News – May 26, 2023

Cover May 28, 2023

Dear Beloved Congregation,

I have been listening to you during informal conversations and at times when the specific question is asked “Why have you joined and remain a part of First UU?” I do not think it will surprise any of you to learn that the answers are varied! For a while I was beginning to wonder if I would find any common themes. Following are a few examples of the things I have heard: “The Church is my only island of sanity in a world that seems to be going off the edge.” “I come for the music and the preaching is also okay.” “The Church gives me a place to channel my need to be engaged with social justice activities and projects.” “I come for the outstanding preaching and the music is also good.” “The Church provides a place where my children receive religious education in a fun and engaging environment.” “I come for spiritual inspiration.” “The church is the one place in my life where I am accepted and appreciated for who and what I am.”

The other day a light went off in my head and I realized that in addition to all of the various reasons why you come, you all have said you come because of the community. We talk a lot about being and becoming a Beloved Community of Communities. Sometimes I am a little slow about understanding what I hear. It has taken some time for me to understand that our Beloved Community is far more than just accepting each other. I am beginning to understand that being and becoming part of a Beloved Community means not just accepting our differences but also learning from the unique diversity that is us. In my first message to you after I became president of the board, I asked for your understanding that at every service it is my habit to turn around sometime during the service to look at the people present. This is because I need confirmation of the community of which I am a part. I am finally beginning to understand that it is more than being a part of our community. It is a matter of becoming different and enriched because of your unique selves that you are willing to share.

And Now for the News from the Board.

In a sense, all year the Board has been preparing for the Annual Meeting of the membership that is scheduled for 1:00 pm on June 4. The challenges and successes of the last three years at First Unitarian Universalist Houston have set the stage to us to achieve remarkable things in the future. At the meeting, you will receive a preview of the Goals / Open Questions and Vision of Ministry for next year. The budget will be presented and you will have the opportunity to provide comments that the Board will consider when passing the budget. You will vote for an outstanding slate of candidates for open positions on the Nominating Committee and the Board. You will consider and vote on whether we will adopt the 8th principle. Your presence and voice are needed and I encourage you to attend.

After receiving input from many of you about changes to the Bylaws, the Board passed the proposed changes by a 2/3 + majority. It is important to note that some of you have concerns about allowing anyone to vote if they are less than 18 years of age and some of the Board members reflected that view in their vote. Therefore, the Board will monitor this change and may at some future date need to revisit this matter.

Since the last new member recognition 19 people have joined our congregation and have been acknowledged by the Board. New members will be acknowledged at the service on June 4,

2023. We have been working hard to improve our welcoming responses to visitors. Margarita Arevalo, Membership Coordinator, Leslie Morrison, Chair of the Welcome Team (which I might add now has over 21 members!) are making a big difference. As a result of our successes, the Board has set a Goal of growing our membership from 296, as of our report to the UUA in April 2023 to 330 by April 2024. Please plan to attend the Sunday service on June 4, either in person or online, to meet and welcome our new members.

I want to share how much I and the Board appreciates and recognizes the efforts that so many of you are making to ensure that our values are known at the Texas Legislature. Although the majority of the current Texas Legislature does not reflect our values, our voices combined with voices from The Metropolitan Organization, the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry, Texas Impact, and other organizations have made a difference. We may not have been able to achieve much headway in stopping or changing laws focused on transgender youth, gun control, education, reproductive justice, and other issues during this session, but our voices have been loud and persistent and I am confident that over time we will bend ”Bend Texas Toward Justice”. Thanks especially to Dale Story, leader of the Justice Coordinating Council and TXUUJM Board member, Leslie Morrison, leader of Mom’s Demand Action, and Mary Koch, TMO leader at First UU. Keep the faith!

I must not let this opportunity pass without recognizing that Rev. D. Scott Cooper has achieved Full Fellowship with the UUA as a Unitarian Universalist Minister. In his announcement to you he mentioned the work of his Ministerial Formation Team: Karen Carlson, Earl Dredge, Kathy Kinson, Michael Morrison, Carlos Rodriquez and also Dr. Bossen and the Staff. In addition to recognizing Rev. Cooper’s achievement, the Board and I want to thank those of you that have provided the guidance that has helped make this happen. In addition, every one of you has played a role in this and can some day in the future find yourself saying, “Oh yes I knew Rev. Scott back before.”

As always it is hard to find a way to conclude my effort to share information about First UU where the preachers are eloquent and credentialed, the music is varied and challenging, the members are engaged, and the children are all above average, but end I must.

Ron Cookston,
President of the Board