News December 22, 2023

Cover Christmas Eve 2023
Dear Friends and Members,

In last month’s Presidents Message, I asked you for comments about holiday traditions meaningful to you. Following are just a few of the comments some of you shared:

Natalie Brown shared with me that her family moved several times while her parents worked as missionaries in Brazil. “Most of the regions were too warm to have northern pine trees. So, we would go out hunting for the best substitute. I remember one actual pine that was so prickly, decorating it put your arms and hands at risk. That year, instead of paper chains we took cotton and put puffs of ‘snow’ on the outermost tips of the leaves. Another year, we were in the far south of Brazil and had a lovely pine, not northern, but beautiful. The best year was when we had a young fruit tree with its ball wrapped-up. The leaves were dark green and showed ornaments well. When Christmas was over, we planted the tree. I suspect it is still producing delicious jaboticabas, a cherry-sized fruit that is so dark purple it appears to be black from a distance. This unusual tree grows flowers and the ensuing fruit on its trunk which, of course, looks black when the fruit is ripe and unpicked. I've enjoyed our regular spruce, balsam, and firs since coming to the U.S. But every year when a tree goes up, I remember my parents' remarkable creativity and our trees with longing and joy.”

Many people, including Tawanna Grice, said that at holiday dinners everyone is asked to say what they are thankful for. Looking back, I realize this has been such a frequent practice in my life that I did not think of it as an intentional act. It just happens naturally at holiday celebrations. Perhaps that is what the season is all about.

Lauri Zuchlewski reported that during the holidays she like to make potato pancakes called latkes which reminds her of her childhood. She was quick to acknowledge that at a time when healthy eating is important that latkes are a bit heavy, but perhaps the memories are worth it.

Iris Sizemore shared that she likes to try to live every day as though it is Thanksgiving and tries to emphasize grace, gratitude, and kindness into her day-to-day life.

Connie Acosta shared the following in an electronic card. “Fall reminds us that our trip around the sun is approaching full circle very soon. It is time to take stock of all we have accomplished this season and this year and begin the dance of giving thanks for all that we have and all that we have been able to do. No regrets: only good positive thoughts about how well we are doing. Our penultimate thoughts lead us to naturally think of Thanksgiving and how blessed we all are. I am blessed for all that I have been able to accomplish this year as a good servant of others; to share, to help, to guide, and to appreciate joy with others. Although our world circumstances may be chaotic an uncertain, let us all find some semblance of time to give thanks to all for being part of our lives and hearts.”

The chaos in the world at this time is weighing heavily on me this holiday season and I suspect it is for you as well. It is good we have focused on the spiritual inspiration of Howard Thurman during December. Therefore, I would like to close this section with a quote from his book Meditation of the Heart. “Keep alive the dream: for as long as a man has a dream in his heart, he cannot lose the significance of living.”

I now turn to an update on the Board activities. The first thing I want to bring to your attention is that at the December 20th meeting, the Board approved chartering a Search Committee for a Called Minister at First UU. The Nominating Committee will present seven members to be elected to this Committee by the membership at a congregational meeting in March 2024. Then, the Search Committee will initiate a two-step process. The first step will be to canvas the membership to determine if there is a desire to select our current Developmental Minister as our Called Minister. This canvas will be completed by October 2024 and the results will be communicated to the Board. If yes, the Board will then call a congregational meeting to make the final decision to call the current Developmental Minister or not. However, if the Search Committee finds the membership does not desire to call the current Developmental Minister as it’s Called Minister, or if the membership does not vote to choose the current Developmental Minister, the Committee will launch a national search for a Called Minister candidate with the expectation that a recommendation will be presented to the Congregation in the Spring of 2025.

For some of you, I realize this needs a bit of explanation. Our current Developmental Minister, the Reverand Dr. Collin Bossen, has been with us for 4.5 years on a contract. He has guided us though a remarkable developmental period which has culminated in our creation of our Vision, Mission, and Covenant. It is now time for us to begin the process to “Call” a senior minister. Rev. Bossen has made the decision that he would like to be considered for that role. Therefore, the need to establish a Search Committee, elected by the membership to discern the path forward, is essential. The Bylaws require such a committee to consist of seven members. The Nominating Committee, under the leadership of Natalie Brown, will begin the process of identifying candidates for the committee. If you are interested in serving on the Search Committee, please advise Natalie. If you are asked by the Nominating Committee to be a candidate for the Search Committee, please seriously consider agreeing to serve.

Now, on to the Capital Campaign. The Campaign has successfully come to an end, and it is time to put into action the renewal and rebuilding projects envisioned in the Campaign. Using survey input results from the membership, the Board is now prioritizing the projects and plans for implementation. As previously reported, the Board charted a Renew and Rebuild Committee to lead the implementation. I can report that the Committee is formed and Michael Morrison has agreed to chair it. Other members of the Committee are Rita Saylors, Jon Naylor, Chas Davis, and Nancy Edwards. The Committee will be working with staff and the Board over the next three years to make the “dreams” a reality. Please be responsive to requests for assistance because the collective genius of you, the membership, is going to be needed. Many of you have already volunteered to help with some of the more complex projects. If you have an interest in working with the Committee on any of the projects, please let a member of the Committee know.

At the meeting on December 20th, the Board approved the following expenditures from the Capital Campaign Fund:
  • $10,330 to procure and install a commercial dishwasher and ice machine, cabinetry work needed related to these installations, and attention the plumbing. (This project was the highest rated project from the membership survey.)
  • $22,000 to address safety issues related to the playground and reconfigure the playground. (This project received a very high rating from the membership, but more importantly is needed to address the safety of our children.)
  • $6,500 to address slip and fall issues related to the flooring in the foyer/kitchen/hallway (This project is designed to address slip-and-fall safety issues.)
The following Motion regarding utilization of funds from the Reserve was passed on December 20:

"The Senior Minister with the concurrence of the Treasurer or in the event that person is unavailable the President of the Board is authorized to use up to $50,000 from the Reserve Fund with the expectation that the funds will be returned to the Reserve before the end of the fiscal year with the understanding that such transactions will be reported to the Board at the next board meeting in the Senior Ministers Report. Any intent on the part of the Senior Minister to utilize funds from the Reserve that is not expected to be returned to the Reserve before the end of the year would constitute a withdrawal requiring approval by a 2/3 vote of the Board and a report to the membership. To comply with the spirit of the Bylaws contained in section 9.2 the motion required approval by a 2/3 vote of the Board and that it be reported in this report to the membership."

As always, it is hard to find a way to conclude my effort to share information about First UU, where holiday services have offered messages of Peace and Love, the music has been inspiring, the members are compassionate, and the children are all above average, but end I must. I can only add my hope that the holiday season has been all you had hoped it would be. Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.

Ron Cookston, President of the Board