by Maria Baratta, President, UUCWC Board of Trustees
We are entering the third year of a global pandemic and our church is not just surviving, but thriving. This is not to say we haven’t had losses or hardship; we have. But overall, we find that connections remain strong. Multi-platform attendance levels remain high with people really connecting to the rituals and sermons.
The committees, teams, ministries, volunteers and staff who keep our church dynamic and nurture both our members and communities continue to re-imagine what it means to “Celebrate Life. Create Community. Change the World.”
We thank every single person who participates in church life by attending services; being engaged in a small group program or children’s RE; volunteering their time; offering their talent; following through on their annual pledge; making an end-of-year gift; participating in the annual auction; attending events, programs, and singalongs; or engaging in any of the many vibrant offerings available at UUCWC. Each of you is our church.
And we still exist in a pandemic.
At our spring retreat, one Board member provided a great analogy as to how we can think of life at UUCWC. Think of the first 2 years of the pandemic as like being on a turbulent airplane flight to a vacation spot with a landing that is continually delayed. We keep circling and circling the airport, over and over again. Finally, the plane lands. Upon landing, half the passengers jump up and are ready to run out of the gate and start their vacation, and have forgotten the miserable flight. Others are a little more tentative and take their time getting off the plane because they are somewhat wiped out from the very unpleasant experience. The last group of travelers are still sitting on the plane with their head in their hands, feeling nauseous and quivering. They will emerge slowly and will need extra time to settle themselves.
We all know which passenger group we belong to in this analogy and need to be mindful of how we view the other groups. Some of us were ready to jump back into pre-pandemic life as soon as the first wave ended in 2020; some have been slowly testing the waters to determine what feels safest for them; while others are still struggling with an overwhelming sense of disruption wrought by the pandemic and its effect on them and their families.
UUCWC’s Board has tried to meet the holistic needs of our congregation during this time. We’ve tried to provide a measured approach to our re-opening that puts safety first for all our members, friends and families. And in the process we’ve learned that many people have truly embraced our multi-platform Sunday services and faith engagement programs.
We have many things to lift up and celebrate this year. This is all possible because of the ongoing commitment of our staff and members. We celebrate that:
- The pandemic allowed our Minister and Director of Lifespan Faith Engagement to put into practice small group programming they’ve been working on for a few years. Connections among congregants in small groups are stronger and deeper than ever, including new members, virtual members, grandparents, etc. Some of these participants have only experienced church interactions virtually. Of our current membership, 10% have joined during the pandemic without ever having been inside our church building.
- Through our online presence we are striving for better accessibility. Continuing to consider the ways in which multi-platform church impacts our congregation’s future is a worthy investment. This is an exciting and hopeful time for us to experiment and create change to meet the new needs of post-pandemic life as well as discover what people desire in congregational life. We are on a threshold, waiting to see how things will evolve over time in a way we can’t yet fully envision.
- We are forming and growing new connections, like a root system growing underground that nurtures the whole forest. The church staff, both existing and new, has been key to tracking, fostering, understanding and promoting these connections, and is actively engaged in continual discernment on how to reimagine an inclusive church that serves everyone. With new staff positions, there is a reduction in the demand for certain volunteer responsibilities needed to sustain our core operations. This allows members to volunteer and participate in more meaningful ways with less pressure.
- For the past several years, our leadership has reviewed the internal workings of UUCWC and made appropriate revisions. Thanks to the work of the Right Relations Team and Racial Justice Ministry, we are making headway in addressing and correcting our own internal systems, shifting away from practices based in white supremacy toward more inclusive and multicultural ways of working together.
- Our Stewardship Team, Audit Team, Finance Committee and others have instituted financial safeguards, including hiring a controller and addressing other vulnerabilities identified in an audit of our processes.
- Our Capital Campaign Team remains hard at work. They’ve been working through formidable challenges resulting from the pandemic, including major supply chain disruptions, COVID infections stalling the work of engineers and contractors, impacts of inflation and more. The Board is looking forward to seeing the new plans once a contract proposal is brought to them, and to hearing feedback once the plans are shared with the rest of the congregation. In the meantime, we continue to lift up the ongoing work of the team.
- We thank everyone who responded so generously to the call of our Stewardship Team this year. Our pledging households have risen to the challenge and your generosity is so greatly appreciated. 176 households have submitted their pledges for the coming year for an average increase of 8%. Even more encouraging is that for the 47% of households that increased their pledges, the average increase is 29%.
- We have taken the time to celebrate Caryl Tipton’s tenure as our Director of Music, while preparing for the upcoming transition when Erin Busch will step into this position and bring our music program forward, building on Caryl’s legacy. Our choir brings joy and energy to every service in which they sing.
- With an expectation for growth as the pandemic ebbs, we are hiring a part-time Director of Faith Engagement to tend to the needs of our children and youth, while Robin rolls back her position to 3/4 time to focus on adult programming.
- The ingenuity and creativity of leaders and their teams has kept their missions going strong during times of uncertainty. This includes our always-amazing Auction Team that continues to bring in our most significant revenue outside of pledges; the lay leaders of Chalice Circles, Wellspring, Creative Matters Studio, and children’s faith engagement programs that inspire and engage our members and children to think about their faith and spirituality in new ways; our fabulous Tech Team who make multi-platform services seamless, so that everyone who attends feels drawn in and welcome; our always-ready Food Ministry that continues to serve the needs of our neighbors with food insecurity by providing healthy nourishing meals; our Pastoral Care team that continues to support and attend to members who need our love and attention when facing challenging times in their lives; the Friday Night Singalong leaders, who have kept people’s spirits up and offered community when we needed it most – and all the other leaders and volunteers who make up the heart and soul of our church community.
For all the ways in which every single member, friend and staff person contributes to our church life, the Board of Trustees humbly thanks you. We’re so glad to share in the journey with you.