News – March 24, 2023

Cover March 26, 2023

Dear Members and Friends,

When I was in Graduate School at East Texas State University I worked in the office Dean of Men, Dr. Harold Murphy. He was perceived by the students as a very stern person. For example, when a student came to his attention as a troublemaker, he would have them come to his office and have me sit in on the interview. He would have the student sit in a chair in front of his imposing desk and give them a very long stern stare while saying nothing. After the student had clearly become uncomfortable, he would lean forward and say “The fact is there is one thing standing between you and the being kicked out of this school. That thing is me and I am about to step aside.” There was almost never a need for a second interview. Dr Murphy also taught the course on strategic planning. On the last day of that class, he stood at the front of the students and surveyed the group with that same stern stare. After a sufficient time when every student had begun to scream, he took a step forward and said, “If you do not clearly identify your destination, do not be surprised if you find that you arrive at a place you had no intention to go.” He then dismissed the class.

I have never forgotten his clear-sightedness about the importance of having a goal. For the last two and a half years, the First UU congregation and Board have been working to answer the question “What kind of church do we want to become?” Under the leadership of the Vision, Mission, and Covenant Committee consisting of Steve Braun, Johanna DeYoung, Rebecca Throop, P. D. Wadler, Sonal Pandya, Mirta Estrada, Mary Koch, Sheryl Abrahams, and poet Toni Holland as consultant, over 167 of you participated in meetings and/or completed surveys to help answer the question. At a special membership meeting on March 5, 2023, you, the congregation, answered the question by unanimously adopting the Vision, Mission, and Covenant of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston. You can access the final document by opening the link HERE. This document identifies our “destination” and will guide our work to identify our settled minister, support individual and communal spiritual development, and our efforts to do justice. It goes further by also establishing a Covenant to guide how we will be together as we move toward our “destination”.

The miracle of a Unitarian Universalist congregation rendering a unanimous decision on any topic was not enough, you went further and voted to adopt a set of bylaws to end a two-year quest to establish how we will govern our work together. In order to bring this document to the membership on March 5, the Bylaws Revision Committee which included Charles Johnson, Connie Acosta, John Stauffacher, Ruth Hoffman-Lach, and input from Linda Richardson worked to create a draft. Many of you took time to review the draft and provided valuable comments. With the exception of one question about the age requirement for voting, which the Board will need to continue to work on, the Bylaws were passed unanimously. You can access the final document by opening the link HERE.

Before the membership meeting on March 5, Rev. Bossen reminded us in his sermon that our faith is a “living tradition”. We are not bound by a creed and therefore our destination, or at least the way we describe it, will likely change over time. For now, however, we can be proud of the work we have done together and look forward to moving forward to reach our “destination” and expect we will get where we are going.

Now for other news from the Board. Recognizing we are in a crucial period because the Legislature of the State of Texas is in session and is considering legislation that will seriously threaten voting rights, education, the status of our LGBTQ community, reproductive rights and other issues, the Board and your Justice Coordinating Council have taken and will take actions to promote our UU values. The Board has recently taken actions to stand for reasonable gun control, support legislation that would expand Medicaid postnatal care and oppose the State of Texas takeover of HISD. In addition, through the Justice Coordinating Committee, many of you are responding to action requests to add your voices to the discussion. This is done through an email list maintained by the Justice Coordinating Council of people who have indicated they want to be involved in justice issues. If you would like to be added to that email distribution list, click HERE to contact Dale Story, Chair of the Justice Coordinating Council. It is important everyone understand some members of the Congregation do not find this work to be one of the ways they want to engage. To be involved is an opportunity and should not be viewed as an obligation.

Your Board is now working to identify the Goals and Open Questions it will focus on next year. Now that Vision, Mission, and Covenant have been adopted, it is critical we identify how we will work to make those living and growing concepts. Many of you provided information to the Board and we are using that to guide this work. In the next couple of months, we will draft a plan and you will have an opportunity to share your views once again. For now, if you have thoughts about the goals and open questions that we should pursue next year, please share your thoughts with any Board member.

Every month when I prepare one of these messages, I find it difficult to describe all of the things that are happening in the Congregation. In addition to Sunday services, just this last month a Venezuelan cooking class was provided that not only provided an opportunity to learn about cooking but also to learn about the challenges a refugee seeking asylum faces; Traveler presented a wonderful concert on Saint Patrick’s day; there was an opportunity to participate in a plant-based potluck; a wonderful Spring Equinox Service was provided; the book club continued; our children had the opportunity to harvest vegetables, and many other opportunities were available. I want to encourage you to read the newsletter and take a look at the calendar on the web site to find things that may be of interest to you.

As always it is hard to find a way to conclude my effort 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