News – December 11, 2022

Navigating Grief -- A First UU Church Workshop

Dear Members and Friends,

In Rev. Bossen’s Sermon on the Sunday before Election Day, he told a story about workers in a pizza restaurant who found a creative way to make safety changes in their workplace. Facing resistance from the owners to provide safe oven mitts, the workers took it upon themselves to start throwing away unsafe mitts—alternating this task among themselves so no one person could be identified as the culprit and be punished. Eventually there were no oven mitts available, and the owners had to buy safe mitts. Rev. Bossen told this story to illustrate how, at times, we have to depend on creative solutions to address difficult situations.

This sermon caused me to think about a story our neighbor in Arlington, Texas often told. Gertrud is a first-generation German immigrant. One time, when she was a little girl at a holiday dinner with her family, Mina, the family’s maid, entered the dining room with a beautifully roasted goose, tripped and dropped the goose and all the trimmings on the floor! Without a flinch Gertrud’s mother simply asked Mina to pick up the spilled items, return to the kitchen and bring out the other goose. After a few minutes, Mina returned with the new main course on a different platter and the dinner was a great success. As a child Gertrud was amazed that her mother and Mina had been wise enough to have a second goose ready. It was some years later when she asked her mother about the incident that she learned that of course there was no second main course waiting in the kitchen and that Mina had returned the spilled goose to the kitchen, dusted it off, put it on a different tray, and returned it to the table. When Mary and I are faced with difficult situations, we often look at each other and say, “Where is Mina when you really need her?”

Of course, the true meaning of Rev. Bossen’s story and Gertrud’s story is that the creativity of Gertrud’s mother and Mina is available to each of us and collectively to our faith community. Taking actions that make a difference in difficult situations often are not straight forward but rather require creative responses. During this holiday season, I hope each of you will find your “Mina” inside and trust your creativity to find the abundance residing in you and your family to have a joyful and fulfilling holiday season. As a congregation, I am confident we will find the collective creativity which I call the “Mina factor” to make significant and needed contributions to each other, our community, and the world.

And now for the news from the Board and First UU Houston. It is rare for any Board and membership of an organization to be asked to make a decision that will impact the future of the organization for 25 years. Over a year ago the Board began a process to identify the means to green the campus and break our dependence on environmentally destructive electricity. At the Board meeting in November, the Board decided to seek a loan through a program called PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) which will allow the improvement of the energy efficiency including the procurement of solar panels to produce most of the electricity we will use over the next 25 years. This does involve taking out a 20-year loan which we hope to retire through the inclusion of a $325,000 request in the upcoming capital campaign allowing us to pay off the loan within 5 years. Alternatively, the church can pay off the loan using money we would have spent on electricity. The final decision about this will not be made until next week's board meeting, and therefore you have opportunities to share your thoughts about this with any Board member.

I have been awed by your efforts to get out the vote under the leadership of our Justice Coordinating Council and its Chair, Diane Reece. You wrote cards, made calls, sent texts, block walked, and of course voted. You supported a temporary staff person, Jordan Ostrum, with your time and wealth. Jordan worked with us, other UU congregations, Texas UU Justice Ministry, UU the Vote and TMO to expand our impact. First UU adopted precinct 20 located just north of the church and made phone calls and did block walking there. Although we cannot claim all credit, the voting turnout increased by 5%. In addition, we sent 48,000 texts, mailed 4,500 postcards and letters, dialed 9,000 numbers, and knocked on 1,230 doors. All these actions were non-partisan and focused on getting out the vote.

The Board received a report from the Finance Committee related to the first quarter financial transactions. Although pledge payments were down a little, which was expected because that the report included results for July, August, and September when many of us were traveling. Due to the receipt of two bequests the congregation is in an outstanding financial position. Costs were also down a little primarily because we have had an open position.

Rev. Bossen reported that Christian Holmes has been increased from a part-time position managing our media to a full-time position including communications and promotion. With the resignation of Alex Keimig (they have moved on to a career improvement), a temporary employee named Precious Scott has joined our staff to help us get through the Holiday season. We do still have a full-time position for a Membership Coordinator open. Information about that position can be found on our web site under the tab Contact Us / Careers. If anyone knows someone that would be good for that position, please encourage them to apply.

As you make plans for the holiday season, I want to commend to you the opportunities that will be made available in December at First UU Houston designed to enhance our collective experience. Staff have developed plans that will provide opportunities that will be varied and enriching. I hope that you will take care to read the newsletter which is updated every Friday so that you do not miss anything.

In closing I want to wish you a joyous holiday season from the Board of First UU Houston where the preachers are eloquent, the music is wonderful, the sanctuary is festive, the members are engaged, and the children are all above average.