Hello, for those of you who don’t know me I am David Jackoway and my pronouns are he/him/his. I have had the honor of serving as President of the Board for the past two years and we will begin today’s meeting with my report.
Typically, a President’s Report reflects on the accomplishments of the past year, and we have had a very successful year. Jamie has become our full-time Director of Ministry. We’ve installed our solar panel array. We had a great auction. We’ve made significant upgrades to the Cottage. We’ve deepened our relationship with Faith in Indiana. And our membership numbers continue to increase. All of these achievements, and more, were only made possible through the efforts of Jamie, our talented, staff and all of you. Give yourself a round of applause.
But rather than focus on the past year I want to look ahead. Because I feel that this church, this community, just has so much energy right now, so much momentum. The question will be how to keep this momentum going.
This year we will be celebrating the church’s 40th anniversary and it will be a time to make important decisions about where we wish to go from here. What will the UUI of the future look like?
Let me share some thoughts about four issues we have begun grappling with over the past year or two that I think will shape our future.
The first is Ministry. As you are aware Jamie is on a path to becoming a minister and we are on a parallel path to decide what type of minister we want. Last year we made an affirmation that we believe in Jamie’s path and that UUI needs a full-time ministerial presence. But it is now time to move further along that path and to engage in a period of discernment about what type of ministerial presence is needed for the UUI of the future. Next year’s board will initiate that dialog.
Another challenge is financial. How will we sustain the future church? In the past we have relied on annual pledges and volunteer hours. It is an open question whether that model is one that resonates with new generations of Unitarian Universalists and one that can be maintained in uncertain economic times. Over the next few years we will need to decide whether to scale back our expenses and risk negatively impacting the momentum we have generated, or whether we can find additional means for funding the operations of the church. I imagine we may need to do a little of both. Fortunately, through the careful management of our financial resources by the members of the Finance Committee and the efforts of the Stewardship Committee over the past few years, and of course through the generosity of all of you, we are in very good fiscal shape as we work out these issues and find the best way to support UUI in the coming years.
A significant impact on our budget is the maintenance of our facilities. Over the past several years we have made a significant commitment to this campus so it can be expected that UUI will be at this location for the foreseeable future. Therefore, an issue we will be dealing with is how to optimize our use of these facilities as our membership continues to increase. This is the background for a recent Board decision and for another decision that may confront us in a few years. After several discussions with the School for Community Learning, who rents our facilities during the week, the Board decided that sharing this space with their school and our Religious Education program was not working out and attempts to improve the situation had not been successful. So, we notified the School that we do not intend to renew their lease two years from now, after the 2020-2021 school year.
Meanwhile have you noticed that attendance for Sunday service has been increasing and the sanctuary has been getting a little more crowded? If attendance continues to increase at its current pace then in a few years we may need to start planning for a move to two services, or some other approach for accommodating a larger worship service.
Another issue we have been working on also involves membership, specifically how to be a more diverse and inclusive congregation. This is an issue that is being addressed throughout Unitarian Universalism. It makes some of us uncomfortable, because being inclusive does not mean accepting others into our community as long as they adopt our norms – it means changing our norms so others feel included in the community. We have done this at times. For instance, we now accommodate various food preferences. We’ve begun reciting our covenant in both English and Spanish. An example of one change we could do to include people with differing gender identities is for all of us to put our pronouns on our nametags. The burden shouldn’t be on others to call out their pronouns, highlighting that they are somehow “different” from the rest of us. If everyone freely shares their identities then no one feels different, all are included.
Now these are minor changes. Larger ones may be more difficult – such as changes in worship, music, bathrooms, even how we run meetings like this – but I believe we can make significant strides forward if we remember what we are trying to accomplish. We are not trying to replace the norm of one group with the norm of another group. We are trying to create a community which includes and respects everyone.
As we deal with these issues and others over the next few years, I am reminded of what Jamie says as we welcome new members. We do not exist for our members, but we could not exist without our members... We do not exist for our members. As we make decisions about these issues remember – we are not making them for ourselves, we are making them for the UUI of the future.