Everything you need to know about Congregational Meetings

Nov 1, 2023 | Beacon, Exclusively For Members, Governance

Why do we have Congregational Meetings?

East Shore is a self-governing church, as are all UU congregations. We are members of the Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations. That means we covenant with other UU congregations, receive resources and opportunities from the UUA, send delegates to General Assembly, and pay dues. We decide how we will govern ourselves. There is no UU ‘home office’ that dictates how we govern ourselves.

Our own bylaws and policies guide us. Our value of Justice and the 5th principle, which supports using a democratic process in our congregation, motivates us in our governance choices. Our bylaws require congregational meetings.

What is a Congregational Meeting?

The most important opportunity for all ESUC members to participate in governance is at our congregational meetings. ESUC members vote on our annual budget, Board and Nominating Committee elections, call a minister, approve bylaw changes, and other topics specified in the Bylaws. A congregational meeting is led by ESUC’s Board with support from their Policy & Governance Committee and other volunteers. Currently, they happen twice a year.

How Should I Prepare for a Congregational Meeting?

The best way to learn, get educated, and ask about what you are voting on is to prepare before a congregational meeting. There are two ways to do that:

  • read your Notice of Meeting and the materials that come with it, following any links to more details. All members receive a Notice 14 days before a scheduled meeting.
  • Attend informational sessions – At least 2 budget Town Halls are offered, and Informational Forums when other items are to be voted on, such as bylaw changes. These events are designed for asking questions, learning, and educating yourself about what you are voting on.

What happens on the day of a Congregational Meeting?

Meetings are held immediately after worship in the Sanctuary and online. There is a pause after worship for the change in activities to happen. During the pause, members check in so we can establish quorum and get food/drink before taking a seat. Those online stay connected.

Families are welcome. The usual space available during worship for children to play is also available during the meeting or you can signup for offered childcare.

What happens at a Congregational Meeting?

Congregational Meetings are rather formal events. Much of how they are run is prescribed by our bylaws. This is to be transparent, clear, consistent, and enable all views to be heard. We use Robert’s Rules of Order to keep expression of views fair and balanced. The expectation is that questions have been answered prior to the meeting, leaving this time for pro and con debate.

  • Voting is usually by hand raise or acclimation and can be done online during the meeting.
  • Typically, agenda items are moved and seconded, then members can speak their viewpoints on the proposed action, then a vote is called.
  • The published agenda can’t be changed so what is on the agenda will not be changed after it is published or during the meeting.
  • Meetings typically are an hour long. Occasionally shorter, as it was when we called Rev Maria Cristina or longer as it was for a Holly House vote.

If you have any questions about this article, contact [email protected].