News – December 31, 2021
Dear Beloved Community,
As we approach the close of 2021, we have much to be thankful for and to celebrate. With the coming of the Solstice, our blue boat home rounds the orbit of the sun, and we eagerly look for the return of the light. We’ve welcomed a handful of holy infants into our beloved community recently – each bringing hope and joy on arrival. And the work of our developmental ministry continues apace. Tidings of comfort and joy.
Board Vice President Ron Cookston has been working with the Facilities Team and professional consultant on plans for greening the building through upgrades to the building’s exterior as well as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. We are pursuing funding for this work through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which was created by the US Department of Energy in partnership with several states to encourage property owners to invest in more green technology. It allows property owners to make eligible improvements by providing financing for the up-front costs of upgrades which are then repaid over an extended period (10 – 20 years) through a voluntary assessment on the property. It’s an incredibly clever program which cannot be adequately described by me, but you can learn more by following this link. The most brilliant part of the plan is that our energy use should be reduced to such a degree that the savings on our utility bills will essentially pay for the work, meaning that there will be no effect on the budget, but a significant reduction in our energy consumption. Whoo-hoo!
In order to qualify for PACE funding, a third-party, independent contractor must certify that the upgrades will adequately reduce the building’s energy consumption. Needless to say, the process is time-consuming and tedious, but it looks like we are on track for success, thanks to the tremendous efforts of Ron, the Facilities Team, and Tawanna Grice. Some of this work has already been completed as part of the Reopening Readiness Campaign, which means that we can expect those expenditures to be refunded when the PACE financing is approved. Is that good news or what?!
Developmental Ministry Updates
Identity – Mission/Vision/Covenant
Members of the Committee on Mission, Vision, and Covenant have begun meeting and will be working with Reverend Colin to create a plan for including the larger congregation in this very important work. They will be presenting the plan to the Board at the February meeting, and soon after should begin involving the larger community in exploration and conversation.
We continue to shift the Board’s working calendar to be in synch with the one outlined in our new Principles of Governance, which means that we will be holding a second planning retreat in February. The Governance Committee is in the process of developing a method for the Board and the senior minister to use in our annual mutual assessment as described in our Policies of Governance, 1.1.1.
Multiculturalism, Anti-racism, and Inclusion
Thanks to the ongoing work of Alma and the Spanish Ministry Team, the Christmas Eve Spanish language service was a great success, with 18 attending in person and another 24 online. It is difficult to put into words how meaningful it is to attend an entire service that is held in your mother tongue when you have never or rarely ever had the experience, but if we stop to think about it, we can start to imagine….
Our spiritual journeys are deeply personal and unique to each of us. The language we use to explore, discover, and share our thoughts about ideas as abstract as the search for truth and meaning and the interconnectedness of all living things – is itself deeply personal, nuanced, subtle. Imagine trying to do that in a second language. Is there an exact translation for interconnectedness? If so, it is probably not one you are likely to learn in the first few years of speaking that second language. Think about the social and political changes of the last two years, the challenges and loss brought by the pandemic, the many times we have been uncertain of what it would look like to live into our UU values as we faced completely unexpected reactions to novel situations and events. And think about having to do all of that in a second language. Now…. imagine what a relief it would be to be able to attend a service and/or have a conversation in the safety of this beloved community… in your mother tongue. What a gift. A balm in Gilead, even.
The two Town Hall style meetings held on the 1st and 8th were well attended and well received. In general, members welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the history of multi-site ministry and expressed a variety of feelings about the entire experience. It was important for us to have that time together, and we appreciate all who were able to attend.
Next, the Board will hold three similar meetings for the Museum District congregation on January 4th (in person at 7:00 pm), 6th (by Zoom at noon), and 9th (in person after the second service). We will present the report of the Clayhead Road Committee, which has been collecting information about the property in Richmond and the various parameters impacting our available options for its disposition, and listen to the congregation’s responses and ideas regarding those options. These meetings are open to the Museum District congregation.
In the next few weeks, we expect to meet with Rev. Dan King and leaders of the new Thoreau Congregation to discuss potential dates and times for a return to mediation, but we will not be discussing any specifics of the negotiations until the three FUUCH info/listening meetings are completed, and the Board has had time to consider the congregation’s input.
Growth and Membership Engagement
We continue to apply all of our creativity and flexibility to creating services that are meaningful both in person and via livestream with great success. Thanks to the thoughtful work of our worship team and the excellent technical skills of Christian Holmes, our Sunday attendance for July – November of 2021 (in person and virtual) surpassed attendance for the same months in 2019 on all but two Sundays. Furthermore, our current online attendance surpasses that of the Church of Larger Covenant, the UUA’s virtual congregation available to all UU’s. At a time when virtually all organized religious congregations have seen a decline in participation, First UU has seen growth. That, my friends, is cause for celebration.
Above all, we are thankful for each of you and the gifts you bring to this beloved community. We continue to be grateful for the knowledge that while we can be certain we will likely never think alike about literally anything, we rest assured that we all love and are loved alike, warts and all. Simple gifts. Blessed be.
President of the Board of Directors