News January 26, 2024

Cover January 28, 2024
Dear Members and Friends,

Being a rational Unitarian Universalist, I know there is no cosmic difference between the end of December and January 1. None the less, every January I have a feeling of a new beginning as though something has actually ended and something else is beginning. January does mean the end of all of the holiday activities. Certainly, there is something about the barren winter landscape -- even in Houston that promises new growth to come. Many of us make resolutions designed to allow what has been to fade into the background to be replaced with what will be. Whatever there is about January and no matter where it comes from, the possibilities of the new year become somehow more prominent for me and I suspect for many of you.

Last year the Board Chartered a Committee chaired by Mary Koch to investigate the challenge we have because we have almost no parking we own. The Committee completed their work in December with the recommendation that we remain aware of only possibilities regarding procurement of property near the Church and prepare to take action if any viable possibility becomes available. You may notice the property directly across from the Church is now up for sale. As a result, the Board met during an emergency meeting on January 23 and authorized the hiring of a realtor to investigate that possibility. We will keep you informed.

Here at First UU, January 2024 really does represent a turning point toward the future. After three years of conversation and work, we really did adopt a Vision, Mission, and Covenant for the Congregation by a unanimous vote of the membership. If you need a refresher, you can view that HERE. The focus this year is to move forward to Widen Loves Circle in a meaningful way.

We really did complete a successful Capital Campaign that is providing the means to renew and rebuild our Church over the next three years. The fact that $1.76 million was pledged is only one part of that success. The input from you, the members, about what projects will contribute to our future success is just as important. Through your input, we know what to do and our Renew and Rebuild Committee is about the business of doing it. It is a strong Committee with Michael Morrison as Chair and Nancy Edwards, Chas Davis, Jon Naylor, and Rita Saylors as members. They will need help to implement many of the projects and hopefully, many of you will provide your knowledge and skills.

One area of focus for our Congregation during 2024 will be to decide how we want to proceed with the selection of a Settled Minister. As a reminder, Rev. Dr. Bossen is our Developmental Minister and he is engaged through a contract with the Board. A Settled Minister is called by the Congregation. Rev. Dr. Bossen has indicated interest in being considered for the position. To prepare for our transition from having a Developmental Minister to having a Settled Minister, the Board has initiated a process to create a Search Committee by asking the Nominating Committee selecting candidates for the Search Committee. The candidates will be presented to the Congregation and an election for the Search Committee will be in March 2024.

The actual search process will be in two phases. First, the Committee will canvas the membership to determine by no later than October 2024 if there is a desire to call our current Developmental Minister as our Settled Minister. If there is strong interest, the Committee will communicate this to the Board and request that the Board call a membership meeting to make the decision. Second, if the Search Committee determines based on the membership canvas that calling the current Developmental Minister is not the desire of the membership or by vote the membership does not choose the current Developmental Minister, the Search Committee will launch a national search with the expectation that a ministerial candidate will be presented to the membership for consideration at a called membership meeting in the Spring of 2025. If anyone is interested in serving on the Search Committee, please talk to Natalie Browne, Chair of the Nominating Committee.

As we think about other activities in 2024, the US Presidential election will take center stage. Our Justice Coordinating Council, chaired by Dale Story, will be launching voting preparation and election education activities. Understanding the importance of the democratic process to Unitarian Universalists, the Council will be promoting many ways for us to help assure that the 2024 elections are fair and free.

In addition, there are other social policy issues that arise from time to time that need our attention. An example is an issue that came to the attention of the Board regarding the City of Houston beginning to enforce an ordinance prohibiting not-for-profit organizations from providing food to the homeless on the grounds of the downtown Central Public Library. This resulted in the Board passing the following position statement.

“The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston has a tradition from its beginning in Houston in 1914 of recognizing the worth and dignity of every person. As a result, we stand in solidarity with Food Not Bombs and the Texas Civil Rights Project in calling on the City of Houston to rescind or at least cease to enforce the ordinance passed in 2012 that is now being used to prevent not-for-profit organizations from feeding people at the Central Library downtown at McKinney St. We further call upon the City of Houston to use its resources to enhance the worth and dignity of its citizens by using resources to feed the hungry instead of prosecuting those that do. At least the City should not deter others from providing for the basic needs of its citizens.”

If you are curious about positions that we have taken you can look at them HERE .

The Board also took an important step toward the future by Chartering a Strategic Plan Development Committee charged with developing a plan for consideration by the Board to fulfil Section of the Principles of Governance “A Strategic Plan to be updated, as needed (on an ongoing basis) showing overall long-term strategic goals and programs of the Church projected for the next five years.” A long time member and leader of the congregation, Karen Carlson, a friend of the Church Bob Randall, and our Senior Minister will serve on this Committee. We are fortunate that both Karen and Bob have extensive professional experience in Strategic Planning. We need two additional members on this Committee. If you are interested tell any Board Member.

As always, it is hard to find a way to conclude my effort to share information about First UU where the effort to “Increase Love’s Circle” is our Vision, the music is inspiring, the members are hardworking, and the children are all above average, but end I must.

Ron Cookston,
Board President