Senior Minister’s Annual Report for 2014-15
Posted by Rev Roger
Posted on May 16, 2015
Senior Minister’s Report for 2014-15
Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento
For the Congregational Meeting of May 17, 2015
I supervise and rely on the good work of our Assistant Minister, RE Coordinator, Pianist, and Interim Choir Director (served in a volunteer capacity by Meg for the past two years, saving us money and building the choir with musical challenges and a spirit of camaraderie). I am so thankful that the Proposed Budget incudes raising Rev. Lucy’s position to full time, giving us two full-time ministers, the number we had for over a decade before the cuts in 2013. I am also fired up that the budget includes funding again for a Choir Director. After the Congregational vote, we’ll hire someone to serve us August to through May.
It has been a joy to see the choir and congregation respond so much to Ina, who started last August as our Sunday and choir accompanist. I also appreciate the continuity and conscientious good work provided by our RE and administrative staff members at the home base: Miranda, Stanton, Michele, Elaine, and Luna, their mascot. Our custodians keep the home base clean and arrive early at Sierra Arden to set up for us. Thank you!
I am grateful for the diverse gifts which Rev. Lucy brings and so generously shares with this congregation. Her guidance and support of lay leaders, staff members, and me have kept us on track, clear-minded, confident, and sane. Her preaching, teaching, pastoral care, staff leadership, new program initiatives, and financial wisdom have brought this congregation forward in so many ways in such a short time.
Worship and Music and Hospitality
Our Lay Worship Leaders and Membership Teams (Greeters, Coffee Hosts and Membership Committee) have made extra efforts to make UUSS a welcoming place while holding services away from home. They do a rapid turnaround before and after every service, but without failing to show a smile while greeting visitors and members alike. Of course, even a strong committee cannot substitute for a warm and welcoming congregation. Thank you for reaching out and getting to know folks.
The UUSS congregation has been enriched this year by new members, local residents who are new to UUism and also by those who have moved here from out of state and looked for a UU home right away. Several families and members of the UU Community Church of Sacramento (which discontinued services last summer) also have chosen to worship with UUSS and become pledging friends or full members of this congregation. It’s a blessing to know them, to have them here, and to enlarge our sense of who “we” are, and what we might be together.
Lucy and I enjoy working with the Religious Services Committee to plan services and review how the services have gone. Much talent and preparation goes into making their Sunday service presence and their messages something we can be proud of.
I hope you’ve noted the variety of sermon topics, service structures, musical alternatives, and guest speakers that our services have included this year. In particular, we launched monthly all-ages services. The high points of these embodied services had themes of water (ingathering), earth (planting), air (singing), and fire (blessing).
Board of Trustees and Program Council
Rev. Lucy and I work frequently with the Board, and more often with the Executive Committee and appreciate their time, care, good will and generosity on behalf of the congregation. Our Board has worked hard this year, especially in fundraising and fund-watching. (Those salad bar luncheons are part of their fundraising commitment to the operating budget!)
The trustees and ministers appreciate the good work of the Building Project Steering Committee, Project Delivery Team, and Funding Team. They also appreciate the Endowment Trust’s offer of an interest-bearing loan to UUSS to save money that would otherwise go to a bank; this reduces the amount needed of a higher-cost loan.
I’ve met every month with the Program Council. This group (five elected people and one Trustee liaison) works to support and keep in touch with the various program committees at UUSS and submit a combined budget request. It tries to stay abreast of which volunteers to recognize each month with a handwritten thank-you note. When UUSS is no longer a church in a box with limited Sunday morning time, the Council can support and sponsor more community-building activities back at home.
Religious Education and All-Ages Community Building
Nursery attendance has been strong with many new families or new babies or both. We’ve had continuity in our nursery staff and RE Coordinator position. We have some of the strongest teacher teams and guest presenters I’ve seen in Spirit Play and our Youth Groups. Spirit Play leaders plan to split the program into two groups in fall: grades 3-4-5 together, and grades 1-2 joined by K and Pre-K children.
Attendance by families with kids older than Kindergarten age has been weak since our move away. I am eager to see if returning home to a beautiful new space will inspire renewed attendance by member families. Indeed, some parents are planning to refurbish additional RE rooms, including the Room 11 Nursery. We have had many families seek us out while meeting at Sierra Arden Church this year, and we can hold more events and activities to bring those families together.
If we have enough youth to participate this fall, I will lead a Youth Coming of Age series (with volunteer leadership), which is for youth in grades 8, 9, and 10.
UUSS Games Night concluded in April after three years of monthly fun in the Fahs Room. Our Gen X – Boomers fellowship group continues to have fun and build friendships for those born 1946-1980, give or take. We’ve had a revitalized UU Young Adult contingent for those in their 20s and 30s, with monthly lunch after church and ideas for other activities together, thanks to Derek, who was involved in a successful group at the San Francisco church, where he also was a Sunday School teacher.
Adult Enrichment is very strong here, in addition to the nine Spiritual Deepening Circles launched in fall. A few strong Ministry Circles that still function after a decade. Thanks to the cheerful presence of Adult Enrichment after every service, folks can learn about and sign up for the varied programs offered by ministers and volunteer leaders.
Theater One began here in 1960, and this community theater ministry seems more vital than ever, with strong actors doing wonderful plays on innovative and lovely sets. Thanks to our awesome directors, also! This year they put on a new play (by Lonon) in a downtown theater, adapted the Fahs Room to be a studio theater, and launched a theater for family-friendly plays like “Jungle Book,” thanks to Susan and Jill. Cheers!
Our supportive, wise and encouraging fundraising consultant did not leave us after we made $1.2 million in commitments in the 2012 Capital Campaign. He stayed with us as supporters paid their commitments through 2014. Nor did Bud Swank forget us when cost estimates went way up in early 2013. He coached us through our conversations and reflections about moving forward. We get calls from other UU churches that want to follow in our footsteps and hire Bud to help them turn their dreams into generous giving and keep the momentum of progressive religion going strong.
Not only have most folks paid off their early commitments, additional support has continued to come in from members and friends. We haven’t had to draw down any of the authorized bank financing as of yet. While our Building Project volunteers and our staff keep close eyes on spending and construction progress, our shared excitement has generated inspiring generosity among members and friends here.
Operating Budget Stewardship and Fundraising
For nearly three years, month after month, our Stewardship Volunteers have made us aware that the spirit of generosity and spirit of gratitude are alive and well at UUSS. These virtues are played out in many ways beyond financial giving and receiving. However, we know that the vitality of UUSS depends on our shared support–and not on any outside funder. Stewardship of our values, our community connections and our programs takes money, time and good will. This team’s labors have kept the financial pledges coming in and thank you notes going out. Testimonials by youth and adults, members’ published reflections on Stewardship, and an artistic, visual presence on Sundays have kept the conversation going.
In addition to the lifeline of regular monthly pledges, we had a lovely silent auction, dinner, raffle, and cake walk last month. Making use of guidance by another UU friendly consultant (David Sobon Auctions), we slimmed down this event for the smaller space away from home, to the result of higher bidding, more fun, an earlier ending time, and revenues of $20,000, 10% over the goal! Thanks to this excellent team and to all those who led Soup Sundays, Salad Sundays, Coffee Sunday, and several others.
Social Action, Service and Generosity to the Larger Community
We share every Sunday morning offering with 12 organizations in the larger community, sending $23,000 beyond our walls to support good work that reflects our values. (Members vote every October to choose the 12 recipient agencies.) We receive thank you letters from grateful community organizations; let Michele or me know if you’d like to see them. In addition, UUSS folks this year have given large donations to My Sister’s House (at Ina’s piano recital), Free the Slaves (at the Kids’ Freedom Club pancake breakfast), River City Food Bank (on Christmas Eve), Mustard Seed School and the UUA’s Living Tradition Fund (both at the Installation Ceremony).
Yet our giving is more than monetary. Here are a few of our UUSS ministries:
· American River Parkway Saturday morning cleanup
· Faithful Friends/Amigos Fieles visiting immigrants detained in jails by ICE
· Cooking and serving lunch at Loaves and Fishes
· Raising awareness and building coalitions in our new Earth Justice Ministry
· Serving meals at St. John’s Program for Real Change
· Kids Freedom Club, raising awareness and money to stop modern slavery
· Hosting homeless guests overnight (at Sierra Arden Church!) in Family Promise
· Linking to UU Justice Ministry of California (May 18 is Immigrant Justice Day)
· No doubt I’ve missed something. Feel free to add it in the Comments section!
UUSS has just been accepted by the Pacific Central District Growth Committee for a Chalice Lighter grant of up to $12,000 for part of our A/V system for the new sanctuary! I wrote the grant application. (Don’t know Chalice Lighters? Think “crowd-funding” with envelopes in the mail for growth-related projects in UU congregations.) We all will be invited to join Chalice Lighters.
This year we’ve had two pulpit appearances by Dr. Josh Searle-White, soon leaving the Pacific Central District after two years, to return to a faculty position in Pennsylvania. Our Pledge Drive Kickoff sermon was delivered by Mr. Jim Key, who holds the highest elected volunteer position of UUA Moderator (chairing the UUA Board and General Assembly). Two Unitarian seminary professors from our sister denomination in Transylvania (a region of Romania) have preached here this year.
Several longtime and new members are going to the UUA General Assembly in Portland. Congrats to our Youth Trustee Charlotte, who has been appointed to the Board of the UUA’s Pacific Central District; Charlotte and I attended the April District Assembly. Meg attended the UU Musicians’ Network conference last summer, and we hope the new budget can reimburse the cost of attending for our next choir director.
Our biggest denominational involvement this year was the Installation Ceremony, a high point in my ministry and my life, and a high-energy event for this community. Thank you so much to the donors, the singers, the hosts the volunteers, and of course the voters. It was glorious. We had dozens of UU and interfaith clergy here, good words from our UU Member of Congress, and a generous offering to the UUA Living Tradition Fund and our local Mustard Seed School. Thanks to the Board for their gift and to the cooks and organizers for the gorgeous reception. I could feel the love, and I feel it still.
Yours in service,
Rev. Roger Jones, Senior Minister