to be guided by reason and the results of science – warning us against mental and spiritual idolatries. He closed with lyrics from a Cat Stephens (Yusuf Islam) song.
Board members reflected on intentionality in their lives. They reflected on the experiences which aroused their life’s passions (as one board member described it as making “fire in the belly”). Members’ comments diversely recalled:
- social justice causes
- trends toward social inclusion and equality
- family life experiences
- the welfare of their students
- COVID challenges
- the joys of journaling with friends
- time spent with relatives
- taking in some of the arts
- recovery from COVID
- gradual return to normal activities and accompanying clarity
Our membership is remaining steady at 263.
The December reports that were approved are:
- Generous Congregation
- Statement of Income and Expenses
- Balance Sheet
- Sunday Service Attendance
- Administrator’s Report
- The December Board minutes.
Pastor’s December Report
Reverend Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae
Happy New Year, beloveds! As we begin another trip around the Sun, our Soul Matters theme for community reflection this month is “Living with Intention.” What intentions are fueling how we move into the world, individually and collectively? One of the first intentions that guided my passing the threshold into the new year was healing as my household had fallen ill with COVID and my mother was hospitalized. Thankfully, we are all on the mend, but it brought home the reality of the pandemic and what it takes for us to heal from all of the ways it has interrupted or ended lives; the ongoing toll it is taking on the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of our larger communities. Although we have worked as a society to address the physical harm caused, we have yet to fully appreciate the trauma it has caused and the ways that it may reverberate through our society in the months and years to come. I would like to challenge us to think about these long-term impacts and how we can respond proactively as a beloved community, ministering to the needs of our community and the wider world. Let us set an intention to recognize this reality and respond to it with our prophetic imagining, compassion, and the healing salve of liberal religious community.
We have offered four services since our last meeting of the Board. I offered “Sources of Our Liberal Faith,” which considered our six sources and how they show up in our togetherness. I was surprised to learn how many members of our community were unfamiliar with the sources, so work remains. This was followed by our annual “Christmas Eve Candlelight Service” which was offered in our sanctuary (and live-streamed) with roughly 45 people on our church grounds. This was our largest gathering since the beginning of the pandemic and everyone appreciated the opportunity to be together. Of course, our hope is now somewhat dampened by the surge in the pandemic that we’re presently experiencing. Jyvonne Haskin directed the choir for this holiday service as Saunder Choi is spending the holidays with his family and will be returning this week. A big thank you to Jyvonne and Saunder’s artistic and programmatic leadership, especially as we work to decenter whiteness in our musical repertoire and explore diverse traditions of local and global communities. Chaplain Michael Eselun offered the service “Spiritual Report Cards” the following Sunday and, of course, this was a welcomed opportunity to hear from his deep spiritual wisdom. Although I had planned to lead last Sunday’s service, COVID made that impossible – the first time I’ve been unavailable for a scheduled service in 16 years of preaching – and, thankfully, Kikanza was able to step in to lead the service considering the Anti-Oppression ministry of Br. Jesus (as). I am deeply grateful for Michael’s and Kikanza’s gifts of ministry.
Our Pastoral Associates and CareRing groups met last week but I was unable to attend due to being sick. CareRing is working to create postcards to send to our members. Pastoral Associates will be working to discern new leadership as Bettye Barclay has stepped down after faithfully leading this work for many years. We are so grateful for her service! Together, we offered two Holiday Pastoral Care Circles last month – one in the courtyard and one on Zoom. Those were well attended and appreciated by those who were able to join us.
COVID Steering Committee
Los Angeles County is now at the Severe Risk Level for infections – the highest risk level – up from just a few weeks ago as caseloads have skyrocketed. We’ve suspended congregational attendance on Sunday mornings and in-person choir meetings. We are presently assessing anything else we may need to do in the coming weeks to respond.
We’ve summarized the safety policies and protocols and advertised them to the congregation last month. The opening committee has updated the policies and the committee will have the revised policies ready for our next retreat in January.
Bylaws Refresh Task Force
We had hoped to have a first draft of the bylaws ready for you tonight but it was delayed by my illness. It should be ready very soon. What we have so far is truly a beautiful proposal that is consistent with the guiding principles the Board identified at the outset of this process (i.e., trust, transparency, clarity, etc.). The edited bylaws will be distributed to the board members for review and discussion by way of email. It is anticipated that the Nominating Committee will be affected by the bylaws. Once the board members review the draft of the bylaws, they will be studied by wider groups within the congregation.
There has been some interest in discussing some change in the community’s name, but such conversations are tabled until a future time when we are more able to gather openly as a community.
Intersectional Anti Racism and Anti Oppression Commission (IAROC)
Our leadership team met last month to address challenges and plan for our work for the new year. We will be meeting tomorrow to further this work.
UCLA Hospital Ethics Committee
I am continuing to meet with the Committee and for clinical consultations throughout the month.
Audre Lorde had said, “Without community, there is no liberation…” and the truth of that statement becomes all the more real as we consider what is going to be needed to minister during and in the aftermath of the pandemic. It is here in community that we can find the support, inspiration, guidance, wisdom, and camaraderie that can enlarge our beings and remind us of our place in the interdependent web of being. Thank you for being the stewards of this community through all the tumult and strife that comes with living through these difficult times. Your leadership is exemplary and Unitarian Universalism is grateful for it.
A considerable portion of the board meeting was spent discussing the integral part the stewardship and financial support of our community. The praiseworthy excellence of our treasurer, Vilma Oritz, was lauded by the board. Jacki noted that all board positions should be examined in light of future rotations and the need for leadership training for future participants.
Jacki noted that she is comfortable with the mechanics of stewardship letters and follow-up programs.
There was discussion on tapping into available national UU fundraising resources. As is true with all non-profit organizations, the challenge of stewardship is to get a greater number of people involved in the process of connecting their personal sense of mission to the work of their community.
The pandemic and the isolating safety precautions have created a huge challenge with our community connectivity. Our current stability of membership support is a tribute to the competent and effective stewardship efforts. Our medium-sized community, however, creates a continual struggle in balancing the incoming revenue and outgoing expenses. The UU national site suggests resources in “Budget Drives” and wider fiscal member participation. All non-profit congregations struggle with tightening economic circumstances, resource limitations, and changing cultural priorities, and yet there are miraculous acts of compassion and good will to minister to individual needs. So we all need to be responsible participants in making our ministry resources line up with our ministry expenses.
We have excelled in using the technology of live-streaming in reaching members who must attend remotely. The largest and most complex challenges involve aligning our mission goals with the realities of the resources that are made available to the ministry volunteers and staff trying to meet those needs. It’s a balancing act between our mission and our vision, our spending and our income. Everyone in membership and leadership needs to be mindful of the UUSM mission and their commitment to strengthening that mission
Budget conversations will take place in our coming board retreat. The challenge will be to get our expenses in line with our income and rethink how we are organizing the church from a staffing perspective. Focused thought will also be placed on our youth and educational programs and our leadership development.
The December pledging was about $26,000. When we get above $25,000 a month, that is good and on target. Our giving and our other income is healthy.
We were able to raise money from other sources. Our total income is looking good. However, we are still running a deficit. To move forward, we need to be mindful of our priorities with our programming. We want to reach the broadest number of people possible.
Reverend Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae and Linda van Ligten
A conversation ensued about maximizing the joys and sorrows that are announced on Sundays. In pre-pandemic days, there was regular sharing about the needs of the community. Because of the social restrictions operating now, some consider the newsletter to be one vehicle for increased sharing. Some thought that Facebook and other social media tools, particularly the private groups, could be used. Jeremiah noted that an idea of using emailable forms on the website could confidentially bring some sharing of needs to the pastoral care team. By having additional means of sharing needs, we could have a more active follow-up and response.
These and other ideas will be discussed by the Pastoral Care team and among small groups. These methods of engaging with our community will help us grow in our ministry response.
Reported by board members as Abby Arnold was absent.
The final plans for remodeling the Forbes Hall entryway have been accepted by the engineers and have been sent to the general contractor. Construction is expected to begin before the end of this month (January).
The meeting was adjourned. The chalice was extinguished by Larry.