A Time Unlike Any Other: UUCWC’s 2021 Annual Meeting

by Jayme Evanini, Trustee, UUCWC Board of Trustees

UUCWC held its Annual Meeting this past Sunday, June 6th, giving us the chance to look back on the many uncertainties we’ve navigated in the last year, and honor the many people who helped us make our way through it.

“For all of us, it was a time unlike any other,” said Rev. Kim in her opening remarks, a time that saw UUCWC “striving for connection, not perfection.” Despite the challenges and uncertainties we faced, our congregation grew in 2021-22 (12 new members!); gathered regularly for Sunday worship on Zoom (an average of 166 attendees); engaged deeply in virtual small groups (for example, 9 Chalice Circles — many new this year– with 72 participants); offered new programming for parents and children (1 small group for parents and several Family Chalice Circles); surpassed our cautious fundraising goals for our End-of-Year Appeal and Annual Auction (“we’ve come out the other side of this as a more generous” community, said Treasurer Jim Sanders); donated thousands of dollars to local organizations in NJ and PA fighting food insecurity (including the Bucks County Opportunity Council — this year’s recipient of our Auction surplus), and so much more!

All of this would not have been possible without the hard work and incredible talent of so many people, and the Annual Meeting gave us a chance to sing their praises!

  • Our amazing staff: Rev. Kim Wildszewski, minister; Robin Pugh, Director of Lifespan Faith Engagement; Susan Irgang, Congregational Administrator;  Caryl Tipton, Director of Music Ministry; Steve Ryan, pianist; Rachel Hansen, Office Assistant; Roberto Santiago, Acting Sextant; and Rev. yadenee hailu, our minister during Rev. Kim’s parental leave
  • Outgoing Board President Nathalie Edmond, who led us through so much the past 2 church years, along with outgoing Board Vice President Sue Saddlemire and outgoing Board Trustees Patrick Kahney and Jeff Lang
  • Outgoing Treasurer Jim Sanders (who will continue as a Trustee next year), outgoing Finance Committee Chair Mary Baltycki, and the Finance and Personnel Committees, who worked tirelessly in the midst of pandemic-induced uncertainty to oversee our church finances, put together budgets and to revamp the role of the Treasurer and Finance Chair so that these volunteer positions will be more sustainable
  • The many volunteers, donors and project leaders who ensured our social justice efforts continued this year, including those who donated time, funds and items for the Food Ministry, and the nearly 100 people who participated in our UU the Vote projects leading up to last November’s general election.

While we couldn’t be in the same physical space this church year, our congregation remained engaged and closely connected. The 2021 Distinguished Service Award winners all played a role in making this possible:

  • Julie Lambert, member of the Pastoral Care Ministry, sewed hundreds of masks and was a “vaccine hunter”, helping to schedule vaccination appointments and arrange transportation.
  • Pat Czerwonka, outgoing leader of the Pastoral Care Ministry, coordinated UUCWC’s efforts to meet members’ needs for meals, rides, and other support.
  • Scott Cullen and Bay Waltman, Worship Associates co-chairs, brought us consistent, grace-filled Sunday worship services despite the trauma and uncertainty our congregation faced in 2020-2021.
  • The Friday Night Sing-a-long team (Heather Edwards, Nancy Neff, Greg Pontier, and Bay Waltman) brought “much joy” to UUCWC via 15+ months of themed weekly Zoom sing-a-longs.
  • The Worship Tech Team (MJ Hansen, John Harvi, Nancy Neff, Mary Lou Dahms, Mike Gianella, Scott Umlauf and Michelle Zechner) provided tech support for Sunday services on Zoom, small groups, and committee and ministry meetings, and for UUCWC members and friends who needed help learning to use Zoom. As Rev. Kim said on Sunday, their skill and commitment “gave us the platform, the ‘building’ we otherwise wouldn’t have had” and enabled the work and life of UUCWC to continue virtually.

2021’s Flaming Chalice, given in recognition of sustained contributions to UUCWC’s mission and to the principles of Unitarian-Universalism, was awarded to Marianne Alt. Among many other ways she has made a difference to UUCWC, Marianne was previously Board president and stayed on an extra year as vice-president to help transition the role to new members, and has contributed to the transformation of the Nominating Committee into the new Congregational Engagement Committee.

Looking Ahead

June 6th’s Annual Meeting also provided the opportunity to look forward to the year ahead, which, Rev. Kim reminded us, “will be a learning year” as we navigate new uncertainties.

Board Trustee and Re-Opening Task Force member Michael Waas shared the results of a recent congregational survey on re-opening. A majority of respondents expressed their readiness to return to indoor activities for vaccinated people and/or following recommended guidelines, though some members reported they are not yet comfortable returning to in-person events under any circumstances. (These responses will inform, but not determine, how and when UUCWC re-opens). The Re-Opening Task Force and the Board will follow new and future CDC guidelines as we put together our re-opening plan. Our process will also center UU values of inclusion for all our members — some with health concerns that prevent them from returning to in-person, some who live in other states — by offering a hybrid, multi-platform approach to Sunday services and adult faith engagement that allows for both in-person and virtual participation. For now, our buildings remain closed but the grounds are open (guidelines for use are available here). The Task Force is planning for a phased re-opening this fall, and a vote taken at the annual meeting showed a strong consensus for returning to in-person services this fall as we move toward a hybrid church model.

Jayme Trott, co-chair of the Capital Campaign Task Force, reported on the status of our construction plans. Despite hopes that construction would have already begun, bids still came in too high for our budget after reducing the scope of our initial plans. The task force has gone back to the drawing board with the architect to produce new plans that focus on key necessities identified via congregational input during the planning phase of this project: adding an elevator; repairing the wall in the Crossings Room; and kitchen improvements (another key necessity, enlarging our parking area, has already been completed!). The Task Force believes that this reduced project will likely fall within the $1 million range, and construction could potentially begin this Fall (the Sanctuary will be accessible throughout construction). The Board meets June 9th to discuss approval of this plan, and there will be a Q & A session with the Capital Campaign Task Force after a Sunday service in the near future.

Two other votes were taken at the meeting. The proposed 2021-2022 budget was presented by Finance Committee chair Mary Baltycki and was approved by a majority. The proposed slate of new board members was similarly approved. Maria Baratta will be our new Board president, Joe Schenk will serve as our new Treasurer, and Heather Edwards and Wendy Stasolla will join as Trustees.

Welcome, new board members, and a HUGE thank you to all those who kept UUCWC going this past year, at worship services, committee meetings, and small groups; via food drives, sing-a-longs, and postcard-writing parties; with pledges, auction bids, meals, and rides to medical appointments! “We are a dynamic church, and things are ever-evolving,” said president Nathalie Edmonds in her closing words. May we remember the many ways we evolved and adapted this past year as we head into the next.