By Ryam Hill, Board Treasurer
Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. —Doug Larson
Despite some wintry weather, the days are getting longer and my tulips are part way up. I am feeling my usual annual optimism-surge as spring arrives. In spring, I always feel ready to move forward frequently even with a bit of glee.
Transitions at East Shore have been plentiful for the past few years. We were in shock when our long-term minister left, busy as hell when we had no minister, and then faced with a lot of work and all our long-buried issues during this last 2-year interim period.
But despite all our challenges, many good things have been started and are now an on-going part of East Shore life. We have very dedicated and caring members who just hunker down and carry the load as well as create and deliver great programs. We have staff whose professional skills keep our all our church efforts running well and save us money to boot. We have Climate Action book discussions, Racial Justice classes and conversations, a dynamic choir, inspiring RE and OWL, a giving tree each December, a refreshed gallery with upcoming shows, Right Relations workshops, a 5-year strategic financial plan, as well as intense work by our Policy & Governance Committee. We have so much good work going on that I know I’ve left much of it off of my list here. It’s delightful that it’s almost too much to keep track of!
One major thing we learned from having invited Regional UUA Consultants to assess our situation, is that cultural change in a church can take 6 years! Yikes, that sounds like forever. At East Shore, we spent a long period with one minister whose approach worked well for a small church. When a church is smaller, more is decided simply by a minister and a few trusted lay leaders. Things like the budget are mostly their formulation, without much input from other staff or a Financial Stewardship Committee or the Board. Groups form and run themselves without any guiding charter that explains how they operate and how they are connected to the larger church. This doesn’t work well for larger congregations who are better served by more defined organizational roles and clearer lines of authority for decisions.
Moving forward to a larger church approach means East Shore has embraced policy based governance more fully. We have been updating our bylaws and policies for the past few years. Groups at the church now have charters which explain their key operations. Our organizational structure is better defined and authority is more plainly understood. Making these changes is hard work. Sometimes the old ways seem simpler, even if less transparent and equitable. In the face of this, the Regional Consultants recommend we get more guidance to strengthen our adherence to our structure and continue developing more needed policy.
Right Relations is another area where East Shore needs more focus on. It has been on the to do list since before our long-time minister left. This last year we have succeeded in offering several trainings to help support us making good choices in how we speak to each other at the church. Committees and other groups are developing Right Relations statements to guide them in their meetings and other events. Few would disagree that one of our most important goals is to bring our best selves to our relationships at church and to treat all kindly.
Improved communication is very vital to our church. It hasn’t been that long since we updated and improved our website. Our e-blasts, sent Thursdays at noon, send weekly summaries of what is happening and link to more info, as well as sometimes focus on one important topic in our church world. We also send out some member only emails. Our monthly coffee conversations are designed for face-to-face questions/answers and discussion on a regular basis. The Beacon is now online in a gorgeous format with all the articles found here and are searchable on our website, as well as available in print. We also have two Facebook pages, one that is public, and one for members to have conversations, both are worth following. Task Forces and other committees offer presentations and Town Halls for sharing information and discussion. And still we need more.
So, the recommendations from the Region are not a surprise or anything new to our church. We have been working on them all for years as specific goal areas. However, the word is that we have much more to do. We’re told that Developmental Ministers help churches work on their goals to make noteworthy progress and transform their culture into what members hope it to be. My hope is that East Shore can embrace this process and find a great Developmental Minister to guide us.
My other hope is that spring comes soon.
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. —Ernest Hemingway