News – April 26, 2024

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Dear Members and Friends,

When I sat down to complete my pledge card this year, I found myself thinking about my Grandfather Roy Jefferson Cookston. After dinner, he would go to the refrigerator freezer, open it and take out a carton of ice cream. Then he would proceed to eat ice cream while standing in front of the freezer. He would usually dip out a bowl for me, and then return to the freezer to eat his. Inevitably, my Grandmother would say, “Roy, if you want some ice cream put it in a bowl and sit down and eat it”. He would always reply saying, “Oh, Leona, I just want a bite or two.” and continue eating what would have been a bowlful. In the meantime, I earnestly immersed myself eating every bite of my bowl of ice cream!

To me, the difference between making a pledge to the Church each year and just participating in the activities and offerings is like the difference between knowingly eating a full bowl of ice cream or just eating the same amount one bite at a time. I know the ice cream I ate from a bowl and the ice cream my Grandfather ate from the carton tasted the same, but he was always just having “a few bites” while I committed myself to eating the full bowl of ice cream.

Maybe the metaphor doesn’t fit exactly, but to me, by pledging I am making a commitment to our Beloved Community and reaffirming my intent to stay engaged. Furthermore, our pledges provide our Congregation with financial stability to plan services and activities I want to encourage you to make your pledge and commitment to the First UU for next year. I am certain that you will experience a difference not because the services and activities will be different but because you have decided to fully immerse yourself in them and you will be a part of something bigger.

Now, I need to tell you what your hard-working Board has been doing. I want to make clear that I use the phrase “hard-working” because it is true for every member of your Board and the people that serve on Board Committees. Everyone is thoughtful, participates, and contributes based on their own insights.

At the meeting on April 17, the Board acknowledged Ted Miller, Fay Alexander, and Marissa Bond. They all have completed the process for becoming members of the Congregation and the Board voted to approve them. Please welcome them.

One of the hard-working Board committees is the Renew and Rebuild Committee chaired by Michael Morrison. It is working to implement the projects that you voted for when you contributed to the Capital Campaign. Mr. Morrison reported on their work and provided the Board with its recommended priorities for the projects.

The good news is that the Committee, working with staff, have completed the preparations to begin the renovations in the kitchen including the installation of a commercial dishwasher and ice maker, and replacement of the flooring both in the kitchen and foyer. In addition, they recommended improvements to the playground so that it will be safe for use by our children on Sundays and the children in the daycare center. Both these projects will begin soon. Look for details about the difference these improvements will make. Mr. Morrison reviewed the report on the project priorities resulting from the Congregational survey. There is enough money in the Campaign for the top priorities, which will use approximately $970,000 leaving $600K that could be used to help buy property for a parking lot or other contingencies. The Board will review this report and finalize the priorities at its meeting in May.

The Board discussed the status of the due diligence process related to our parking issues and the land purchase. The sellers of the land continue to add provisional clauses that we are reviewing. They include a provision that we will agree to limit any building on the site to no more than 15 feet for five years. This and other provisions are delaying starting the due diligence period. We have engaged an attorney who is working pro bono with us on these issues. After the Board meeting and with consultation with our attorney, action has been taken to enter into an agreement with the seller which will provide 90 days for our due diligence. We have not bought anything yet. It only means that we now have 90 days to investigate and bring a recommendation to the membership regarding this matter.

Lauri Zuchlewski, Board liaison to the Nominating Committee, presented their slate of candidates for 2024-25 Nominating Committee and for the Board. These will be voted on at the annual Membership Meeting. Candidates for the Nominating Committee are Carl Walther, Natalie Browne, and Lauri Zuchlewski. Board candidates are Eileen Allan, Patrick Kirwan, and Joan Waddill. You can access information about these candidates HERE.

Another hard-working committee of the Board is the Strategic Plan Development Committee. They are developing a five-year strategic plan for consideration by the Board. As one step in their process, Committee chair, Karen Carlson, lead the Board through a 30-minute Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis. I bring this to you attention because the Committee will be conducting a similar process with members and I want to encourage each of you to participate when this opportunity becomes available. In order to develop a long- term plan for the Congregation, the Committee will need input from you.

Before I sign off on this message, I have to come clean and admit that from time to time I also will take a carton of ice cream out of our freezer and eat a spoonful or two which becomes more like a bowl full. When Mary catches me doing, that just like my Grandmother, she will say “Ron, if you are going to eat ice cream put it in a bowl” and I will say “I am just having a bite or two.”

As always, it is hard to find a way to conclude my effort to share information about First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, where our vision is “Widening Love’s Circle”, the preaching and music are inspiring, the members are hard-working, and the children are all above average, but end I must.