News – May 24, 2024

Cover May 26, 2024
Dear Members and Friends,

At the Board meeting on May 15, 2024, we discussed ways we can promote First UU’s membership growth as compared to those who just participate in services and activities. The question was asked, “What are the benefits of membership”. One answer to that question became obvious last week. During the storm when many people in Houston lost power. I was out of town in Idaho, but was able to follow as our staff, Vice President, Sheryl Abrahams, and Rev. Scott took action to reach our members who might have been at risk to offer assistance. They were informed that the Church had power and was open as a cooling and charging center. As we strive to fulfill our vision of Widening Loves Circle by fostering a Beloved Community, there is no difference in our efforts to welcome members and others who are visiting or are longer-term friends. On the other hand, as we conclude this year’s pledge campaign, it is clear that in order to sustain our care for each other and the community, our ability to do that is directly related to growing our membership.

As we plan for the Annual Meeting, occurring at 1:00 pm on June 2, 2024 in the Sanctuary, another key privilege of membership becomes obvious. Only members will have the opportunity to elect new members of the Board and the Nominating Committee. The Aspirations and the Vision of Ministry for next year will also be previewed. The proposed budget for next year will be presented, and input will be sought. Please plan to attend or if you cannot be at the meeting, complete an absentee ballot which can be accessed HERE.

One matter that will not be voted on at the Annual Meeting is the question of whether we want to purchase the property across the street to assure a future parking alternative. The Board is continuing to exercise due diligence activities to determine alternatives regarding that matter. The bottom line is that we own no parking and have always depended on the goodwill of others for parking. The opportunity to consider procuring property across the street is too important to be ignored. At this point, it is probable we will not complete our due diligence before July. The one decision the Board has made is that once the due diligence process is completed, a Membership Meeting will be called to consider and vote on the alternatives.

At the May Board Meeting, implementation priorities for the Capital Campaign projects were reviewed and approved in order to provide the Renew and Rebuild Committee the authority to move forward to make those dreams a reality. Renovation of the kitchen including the addition of a new dishwasher is now underway. Rebuilding the playground to make it safe and fun for our children is also underway. Since Capital Campaign pledges are scheduled over three years, some high priority items will be scheduled as funds become available. Nonetheless, I am pleased to report that all of the high priority items will be addressed except one. Unfortunately, it has been determined that the organ cannot be repaired. Replacement of the organ is estimated to cost $450,000+. This is beyond the resources from the Capital Campaign, so alternatives will have to be studied.

Going back to the question “What are the benefits of membership”, there are two initiatives that are now underway that will set the stage for the future of First UU Houston. The first of those is the work of the Search Committee. This Committee will soon be seeking input from the membership about the selection of a settled minister through a survey and a series of small group meetings. I want to encourage all members to take advantage of opportunities to provide your input to the Search Committee. The congregation will be presented a candidate in October and the membership will vote on whether or not to accept the candidate. For more information see the letter from the Search Committee to the membership that was in First UU newsletter on May 17, 2024 and is available HERE.

The second initiative is the work of the Long Term Strategic Plan Committee. This Committee has been charged to create a 5-year strategic plan for the congregation. Over the next few months, members will have opportunities to provide input and eventually to vote to adopt the plan or not.

It will take time for these two initiatives to come together and set the foundation for what First UU will become. So much progress has been made through thoughtful participation of our members. We really did come through the pandemic, the separation of the Thoreau Congregation is allowing them to grow and flourish, and the establishment of our Vision, Mission, and Covenant is providing us guidance for our spiritual and operational growth.

As always, it is difficult to find a way to conclude my effort to share information about First UU 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.