The Minutes from the May 19, 2019 Congregational Meetings are posted below:
We Begin in Covenant
Call to order and welcoming was provided by Carol Ann Arvan.
Chalice lighting: Bill Kramer read the UUCA Covenant of Healthy Relationships Appointment of Process Observer: Carol Ann appointed Sharon Glass to be process observer.
Our Democratic Process
Carol Ann reviewed our democratic process and meeting protocols:
participants must use appropriate microphone (pro, con, or procedural;) comments were limited to 2 minutes per speaker; no one may speak a second time until all have spoken; there will be a 60 minute limit for all discussion; and members should be given every opportunity to present view only if relevant to motion on the floor.
Carol Ann appointed meeting Mary Ann Oakley Parliamentarian for the meeting Carol Ann appointed tellers and determined that we had a quorum.
Approval of Minutes of December 2018 Congregational Meeting
Jennifer Thilo made a motion to approve the minutes of December 2018; the motions received a second from Dave Spierman, and the minutes were approved.
Election of Trustees, Officers, and Nominating Committee
Kay Johnson moved to approve the slate of candidates presented by the nominating committee. It was seconded and the following slate was elected: Christian Harden, President; Jennifer Thilo, President-Elect; Jen Bain, Trustee; John Duggar, Trustee; Sean Golan, Trustee; Jon Johnson for Trustee for one year term. For Nominating Committee the following were elected: Susan Lefler, Susan Wilson, and Alice Harvey for 2 year terms. There was no discussion and the motions were unanimously approved.
Mid-Year Report from the Finance Trustee-Bryce Thomason
Bryce Thomason gave a report to answer the most commonly asked questions he hears. The budget has been revised to reflect our current situation (due to unexpected changes which occurred this year) and we will ask congregation to approve this revised budget. Bryce began with the parable of the boy who cried wolf. We proposed a reduced budget due to reduced pledges last year. We were not crying wolf, but projected a lean budget based on declining pledges and grim prospects. At the meeting in December, the congregation reacted passionately to the prospect of eliminating the social justice position and stepped up to the challenge by increasing pledges. Last year at this time we were at Cliff Valley. Since then, we purchased 1190 aka “the tree house,” lost our finance trustee, learned of Rev.
Makhar’s imminent departure and made Taryn Strauss our Acting Senior Minister. Due to all of these substantial changes, the Board of Trustees feels that the most responsible course of action is to present a modified budget and ask the congregation for approval. Numerous changes in expenses and income are reflected in the new budget.
Increased Expenses: The new budget entirely funds the Social Justice position from operating budget due to the increase in pledges. (The congregation applauded.) It adds a partial Director of Religious Education position (more applause) and part time membership coordinator position, an increase in expenses is allocated to pay employee pensions at the UUA 6% required amount.
Increased Revenue: The pledge amounts and payments on pledges have increased. Donations are also up by $23,000. Of course, these have been offset by losses in rental income, gallery sales, etc. Nonetheless we continue to be up $18,000.
We present a cautious budget. Expenses are down $16,758. from last year and we are under budget. Gary, Travis and Bryce have spent hundreds of hours cleaning up the prior books. There was no indication of improper behavior, funds were simply allocated improperly and inconsistently and the journal entries had to be untangled. All reports will be posted by the end of the month and have been compiled by McGinness. We will continue to employ McGinness who have been training staff on best practices.
We are in good hands.
Bryce introduce members of the finance committee Jon Johnson, Carol Ann Arvan, Bill Kramer, Christian Harden, and also recognized staff members: Travis Vaughn and Gary Youngblood.
Your generosity has made all the difference. Our budget reflects the love and passion of our congregation. When the going got tough, the tough got going. This is not a moment to relax and back off. This is the time to continue the momentum. At North Druid Hills we will create an even better place for our community and change the world.
This January, a search team interviewed and after careful consideration, recommended Coxe Curry and Associates which the Board of Trustees approved. Coxe Curry recommended the formation of a small task force to help gather background information to create foundation for the study. Coxe Curry used our overwhelming majority of votes for Option 4 as a vision to present. Monday the Project Phoenix team met with our architect, Fiona; Choate Construction; and Coxe Curry at our new building. Following that, a “visioning meeting” was held to discuss the opportunities option 4 represents. Coxe Curry will take 4 weeks to meet with Project Phoenix and Executive, and draft preliminary case for report, after which they will take 4-6 weeks to interview congregants. These interviews will capture hopes, concerns and feelings about UUCA and our building. Please be open and honest if you are contacted and know that all responses will be kept anonymous. After this, Coxe Curry will report to us their findings and recommendations.
Bill Kramer moved that we approve revised 2019 Budget, Sharon Glass seconded. There were no questions or discussion. The budget was unanimously approved.
Report from the Endowment Fund
Eric Pohl reported that the Endowment Fund is a tax except foundation to allow for donations for the future prosperity of UUCA. It is supported by donations from your will, funds donated in recognition of bequests, Birthday club donations, and Amazon smile. You may donate on UUCA.com. Asset value is currently $1,022,175. as of April 30, 2019. This is an increase of 18% over a year ago. Our goal is to have three times our annual budget which gives us a goal of about 3 million. We have 56 legacy society members and 111 Birthday club members. Per our charter, up to 3% of assets are available for grants each year. We had sizeable bequests from Mary Sherman Barbara Burnham this year and a 25% increase in Birthday Club donations.
The Endowment Fund Board of Directors are: Eric Pohl, President; Mary Crawley, Secretary; Ron Frank; Laura De Castro, Vice President; Johan Grayton, Treasurer; Kay Golan, Godfrey Oakley; David Sjoquist; and DeAnn Peterson
Report from the Ministers
Because Anthony is at minster candidate week, Rev. Taryn Strauss presented the ministers’ report. Taryn opened the meeting with her word for this past year: “Joy” and led us in the song “there is more joy this year.”
Anthony’s goal was to successfully manage the transition. That goal has taken the most time, energy, and talent of the staff team this year. This is the biggest thing we have all done this year. The congregation applauded. We have worked hard creating a welcoming feeling in our temporary home. New hires include: Elizabeth Schreibfeder, RE Administrative Assistant; Ayanna Stringer, Youth Coordinator; Jeep Hook, Director of Audio Visual, Francella Perryman, Social Justice Coordinator; and Travis Vaugh, Office Administrator. On-boading new staff into new roles has been a big part of the work this year.
New Programs: A rapid response action has been developed. For example, during the Kavanaugh hearings we had a response of creating a sacred space at UUCA for those traumatized by this. We had rapid response to the family separation crisis and took part in a march. We currently are responding to the abortion ban by participating in an action held this Tuesday. We are providing a monthly Social Justice update and have formed a “Social Justice League” of congregants. We’d love more congregants to join. The congregation also coordinated efforts in feeding hungry and helping homeless. The Small Group Ministry started out very strong and shows promise to “Be the Glue” that holds our congregation together in Covenant. It will start again this year. We launched a UU young adult group which meets twice a month. This is led by Sean Golan and A next generation group was also founded.
Another new program is Nicole’s communications team: which consists of Kay Golan, Christine Strain, and Maria Dangerfield. We now have an Outreach and Visitation Team (which is a spin-off of the Lay Ministry) to visit with those who have difficulty coming to the building. Mary Crawly ,Nina West, Jerry Robison, Diana Forrest etc. This team also sends cards. We have a new children’s worship program with two people leading thi. Children worship for 15 minutes first, and have education second. The RE team is strong and teachers are more equipped and empowered. Our new membership directory will be out this summer. We have new partnerships. We are connected with the nearby John Lewis Elementary school, which is 98% Latinx, and have brought them school supplies, snacks, and technical support. We are partnered with Every Woman Works and Nicole is further generating connections. Our Christmas Pageant, directed by Karen Welter, was spectacular this year. Our seventh Principle Sunday was celebrated on Earth day and will be honored annually. We invigorated the tradition of the annual retreat with help from many, but especially Kay Johnson. 115 attended. We also held the ordination of
Reverend Taryn Strauss, so many made it wonderful, again, especially Kay Johnson. Our mandala celebration was also very successful.
Growth: Children’s Religious Education grew by 40% in registration, and nearly as much in attendance. Teacher recruitment did very well. Registration has already begun for next year. We have an increase in visitors for Inquirers and Worship. Our attendance has not dropped at all after moving to this new space, but has instead increased.
Challenges: This year, making church happen in this space took twice the work. Over 400 people attended the Moravian, however it was much more time consuming to make it happen in the new building. The challenge of this time is that the logistics of our space can make even formerly simple things challenging. Staff feel that they have been working harder than ever for the same results. Taryn wants to acknowledge this. The Bookkeeping challenges have taken many hours. Losing the Congregational Life Director has been a big administrative loss. We hope to remedy this by hiring a new membership director. Communication has been a challenge. The City ended and the bulletin has not felt very successful for everyone. This has created what feels like a gap. Nicole is working with the communications team to either improve the Bulletin or find a new platform. Moving from two ministers to one minister will represent a challenge in the future. Taryn expressed her desire for worship to be excellent and beautiful and awe inspiring, as well as having excellence in all of the rights of passage service, and in staff management, pastoral care, and managing all of the other needs of our congregation. Taryn hopes to rely on the Lay Ministry and congregation for support to assure that all of our UUCA services are excellent and inspiring.
Word(s) for this coming year: Dreams and Vision. We are going to enter a time of dreaming. We may have a movement choir this year. Lay ministers and choir may visit those who are transitioning to sing and minister. Interfaith Public Policy Center will engage us in working on public policy. Taryn would like to bring us to more Interfaith forums in Atlanta. There is talk of producing a podcast regularly. Don and Taryn have been studying with Martha McFee’s Worship Design Studio. Martha McFee has written a book “Thinking like a Director.” We will have a full website re-design this summer. We have hired a web developer to help us create a simpler easier to use website. Coxe Curry will be sending out a survey to help capture who we are. Please do take part in the survey. Knowing that this is a time of dreaming, do not be a stranger. My door is always open to you.
Report from the Board President – Carol Ann Arvan
When we last gathered in December, Carol Ann explained the Board of Trustees Role. (See list of Board Activities.) Carol Ann gave the congregation the Board “report card.” Listening to Congregation: The BOT formed Donuts and Discussion, held listening circles, wrote letters, took part in presentations, encouraged uses of Board@UUCA.org for questions and held town halls.
Review Ministers Goals and Actions: each month the BOT monitored the ministers actions in part utilizing the ministers executive report, which was shared by the board. Review UUCA financial results: Bryce Thomason did an excellent job doing this and worked with staff and consultants to resolve past inaccuracies. Project Phoenix is a board committee which has been led by David Spierman, Trustee, DeAnn Peterson. Frame UUCA Justice Focus: This year the Board of Trustees considered the open question: what is the woundedness in Atlanta we want to heal, and the board discussed this every month. Jon Johnson led this effort, and presented to the congregation, the wound of Poverty as a unifying focus for our diverse social justice efforts. The ARAOMC Team initiated a variety of educational programs. The Healthy Relations Team conducted meetings with ministers and congregants and laid the groundwork for a structured Healthy Relations Team to help keep the congregation in covenant. A proposal which has been shared with the Board will be implemented by the next board. We are comparing to other large congregations.
Evaluate and Monitor UUCA policies: This year we did not focus a lot on policy, primarily focused on minister PEM.
Bylaw Committee was formed because at times the bylaws were not as clear and helpful as we would hope. The committee has been formed, and consists of many past presidents, and will do more work in the future. Stewardship: This year we changed back to an annual pledge effort rather than year round. Unplanned Board Activities: We had to plan for Rev Makar’s unexpected leaving and Taryn Strauss’ moving into the Acting Senior Minister position. These unexpected challenges took much of the Board time in recent months. This is a working Board. Carol Ann thanked the board for all for hard work, thanking each one in turn for their special qualities.
Why We Serve: to help advance the lifesaving and world-changing message of UU, to remain strong and relevant, to honor our ancestors, to serve our neighbors, and to plan for tomorrow. We make service a spiritual practice.
The journey is more important, in the long run, than the destination. We are on this roller coaster together.
There were no special reports.
Observer’s insights-Sharon Glass
Yes, we observed our covenant. There was lots of humor and good will, and no observed conflict. We remained on task and stuck to the agenda. ARAOMC was honored. The high moment occurred while thanking Carol Ann and low energy was felt while reading procedures. Another high moment was recognizing Taryn’s ordination.
Christian Harden came to the podium as the new President of the Board of Trustees. A gift from the Board was given to Carol Ann in appreciation for her excellent leadership and tireless efforts. Christian introduced himself and shared a bit about himself.
Extinguishing the Chalice and Closing Words
Dave Spierman gave closing words, concluding with “May the light around us guide our footsteps…”
Adjournment: BOT President, Christian Harden, called the meeting Adjourned