by Jamie Evanini, Trustee, Board of Trustees
I’ve been thinking of the lines of a song we listened to at February 24th’s Church Council meeting, a gathering of representatives from all of UUCWC’s committees and ministries and any other interested members and friends:
“This joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me. The world didn’t give it, the world can’t take it away.” (Listen to the song here.)
After updates about the work of our staff, committees and ministries, Rev. Kim asked us to think about the question, “What couldn’t be taken away this year?” What struck me in listening to each part of the night’s agenda was that the mission of UUCWC and the relationships that make up our congregation are still here, and, despite all we have faced in the last year, hanging in there quite well! The world didn’t give us our mission (“Create Community. Celebrate Life. Change the World.”) — we gave it to ourselves. The world didn’t build our relationships — we built those ourselves. No matter what is going on in the world, our Unitarian Universalist mission and our relationships are here, and they have work to do, whether times are good or tough, just or unjust.
With our mission and relationships as our compass, we have been able to navigate one uncertain situation after another. And often, our dynamic responses lead to…things turning out really well! We heard many examples of this at Wednesday’s Council meeting.
Within weeks of the pandemic shutdown, our 2020 Auction team had to figure out how to do an all-virtual event — and it turned out to be a smashing success.
Because of social distancing, the Food Ministry was suddenly unable to prepare weekly hot meals in the UUCWC kitchen. Mike Muccioli reported that they have pivoted to preparing meal bags with shelf stable foods outdoors. And now, with the input of the Re-Opening Task Force, they’ve figured out a way to use the Crossings Room in a safe, socially-distanced way to pack those bags when there’s inclement weather.
The Council for Faith in Action (CFA) (of which Food Ministry is a part) also pivoted in 2020. In response to the economic fallout of the pandemic, CFA chose to focus on combating food insecurity in our area. Since July 2020, CFA has distributed more than $12,000 to food banks in the Trenton area and Bucks County.
The pandemic also brought financial concerns to UUCWC. The Finance Committee responded to the uncertain situation in a number of ways, such as revisiting the budget every three months, applying for a Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) loan, and refinancing the church’s mortgage. The Stewardship Committee refashioned the Holiday Year-End Giving campaign to be conducted by Zoom, email and mail, and set a lower fundraising goal than the budgeted $17,000. Finance Committee chair Mary Baltycki reported on Wednesday that we’re in a strong financial position despite the pandemic, and our Holiday Year-End Campaign ended up bringing in more than $30,000, far exceeding expectations! As Mary said, this is quite “a statement about the importance of the church in everyone’s lives.”
Hoping to streamline our congregational life amidst the complexity of COVID, Rev. Kim led UUCWC to adopt the Simple Church framework, which focuses on three key areas: worship, small groups, and service. At Wednesday’s Council meeting, Robin Pugh, our Director of Lifespan Religious Engagement, reported that small-group Chalice Circle participation has grown from twenty-two people in three groups to sixty-two people in eight groups. And each is discovering that small-group connections provide a great way to practice being Unitarian-Universalists in covenant.
As we head further into 2021, we know we will face new and sometimes unexpected circumstances. But our mission and our relationships are still here, and with them as a guide, the work of the church goes on. On Wednesday, Barbara Drew from the 2021 Auction Committee reported that this year’s Auction, “Together Wherever We Are”, will be online from May 1st to May 8th, and will include a preview party on Friday, April 30th at 7 pm. Susan Vigilante and Jaymie Trott from the Capital Campaign Committee shared updates on the recent bids received from contractors. The bids were higher than hoped-for, and the committee is currently figuring out next steps. They are working with contractors to determine if they can get to lower numbers, considering a scaled down version of the plans, and looking into possible UUA loans and grants. Sandy Muccioli of the Nominating Committee reported that the committee is undergoing some changes in order to improve the nominating process. It will now be known as the Congregational Engagement Committee and will undertake some new practices, like interviewing every member over the course of every two to three years to help people more fully participate in congregational life by matching their interests to UUCWC’s needs.
Our experiences over this last unprecedented year should bolster our confidence that UUCWC has the guiding mission and relationships to face the moments that will come. Our mission is more important than ever, and we are all in this together. The world can’t take that away.