News – February 25, 2022

Message from the President of the Board

Dear Beloved Community,

It’s been a busy month!

We are delighted that the negotiating teams of FUUCH and the new Thoreau Congregation were able to reach an agreement about the disposition of the Clayhead Road Property which will allow both congregations to move forward in their respective ministries. We are beginning the process of having the documents drafted and hope to be able to transfer ownership by March 30.

On top of that, the Services Auction is in full swing online this week, and will conclude on Saturday evening. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to purchase interesting art, jewelry, tickets to the Alley Theatre or Rice Owls baseball, seats at one of many delicious and entertaining dinner events, and more! It’s all over on Saturday at 7:45, so head on over to the 2022 Auction to get your bids in and support FUU!

Developmental Ministry Updates
Identity – Mission/Vision/Covenant
The Committee on Mission, Vision, and Covenant have been writing a set of questions to use in upcoming conversations with the congregation. Look for links and notices in the newsletter. 

Governance, Ministry and Administration
The Board and Senior minister held the first annual planning retreat on Saturday, February 19, as part of the process of aligning the board calendar with our new Principles of Governance which call for us to collaborate in creating an annual vision of ministry “as a starting point for budgeting and staff planning”[1] As it was the first retreat of its kind, much of what we discussed was “How do we…..quantify, measure, assess, etc.?” We also entertained some more philosophical questions. (If such topics are not particularly interesting to you, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.)

One of those questions was, “How does the role of a UU Board of Directors differ from that of a more deist church Board?” We were able to draw on some members’ experiences in other faith traditions, which proved helpful. Whereas deist churches are generally focused on whether members’ spiritual lives are following a path that is considered the right one, anyone who has ever been involved in UU leadership can attest that leading UU’s is like herding cats – there is no single path, there is no single destination, and there certainly is no such thing as the right one.  (In Christian churches, pastors often refer to their congregations as their flock of sheep. I wonder if UU ministers ever ask each other how their cats are doing....) The mission and vision of UU churches are generally focused on supporting the spiritual growth of members (in whatever forms that may take) and working to live our UU values in the community and the world.

The role of the deist church Board seems to be about guiding and directing, whereas the role of the UU Board is more about leading and supporting. Clarifying that difference was particularly helpful because the model upon which our Principles of Governance were based presumes a deist orientation, though it was not designed for any specific faith or denomination.[2] That assumption at times conflicts with our UU orientation, such as in descriptions of the Board setting goals “out of a deeper sense of God’s will, the congregation’s gifts, and changes in the wider environment.”[3] The latter two considerations are certainly consistent with UU operations, but the first one is not. Addressing that underlying nuance helped us answer some questions that had continued to resurface in our planning discussions.

[1] FUUCH Principles of Governance 1.1.1

[2] Hotchkiss, Dan. Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership. Lanham, An Alban Institute Book, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

[3] Hotchkiss, p 123.

Multiculturalism, Anti-Racism, and Inclusion
In addition to the ongoing work of the Transformation Committee and the growing Spanish Language ministry, the Board continues to consider how we might move towards achieving our goal of having a more diverse congregation. One question that arose at the retreat was, “What are ways that we can communicate or signal our openness to members of different groups and populations in Houston?” For example, we fly the Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on Fannin. Those are pretty clear signals to anyone driving by that we are welcoming to members of the LGBTQ and Black communities. What other ideas do you have? We’d love to hear them. You can send them to, chat with one of us on a Sunday, or jot your idea in the Healthy Communications Team book. 

Growth and Membership Engagement
Did you know that FUUCH is the only UU church in the Houston area that is actually holding in-person services?  That’s something to celebrate, and a testament to the terrific skill and hard work of our amazing staff. The combined Sunday attendance (in-person and virtual) for January averaged 259, which is a 34% increase over two years. Blessed be!

We continue to find ways for members to stay engaged with the church and the social justice work that is at the heart of living our beliefs. After the tremendous success of the 2020 Voting Justice program, we are once again partnering with other local UU churches to fund a half time contract Voting Justice Organizer position for the 2022 election. The person will office out of FUU and report to Rev. Scott. We are excited about this joint venture and expect great things will come of it.

As we head into spring, our focus naturally turns to the new, the emerging, the forthcoming. Good things are on the horizon for First UU.  I’m looking forward to celebrating them together with you.

In Community,

Ruth Hoffman-Lach
President of the Board of Directors

[1] FUUCH Principles of Governance 1.1.1

[2] Hotchkiss, Dan. Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership. Lanham,
     An Alban Institute Book, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

[3] Hotchkiss, p 123.