Report of the UUCWC Board of Trustees: 2018-2019 Church Year

by Marianne Chopp Alt, President

Our Board of Trustees is the nine-person elected governing body of this religious community. The Board’s governance philosophy delegates decision-making authority to individual ministries and committees so it can focus on:

  • Financial stewardship
  • Goal-Setting and implementing the Strategic Plan
  • Creating and overseeing Church Policies
  • Overseeing Personnel and Staffing

The board meets monthly on the second Wednesday of the month, our Executive team meets monthly in between the full board meetings, and we offer monthly Board Chats during Middle Hour. The Vice-President holds quarterly Council meetings with church leaders. Four board members regularly attend other committee meetings serving as board liaisons. Twice a year we hold a day-long board retreat on a Saturday to set goals for the year and then reflect on those goals. We are committed to our work.

I was reminded by the Right Relations Committee service last week just how much we come to this building, our home, to be nourished and to nourish others – every time we walk through those doors. And so it is being a board member – it is both practical work and a spiritual practice. As is custom, we light a chalice and hear a check in from the board members and attending staff, usually Rev. Kim, Robin Pugh, Susan Irgang and Hannah Gallo. Every meeting we keep our mission and covenant and goals top of mind as we move through our agenda. This year we have asked hard questions about how we understand our strategic role and how we should best function for the congregation. Our discussions are ethical, theological, and etymological (words matter and can carry a lot of baggage!)…we dive deep and we laugh a lot. We hold challenging discussions and make tough decisions that can result in surprising or even unpopular decisions but which can lead to unexpected or amazing results.

This year at our fall retreat we established four goals under the over-arching theme of Enhance Ownership and Engagement:

  1. Support the Capital Project
  2. Institutionalize the 8th Principle
  3. Nurture Leadership
  4. Cultivate a Growth Mindset in all that we do

As a strategic board, it can be difficult to point to any one thing and say “We made that happen!” Committees, ministries, the staff and individuals – YOU – make these goals reality after the board sets them in motion. So I am going to highlight some of YOUR results with the pride and gratitude of someone who knows they are a small part of a much greater whole.

The Board supports the Capital Project by being in communication about ongoing activities and decisions. Continuing with their charge the team interviewed and selected the best architect to meet our needs. His knowledge of the intricacies of NJ building codes and experience with designing for non-profits is extremely helpful. His preliminary plans meet many of our expectations for an improved space – but it is was the addition of the green, living archway in front of the building that told me this architect understands that this place is our home. Well done, Capital Project Team!

The Board is working on institutionalizing the 8th Principle by looking at its own practices and policies as well as supporting the Rational Justice Initiative in its work. This year we passed a motion stating: The Board respectfully requests that all committees, ministries, and staff, when considering engaging outside vendors or contractors, make a conscious effort to find and solicit vendors who are in a category that honors our 8th Principle: specifically, vendors who are people of color and other oppressed groups.
The Capital Project led in this effort by searching out architectural firms run by women and/or people of color and reaching out to them. However, none of them were able to take our project on due to their own full schedules. Thank you for being leaders in this, Capital Project Team.

Last year, the Board wrote a set of guidelines for groups to help incorporate a social justice lens when planning an event, meeting or activity. There was some hard, dedicated work by one group who used it last spring. This fall RJI reached out to all church groups and asked them to discuss three questions surrounding the 8th principle, as it is understood in their group. Food Ministry referred to the board’s guidelines to help them construct a conversation to answer the questions. The summary they gave at Council of that conversation was revelatory and beautiful and has already made their strong ministry even stronger. So, thank you RJI and thank you, Food Ministry.

Nurturing leadership in a community of diverse volunteers isn’t easy. The Bylaws Task Force appointed by the Board is a successful example of matching the right task with the right committed people and encouraging shared leadership. This group brilliantly pooled their knowledge, skills and curiosity to develop a more coherent and consistent document that I hope you are proud to vote for later in the meeting. “Who knew bylaws could be so much fun?!”

The board has enthusiastically supported the efforts of Liz and Brandon Rodenburg, originally of the Membership Committee, as they learned about Growth through Service, a program that identifies members’ passions and matches them with open volunteer opportunities on a church-wide scale. Their pilot program initiated this spring with a few trained interviewers and a variety of church leaders should inform them how to move forward and possibly pave the way for an assistant minister to more readily assist with Leadership Training. Thank you for your persistence and commitment, Liz and Brandon.

Utilizing the current structure of Council meetings, Rev. Kim and Nathalie Edmond have partnered to sustain the engagement of existing leaders. Higher-level programming aligned with the goals of UUCWC has fostered deep conversations and encouraged committees and ministries to participate in the larger work of the church. Thank you, Kim and Nathalie.

This spring it became very clear to the board that we needed to grow our staff. Our successful stewardship campaign took us closer to that possibility than we’ve ever been before. So, even though we would need to dip deeply into our robust reserve funds, the board approved a budget that included increasing our congregational manager position to full time and adding a half-time assistant minister. It was a well-considered, slightly terrifying leap of faith informed by our growth-mindset. And then, something amazing happened …the universe provided…or rather, promises were generously kept, grant monies came in, and…through the hard work of many people we are being asked to approve a nearly balanced budget today. Thank you all who made that happen.

Dear people of UUCWC – I hope you hear what I am saying – that because of YOU our union-our institution-our community is strong and our future is bright!

Being President of the Board these past two years has been challenging and rewarding – self-affirming and humbling. I thank the board for their commitment and laughter, I thank the staff for their wisdom and support, and I thank you all for the opportunity and honor to serve you in this capacity.