News – September 1, 2023

Cover September 3, 2023
Dear Friends and Members,

It was so great to see so many of you at the Ingathering on Sunday, August 27. Although we have had rich services all summer and attendance has been high on site and online, the opportunity to be with so many of you felt great. In the face of so many challenges in our community and the world, I depend on being in the midst of a group of folk whom I know share my values. One of the things I worry about is how on earth so few of us can actually hope to have a meaningful impact.

Something happened during our trip to North Dakota that has helped me think about this. I had a lot of time to think during this 3-week road trip which was ostensibly to attend the wedding of one of Mary’s far-flung clan and turned out to be more of a rolling family reunion. I want to warn you that if you ever decide to drive from Houston, Texas to Bismarck, North Dakota, you should expect to run out of four-lane highways after Kansas City and then zig zag your way through Kansas, Nebraska, South and North Dakota. Well, I digress! On our way home, we continued to zig zag our way to stops in South Dakota, Nebraska, and eventually to Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was in Las Vegas the I discovered a partial answer to my worry about how we can have an impact when we are so few.

Mary’s sister is a Lutheran minister. Since we were there on a Sunday, we of course attended their church service with just a touch of hesitation, at least on my part. What I found was a community of believers that shares most of my values. This small congregation is living their values through outreach to their community. They have restored a 100 + year old original church and made it available as a community center. I surprisingly felt at home. I grant you that maybe Mary’s sister worries because we have not accepted Jesus as our Savior, but finding a community that shares my values made me think all the way home to Houston about the importance of finding and cultivating connections not only among ourselves but also with other communities that share our vision of a just world. Our connections give us the opportunity to live our values and broaden our reach. Our connections with the Third Ward Cloth, Freedman’s Town, The Metropolitan Organization, Rebuild Houston, Texas Impact, and many others gives us as individuals and as a congregation opportunities to magnify our reach. Perhaps that is what Widening Loves Circle really means.

The Board is in the process of focusing on how we can move forward to support the Plan of Ministry which you can review by opening HERE and achieve other objectives this year. Much of that work is done through committees. The Finance Committee will continue to be led by Don Poole in his role as Treasurer. The Personnel Committee will continue to be led by Johanna DeYoung. Due to moves and resignations that committee will need three new members. If anyone is interested, please contact Ron Cookston or Johanna. Last spring the Board established a Long-Term Facilities Strategic Development Committee to explore opportunities for future parking alternatives and perhaps expanded services. Mary Koch facilitates that committee. The Governance Committee will continue to support the Board and its members serve as process observers during Board meetings and called Membership meetings. Earl Dredge will lead that Committee this year. Last year the Board commissioned the Vision, Mission, and Covenant Committee to lead the development of those important statements. Since those statements were adopted by the congregation that Committee was thanked by the Board for their outstanding work and was dissolved. The Transformation Committee which was led by Leslie Morrison and Charles Johnson also completed its assigned task of educating the congregation about the importance of the 8th Principle. The Membership adopted the 8th Principle at the annual meeting and therefore, the Transformation Committee will be dissolved and the efforts to focus on anti-racism initiatives and multicultural development of the congregation will be continued through the Plan of Ministry.

The Board is continuing to explore other important areas. Now that the Vision, Mission, and Covenant have been adopted, the need to promote them within our congregation and more broadly in the community needs to be considered. It has been recognized for some time that we need to promote leadership development for our congregational leaders and prepare us to promote our values beyond. A task that needs to be completed by the Board this year is the development of a 5-year strategic plan. It is possible that committees will be created to focus on these areas. If anyone reading this has additional thoughts about the items mentioned or other items, please share your thoughts with me or any Board Member.

I want to report to you the progress related to the PACE Project. Eight highly efficient HVAC Units have been installed to replace our costly fifteen-plus-year-old units. Additionally, initial funds needed to begin the infrastructure work have been drawn down and provided to our contractor, Reasonable Renovations. It is expected their work, which includes replacement of the large window at the east end of the Sanctuary, will begin in September. Our solar provider, Harvest Solar, reports that all the engineering work has been completed, Center Point Energy has approved the installation plan, and the permit needed from the City has been received. Therefore, we expect installation of the solar panels will also begin shortly. This will result in a significant reduction in our use of electricity generated by fossil fuels.

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 beloved community is growing, and the children are all above average, but end I must.

Ron Cookston,
President of the Board
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston