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May 21, 2020 | Letter from the President

Thank you, everyone who supported our stewardship campaign with pledges of financial support! You've supported our planning for the coming fiscal year, and we’re now making a budget in preparation for the UUCO Annual Meeting on June 7th. Thanks also to the Finance Team, led by Jeff Lensman, Treasurer, for all their good work on budgeting and financial planning. We anticipate a virtual Annual Meeting and we’ll announce details before the meeting. Please plan to participate, because we need a quorum of members in order to conduct business, and because we will be addressing a new year of church activities, and how we plan to carry them out.

Project Welcome, our plan for making the building accessible to all people, is moving forward. Karen, Abby, and I are about to stage a contractors’ walk-through, before receiving bids to make the necessary improvements. This is one more opportunity for me to say thanks to all those who pledged their financial support toward this project, which we hope to complete during the summer. Your pledges, together with some of the matching-grant funds we received from the Wake Now Our Vision Campaign last fall, have brought us to our financial goal. We’re on track and the project is moving forward successfully. Thank you, all!

Several folks responded to my request for help with a church fundraising team in the coming fiscal year: thank you, Suzanne and Kristen. We could use a third team member, too. The aim is to stage several fundraising events for the church, such as goods & services auctions like we’ve had in the past, which have been successful events in both their fundraising and “friendraising.” Anyone else want to sign up? Many hands make light work.

Our church has plenty of opportunities for volunteer service, but a genuinely critical one- which I’ve mentioned before- is to support our small but dedicated Worship Team. Worship is the “front line” and the face of our congregation. Without vibrant worship, we cannot call ourselves a church, can we? We simply need more people to help. Right now, just a few people are managing our online worship services: Heide, Christie, and Tim, with David and Marilyn training as new Worship Associates. We have support from others, too (Dan & Mary, the Foothills fellowship in Colorado, the UUCO volunteers who give readings and lead breakout sessions), but the heavy lifting of our virtual worship services is done by too few people now. Every Zoom session, worship or otherwise, requires a lead person who knows how to manage the platform to coordinate all the elements of online services. All of this is now on the shoulders of just Heide and Christie. Suppose one or both of them had travel plans? Illness? Family emergencies? In that event, the show cannot go on.

And looking ahead to next year, we foresee that worship may take a hybrid path, where we continue to deliver online connection to those who cannot/choose not to attend, while also holding live services in the sanctuary. Two or three people cannot possibly manage concurrent live and virtual worship services.

So I am asking again: we need support for our Worship Team, notably folks who are willing to be trained on the Zoom platform, but also folks to assist as worship associates by supporting the various ingredients of worship that we deliver live and online. This is a critical need, and has been for quite some time. Eventually there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back. When that time comes, we will go dark, and I will not blame the camel…

The model of congregational polity adopted by Unitarian Universalists- the responsibility of a congregation to manage its own financial affairs, programs and community outreach- is a coin with two sides. On the one hand, it gives great freedom to congregations and respects their local control, with valuable supporting resources provided by the “parent” organization, The Unitarian Universalist Association. Congregations pay “dues” to the UUA in support of our larger movement and for the resources they provide.

On the other hand, the buck stops with each congregation- with us, the UUCO. There is no Vatican or Diocese or Ward in Unitarian Universalism; no sugar-daddy parent organization. We control our own destiny and there is no “bailout.” Responsibility for success or failure in any of our endeavors lies almost entirely with us. Yes we are part of a larger movement, but congregational polity demands that we accept this congregational responsibility.

Since the 1990s I have served a number of terms as president, with two different congregations. During those times, I've struggled to find ways of circumventing the “80/20 rule;” not really a rule but a truism that "twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work" in a community. For larger congregations this isn’t a problem because twenty percent of a large number of people is more than enough to deliver a full slate of church programs. But for small congregations like ours, it is a problem. Twenty percent of the people (or whatever percent- I’m speaking in generalities) can’t give enough energy of action to do church adequately. As a result, small congregations struggle to grow, struggle with inadequate human and financial resources, struggle to maintain their operations and programs.

This is us, the UUCO. And the only way to change it is for more of us to step up and help. I’m asking for the help because it’s part of my job. But you have a job, too. Is church supposed to be “a job?” I suppose you could look at it that way. But I choose to view it as being part of our congregational covenant to love and support each other, to give what is ours to give. I am happy and blessed to give you what is mine to give. Do church responsibilities cause me headaches? Are they inconvenient? Yes, from time to time. But the benefits of servant leadership far outweigh the costs- I am a better person, leading a purposeful life, because of the opportunities to serve with you. However, I need your help. I need it now.

Among the things Debby and I have done together during our self-imposed quarantine of the past few months has been to clear out the clutter of old books and papers (mostly mine) in our bedroom and home office. A few days ago I was curiously going through church records from fifteen years ago, when we joined UUCO and I first became a Trustee. Of particular interest were the church budgets of 2004 and 2005, when we held services at the YCC and had not yet moved into our building on 23rd Street. Those budgets had income and expenses about the same as we now support for the 2020/2021 fiscal year. Food for thought - make of it what you will.

Namaste, Bill

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