News – January 28, 2022

Message from the President of the Board

Dear Beloved Community,

Just like that, we are almost through January! Holidays passed, cold weather arrived (about a month late), Omicron sent us back inside, soup was made. Despite the irregularities, we have carried on apace, and plans for February promise a month that is anything but boring. Some upcoming events include the first annual Board planning retreat, the services auction, and the start of negotiations regarding the Clayhead Road property. Keep your eye on the newsletter and calendar for sure!

Facilities Update
It has been determined that the cost of repairing the refrigerator and freezer would be as much as replacing them and would possibly take longer due to supply chain delays, so Tawanna is now looking for replacements.

Developmental Ministry Updates
Identity – Mission/Vision/Covenant
The Mission, Vision, and Covenant Team met with Rev. Colin and continue their work in preparation for beginning conversations with the congregation, which they will present at the February Board meeting.

Governance, Ministry and Administration

Board members recently completed the first version of an annual Board self-evaluation form, which the Governance Committee created for us to continue our progress towards operating fully within the new Principles of Governance. The committee will compile the responses and present them at the Board’s February 19th planning retreat. Rev. Dr. Bossen also completed an informal self-evaluation, which he shared with the Board.

The Governance Committee will be assisting the Board in completing the other annual work products listed in Section 1.1.1 of the Principles of Governance at the February retreat. They include a short list of open questions concerning the church’s future, a vision of ministry for the upcoming year, and a review of the previous year’s vision of ministry. This will be the first time the Board has undertaken this type of planning retreat, so we expect a learning curve, but we are committed to making progress.

Multiculturalism, Anti-racism, and Inclusion
The Spanish language group continues to meet monthly, usually on the third Thursday at 6:30 pm. Some participate in person and others join online. Attendance is growing, as new Spanish speakers join the church.

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Jolie Rocke as Acting Director of Music. Among other experiences, Dr. Rocke has directed Spanish-language choirs and written about working for racial justice through music. She has already begun thinking of ways in which we can reach out to our neighboring communities through special events and collaborations with other music programs to build community and work for justice together. We look forward to increasing the diversity of our musical offerings, as well as those who participate in our music programs, under her able direction.

Growth and Membership Engagement
The Omicron onslaught may have been fierce, but FUUCH is undaunted. We are offering in-person services while putting a hold on congregational singing and have found that attendance does not appear to be affected.

Due to popular demand, the Ministers' Forum will soon be returning. While it was originally conceived as a means of maintaining engagement during the pandemic closure, it was so successful that it is being brought back, in the 2nd and 4th weeks of each month. One session will be only online and the other one will be in-person and livestreamed. The broad topics planned for exploration are Religion and Science, Social Justice and Science, and Aesthetics and Spiritual Growth. Watch the newsletter for upcoming dates and topics.

Update on Negotiations with the new Thoreau Congregation
The three town hall conversations that we scheduled earlier in the month were well-attended. We greatly appreciate the time and effort of all those who joined and those who communicated with us via other means. There was a great deal of information to communicate about a complicated situation, and we were grateful for the opportunity to present and explain as much of that as we could and hear responses and ideas from members.

What we heard from the congregation was essentially this: the situation is complicated, there are several ways to look at it, we want to act in ways that are consistent with our UU values, we hope that the new Thoreau Congregation is successful.

We had a preliminary meeting with Rev. Dan King and the negotiating team from the new Thoreau Congregation on January 13th, and a joint statement co-written by Betty Johnson (President of the new Thoreau Board) and I was sent out to the email list on Saturday, the 22nd. The mediation is currently set for February 11 with Rev. Dr. Bossen, Ron Cookston, and I on the mediating team from First UU, with Connie Acosta as alternate. It is our sincere hope that we will be able to complete the negotiations in a single day, and then return on the 18th to finalize the agreement. Betty and I will continue to communicate updates after each stage of the process via joint written statements to be shared with our congregations.

As is standard practice in negotiations, only the final outcome will be shared with those outside the negotiating teams. While there may be some consultation with the respective Boards, all such discussions will also be held in strict confidence. This practice is necessary to ensure that the negotiators have the freedom to work as creatively as possible and explore all possibilities throughout the process. Unfortunately, this means that whatever the results, there will not be an opportunity for the congregation to discuss the process by which the outcome was reached, and this may understandably feel less than satisfying to some members.

We ask that you continue to hold all of those involved in this complex and challenging task in compassion and hope. It is never easy to negotiate a separation of any sort, particularly when so many are invested in the outcome. It is even more challenging to do so while also asking ourselves “How do we proceed in a way that is consistent with our commitment to our UU values?” I assure you that all involved have been asking this question at every step along the way, and we will continue to do so.

As we continue to move forward as a faith community, with the myriad challenges and opportunities we face together, we are blessed to be able to have faith in things seen, as Rev. Colin reminded us. One of the ways we live our values is by continuing to gather in whatever ways we are able, to encourage, listen to, and inspire one another. In this community, we have seen again and again that “this is a place where good people are good to you even on bad days,” to paraphrase the description told to our guest preacher, Kye Flannery. I certainly have faith in things seen here. I hope you do, too.

In Community,

Ruth Hoffman-Lach
President of the Board of Directors