News February 23, 2024

Cover February 25, 2024
Dear Members and Friends,

On February 11, Rev. Bossen’s sermon focused on the 110 year anniversary of First UU Houston. While listening, I found myself wondering if I would have had anything in common with the forty people who came together to launch our congregation. He artfully described how over the years, the congregation has changed and modified its views and theology. Had I been living then, I suspect I would have shared many of their views, but since I am living now, I find it hard to imagine that I would have felt much alignment. After thinking about this for a week and talking to Mary about it, I now think I would have had a spiritual connection to that group of people. I imagine they were people who questioned the prevailing theological and social dynamics of their time just as I, and I suspect many of you, do now. I can imagine the debate they must have had at the first meeting when they voted to launch the congregation. After all, we have participated in many challenging discussions in our congregation. More importantly, I suspect they found themselves associated with a Beloved Community (although I am sure that they would not have called it that) where they felt acceptance and warmth. If I could go back to 1914, I hope I would have been there and that you would have also been there. Perhaps the most enduring characteristic I suspect we share with our ancestors is that we are not static and do not expect to be.

The status report regarding the PACE Project is that the approval from the City of Houston was finally received on February 15, and the solar panels were activated. The panels should have gone live in October, 2023. For the record I am compelled to apologize to the Board and the Membership because I did not anticipate a delay as long 5.5 months caused by materials availability and then the approval processes of CenterPoint and the City of Houston. Although the long term financial benefit to the Congregation is still positive, this has resulted in a negative financial impact on the 2023–2024 operating budget that was not expected.

The status report regarding the potential to procure the property across the street from the Church on Fannin is that our realtor has received a counteroffer of $1.5, with earnest money of $15,000 and only a 30 day due diligence period. After consideration, the Executive Committee unanimously approved the realtor to respond with an offer at $1.35 million, earnest money of $13,500, 60 days due diligence, and 15 days for closing. The purpose of this is to hopefully have 60 days to exercise due diligence with regard to this possibility. Previously it was hoped that it would be possible to bring this matter for a vote by March 10, 2024. Given the current status of these negotiations, it is now expected that the membership meeting cannot occur before April 14.

On February 21, the Board retrospectively acknowledged the necessity of a temporary transfer of $25,000 from the Reserve Fund to the operating budget of in order to cover payroll on February 16. This brings the total of $80,000 Reserve Funds transferred to operating funds. This has been done with the understanding that the funds will be returned to the Reserve Fund upon the sale of property bequeathed to the congregation, and that the President of the Board will report this to the membership in the next newsletter.

At the request of Dale Story, Chair of the Justice Coordinating Council, the Board considered joining Texas Impact. It is the oldest Interfaith Policy Network in Texas. The website states Texas Impact “Equips faith leaders and their congregations with the information, opportunities, and outreach tools to educate their congregations and engage with lawmakers on pressing public policy issues.” The annual congregational membership costs $100 per year. Their website is Home - Texas Impact. First UU Houston has established organizational affiliations with The Metropolitan Organization, The Third Ward Cloth, the Unitarian Universalist Network of Houston, the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry, and through our payments to the UUA, UU the Vote and other justice initiatives. The Board approved joining Texas Impact.

The Nominating Committee reported to the Board the slate of candidates for the Search Committee that will be presented at a membership meeting on Sunday, March 31 at 1:00 pm for a vote. The slate the Nominating Committee presented are Steve Braun, Johanna DeYoung, Ruth Hoffman-Lach, Marilyn Knight, Mary Koch, Lydia Luz, and Becky Smith. Look for bios that will be distributed in a separate notification to the membership early next week. We will also hold a Board Chat on Wednesday, February 28, at 7:00 pm on Zoom where representatives of the Nominating Committee will be available to discuss this. The link for that meeting will be .

It is hard to find a way to conclude my efforts to share information about First UU where the preachers are eloquent, the music is wonderful, the members are engaged, and the children are all above average, but end I must.

Ron Cookston
President of the Board
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston