President’s Report: April 2019

Holly House Vote
The Holly House vote is behind us. Please, take a deep breath.

In my years as a member I do not recall any decision being anywhere near this close. Clearly, we have a big job ahead to bring us into a community with a common vision and purpose. It is significant that over 75% of our membership voted to support a social justice commitment by voting affordable housing or a market rate sale with a social justice fund. A decision for affordable housing would have made a high impact statement of our social justice principles. Our task moving forward, I believe, is to use our market-rate proceeds to make as similarly high an impact as we can. The vote established a social justice fund of $933,000, but that is a floor. If we decide as a congregation to do more, that fund can be higher.

The Board will be focusing this month on how we will move forward. We want to listen deeply to the East Shore community and encourage the members of our community to listen to one another – especially those who have different perspectives than themselves. We will be having Q&A sessions and also working with our right relations team to hold listening circles. Through our next Board meeting (April 16, 7:00 and open to membership) we will assess what is urgent for re-uniting our congregation and what needs to be done in a more paced, deliberative manner. In particular, we need to address those who are feeling disconnected or marginalized and invite them into the center of our church community.

One thing our market rate sale does allow is the use of money for a diverse set of purposes that includes not only affordable housing, but also racial justice, oppression of native peoples, and care for our planet. We should use this as an opportunity to bring new faces with diverse ideas into our social justice community, into our planning for managing and developing our campus, and into our financial stewardship circles. We need to do the research and outreach to identify tasks and find organizations that we can partner with to have the greatest impact. Once we have solid, considered ideas for achieving the greatest good, we can begin to define the structure for managing our resources to those ends. We could have as much as a year or more before we see significant funds from the sale, so we have time to do this well.

The Board gratefully acknowledges the strenuous efforts of the Holly House Task Force (and previous task forces) in getting us to this point. Please see the informal announcement of the March 24 vote for a list of thanks-deserving supporters.

Long-Term Campus Plan
The Board established a 2019-2020 goal of preparing a long-term campus plan. We postponed activity on this task until after the Holly House vote, but now that work needs to start. We will be deliberating the best approach – a new task force or work through existing committees – but either way there will be opportunities for members to engage on some fulfilling and important tasks.

Finances – 2019-2020 Budget
The budget committee members (Jason Puracal, Marcy Langrock, Lee Dorigan, Claudia Hirschey and I) have been working on a financial proposal for the 2019-2020 church year. There will be two town halls April 14 and 15. At our last meeting, we discussed a somewhat different focus for the town halls than in the past. Rather than dryly go through spreadsheets line by line, we plan to focus on the initiatives that will fulfill our mission, create excitement, and lay a foundation for church growth. Please plan to attend and make your voice heard.

Mission Fund Drive
The budget discussion goes hand in glove with our Mission Fund Drive. Contrary to what many may think, the market rate sale does not eliminate the need for member stewardship. Having a pledge holiday would be an abrogation of our need to focus these funds on social justice and other critical church needs. A major focus of our drive this year is member-hosted dinners as a means of creating community as well as sharing our values and commitment to our church. We already have a number of people agreeing to be hosts and have started sending out the initial round of invitations. Over the next few months, we plan to reach everyone in the church. If you would like to open your home to a social evening with 8-12 members, please contact Milly Mullarky, Mary Anderson, or Doug Strombom.

Please return your pledge card or pledge online as soon as you know what you want to do for church support. If you need more time and want to participate in a dinner first, that is fine too. Feel free to contact board members or members of the Mission Fund Team (Doug Strombom, Milly Mullarky, Mary Anderson, Elaine Cox, Martin Cox, Grace Colton, Steve Wellons).

Church Leadership
I have let the Nominating Committee know I do not intend to run for re-election as President in June. They have begun looking for alternative persons for the presidential position on the slate. The events of the last past few months – and past few years – have left me exhausted and wondering if the church needs a fresh, unencumbered perspective in its leadership.

I bring this up knowing there are others in our leadership who are sacrificing more than me and have a stronger case for seeking relief – I would note that our Secretary, Dave Baumgart, our Treasurer, Marcy Langrock, and our Policy and Governance chair, Ann Fletcher, have been carrying especially large burdens of church work. Claudia Hirschey has been keeping a severely under-volunteered Financial Stewardship Committee going, and the Personnel Committee under Sheridan Botts could use help. Implementing right relations under Louise Wilkinson has been a major effort. And that’s just our Board committees!

Many of our vital core and ministry teams are in a similar state. As we consider creating new groups (like the What-To-Do-With-Holly-House-Money Task Force), I would like to explore distributing these appealing tasks to our existing structures as a means of attracting new (and younger) volunteers to engage also in the basic work of keeping the church functioning

Our leaders and volunteers deserve your support and gratitude (and some more volunteers to help). I would encourage all members to look around and see how much of the load is being carried by a small number of stalwart people and think about ways to become engaged. We also need to be open to 21st century means of engagement including the use of web meetings that do not require fighting traffic to get the church.

We have a compelling mission and vision, and this is worthwhile and self-fulfilling work!