From the President's Desk
There is an undeniable feeling of hope and excitement surrounding UCN this fall. New ideas and enthusiasm abound. Everyone I talk to has been eager to pitch in and work on improving and sustaining our community.
We have already seen some encouraging results from our increased advertising efforts. The Worship Committee has an exciting lineup of speakers and services for us. We are imagining new ways to organize information and classes so we can reach more people.
I found the following poem that perfectly expresses my feelings about UCN right now:
A child stood on his seat in a restaurant,
holding the railing of the chairback
as though to address a courtroom,
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen next.”
Then his turning-slide back down to his food,
relieved and proud to say the truth,
as were we to hear it.
Let’s savor the excitement of the unknown while we continue to speak the truth.
Summer is upon us. We have said good-bye to Rev. Julie and Rev. Joyce. This church year is coming to an end and a new church year beginning. There will be many changes and new people in leadership. That is good and the way it should be. A new hope reigns at UCN.
I am leaving you with a poem written by Rebecca Parker for you to think about this summer:
Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be---
Can be used to bless or curse this world.
The mind’s power, the strength of the hands, the reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting,
Any of these can serve to feed the hungry, bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger, praise what is scared,
Do the work of justice or offer love.
Any of these can draw down the prison door,
Hoard bread, abandon the poor,
Obscure what is holy, comply with injustice,
Or withhold love.
You must answer this question: What will you do with your gifts?
Choose to bless the world.
The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
To search for the sources of power and grace;
Native wisdom, healing and liberation.
More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared, the heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle, the importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise, the comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth,
Its chorus of life welcoming you.
None of us alone can save the world.
Together—that is another possibility, waiting.
Thank you for all you do-
We have said farewell to Rev. Julie. I hope you had a chance to participate. Soon we will say farewell to Rev. Joyce. The Religious Education Director search committee is already at work trying to find a replacement for Rev. Joyce. If you know someone who would be good for the job, please contact Betsy Muellenbach or Pat Flanagan or Karen Ringlien.
We almost made our goal for the pledge campaign. If you are able to s t r e t c h a little more, please contact Jim Grace or Lyn Gust at the office. If you are among the 20 or so we have not heard from, please contact Lyn and let her know if you are changing your status (like moving or resigning or didn’t get your pledge information). We need to hear from you.
The Nominating Committee is busy getting a slate of officers and committee chairs ready for the Annual Meeting. The committee is Leigh Hoftiezer (Chair), Mike Martin, Ed Ahrenhoerster, Karen Ringlien, and Amber Elsner-Miller. If you would like to be a committee chair or Trustee, please contact someone on the committee.
Party of the year! May 30th! Bring you, your friends, your relatives, and have a blast. There will be good food, wine, beer, desserts and ways to spend your money. We have a silent auction, raffle and live auction.
Dates to Remember
May 10th- Barn Banter on the Budget
May 17th- Barn Banter on the By-Laws
May 31st- Annual Meeting
Thank you for all you do-
Spring has sprung at least a little bit. We are not overwhelmed with color yet, but the possibility of such is looking brighter. The possibility of new growth at UCN is brighter also. We are here to support and nurture our young ones and each other. We celebrate with new and old members a deepening commitment to UCN.
It is in everyone’s best interest to say farewell to Rev. Julie well.
This can mean either attending or hosting some sort of farewell gathering, or posting a note to her, or meeting with her directly either at UCN or a café or coffee shop. When a minister leaves, we all have some emotional response. April is the right time to get in touch with these emotions and talk to each other and to Rev. Julie.
UCN will be different without a minister, and it will require everyone to step up to a higher commitment of leadership and support. You are needed to be part of the new UCN. Janet Jensen is putting into place a volunteer/jobs list where we will be asking people to do the work of the church. If you know of something you want to work on, contact Janet.
“Making a Difference” - If you have not sent in your pledge for this coming year, please do so now or bring it to church with you.
We cannot create a budget for next year without knowing how much money we will have coming in. The budget needs to be created now so you can vote on it at the Annual Meeting on May 17th. So please search your hearts and pledge generously. UCN makes a difference in lives in Ozaukee and Milwaukee counties and in our lives and where we live. We can create a new path for UCN together.
The Nominating Committee is busy getting a slate of officers and committee chairs ready for the Annual Meeting. The committee is Leigh Hoftiezer (Chair), Mike Martin, Ed Ahrenhoerster, Karen Ringlein, and Amber Elsner-Miller. If you would like to be President-Elect or Co-President-Elect or a committee chair or Trustee, please contact someone on the committee.
Party of the year! Bring yourself, your friends, your relatives, and have a blast. There will be good food, wine, beer, desserts and ways to spend your money. We have a silent auction, raffle and live auction. Pick up your auction information and donate stuff and buy stuff and enjoy.
Thank you for all you do-
Welcome Back Rev. Julie!
Please join me in a warm welcome for Rev. Julie’s return. We will celebrate her service at UCN with some sort of party at the end of April. If you have ideas or want to be part of the group working on this, please call me or email me. Her six years of service have affected us all in many ways. I hope her sabbatical has been rewarding and refreshing.
We are now entering our “Put this together and organize next year” phase. We will be talking about Mission, Need for consultants, Work of the church and By-Law changes.
Mission- Why are we here? What is unique about UCN? What are we called to do in the world or Ozaukee County? We have a mission statement:
The mission of Unitarian Church North is to create a diverse and inclusive community, promote free religious expression, inspire spiritual and ethical growth, and work for justice in our world.
How do we do this? Is this our focus? What else should we be doing? Jennifer Barton will be heading up a team to talk about Mission. We will involve the whole congregation and you will be hearing more about how later, but if you want to be on the start up team, please contact Jennifer.
Need for Consultants- Could we use help in how to organize a vibrant church without a Minister? Could we use help in identifying our issues and plans to address them? Could we use help looking at resources to fill in gaps that we don’t even know we have? Could we use help in healing? The UUA and other groups provide services that we might want to tap into. Jenny Elsner-Miller will be heading up a team to look at what’s out there, how much does it cost and what specifically do we want help with. Please contact Jenny if you want to be on this team.
Work of the Church- Who is going to do what and what is needed in running a church without a Minister? We have already identified some “jobs” that will need to be done. Janet Jensen has asked committees what they need and we are sure there are other things we have not thought of. She will be heading up a team to wrestle with work of the church. If you want to help on this team, please contact Janet.
By-Laws- We have made quite a few changes in how we operate and will need to refresh our By-Laws to reflect these changes. We have a group that will be meeting soon to start this process. Jeanne Durnford will be heading up this team. Current volunteers are: Mark Ludwig, Dean Johnson, Judy Milbrath. If you want to be on this team, contact Jeanne.
Thank you for all you do-
The Leadership Board has been hard at work trying to come to terms with moving forward. We had a retreat on Jan. 17th where we discussed mission, healing and the practical tasks of running a church without a minister. We were assisted by Lisa Presley, Congregational Life Consultant for the MidAmerica Region, Carol Hegland from Restorative Justice and Bob Lindahl, President of the Door County UU Fellowship. It helped us formulate some great questions--now to search for some great answers.
The Leadership Board met with Rev. Julie on Jan. 20th to negotiate a settlement for her departure. The details of the settlement have been sent to all members via email. If you would like a paper copy or more details, please contact a member of the Leadership Board. We look forward to her return on March 1 and if you have ministerial concerns before that, please contact Rev. Joyce Palmer.
The next few months will be setting the tone for our future. Jim Grace will be starting the Pledge Campaign. I understand that some anxiety still exists because we haven’t answered all the questions of running a church without a minister and who is going to do what. But we need to trust in the future of UCN and give generously of our time and money.
We can make this work if we all pitch in and work together.
Thank you for all you do-
The results of December 14, 2014 are:
Option 1- Part-time Minister ($55,000), Lay-led Religious Education got 11 votes.
Option 2 - No Minister, Professional Religious Education got 60 votes.
Option 3 - Part-time both Rev. Julie and Rev. Joyce got 14 votes.
Total votes cast were 85. Ninety-one people attended the meeting. Thank you to Jennifer Barton, Janet Jensen, Jenny Goetz and Theresa Witt for helping with the meeting. It was a hard meeting to have because any decision will be a loss.
Both Rev. Julie and Rev. Joyce will be gone on June 30, 2015.
It is a sad time for us all. Please let us all sit back and stay with the sadness before we embark on what to do next. We are a caring community and I am sure we want to do the right thing for our Ministers that have served us with dedication, generosity, spiritual guidance and professionalism. We need to be kind to each other and to ourselves during this difficult transition.
I have received from the UUA a three-page list of questions that will need to be addressed when we become a church without a Minister. It will follow in this Northliner. You all will need to step up and do tasks to keep this community going for it to work. Look inward and see where you can serve.
Your Leadership Board will be having a retreat on Jan. 17th to get a start on year one without a Minister. Please contact them if you have suggestions.
Thank you to all of you for caring deeply about this community we share. Hope you had time to get together with family and friends over the holiday season.
Thank you for all you do-
Cottage Conversations- Thank you to over 50 people who attended the Cottage Conversations. Hope you felt you were heard. There were a lot of great suggestions, but not a lot of volunteers to make those suggestions a reality. For all the distress about member retention, there isn’t anyone wanting to work on that. Maybe we should be talking to each other about what we like here at UCN and call someone if we don’t see them for a while to see why they aren’t coming or invite someone to coffee/dessert/whatever just to show we are interested in them. I don’t have the answer, but being obsessed about why people have left may not be the right focus.
Voice of the people- The Leadership Board values your opinions, concerns and ideas. We will now have, as part of our agenda, a 20-minute slot at the beginning of each Leadership Board meeting (every 3rd Thursday of the month, starting at 6:45 pm) to hear you. We will give everyone 2-3 minutes to talk about whatever you want. If you want to stay for the whole meeting, that is fine. If you want to leave after you speak, that is fine also. This is your time to be heard and we will continue this through this whole church year. If you have a business issue (something requiring a vote), please contact me at least 10 days prior to the Board meeting to have it added to the agenda.
Safe Sharing Circles- If you participated in a Safe Sharing Circle, I hope you enjoyed the experience. I have heard positive feedback about Carol Heglund and the process. We are thinking about having more of these in January-February.
Congregational Meeting- Please make sure to come on December 14th. We will be voting on the future of UCN. Your input is needed to make this process work. I understand how difficult these decisions are, but we need to address both our financial and ministry issues.
The Leadership Board- is reading the book Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, by Peter Steinke. It is helping us stay positive and courageous as we face the future. We can come out of this as a stronger community. We need to remember our Congregational Covenant and be respectful of one another in our discussions. The Leadership Board is there to hear your concerns. Please contact them and let them know how you feel.
Potential Renter- Thank you to Pat Flanagan and Brian Bunzel for the new “for rent” sign. Thank you also to Dean Johnson and Brian Bunzel for responding to building issues.
Thank you to all of you for caring deeply about this community we share. I am thankful to have you all in my life.
Thank you for all you do-
Cottage Conversations- Thank you all for attending the Cottage Conversations and sharing your ideas for making UCN a sustainable community going forward. Over 50 people attended, and I will be posting the ideas/suggestions on the bulletin board. Please look at suggestions and take on one to work on.
Scenarios- During our discussions, there have been a variety of scenarios brought up that may meet our financial goals. We have been running $30-40,000 in deficits for years and have been able to stay afloat because of generous anonymous donors and the $100,000 from the sale of the property to the north. Most of those very wealthy donors have left and the property money is almost gone, so we need to exist on the money we generate for the year. I am listing 7 scenarios as a way for you to start thinking how these might work for you. We will be having a Barn Banter on November 23, starting early by cutting the service short, to talk about the scenarios. Please plan on being there, as your input will determine where we will be going.
1. Keep the building and have a part time minister who will work for $50-60,000 (total package). This scenario does not include paid Religious Education leader only lay led volunteer program.
2. Keep the building and have no paid minister, but have lay-led services, or streamed in sermons, or outside speakers. This scenario could have or not have a paid Religious Education person.
3. Sell the building and keep Rev Julie at ¾ time or full time; keep Rev Joyce at current ½ time. This scenario requires a place to rent.
4. Sell the building and have interim minister. Regroup as a congregation then call a minister.
5. Keep the building and keep Rev Julie at ¾ time and have lay led volunteer Religious Education program. May be more expensive than scenario 1.
6. Keep the building and have a part-time interim minister for the salary we can afford with no paid Religious Education leader.
7. Sell the building and have no minister--disband.
Please see the announcement for Safe Sharing Circles elsewhere in the Northliner and in the Friday Flyer.
Thank you for all you do-
New Co-Presidents-Elect: Congratulations to Jennifer Barton and Janet Jensen, our new Co-Presidents-Elect. Many congregations have gone to job sharing because of busy schedules and time commitments. We are fortunate to have two dedicated and qualified women willing to step forward and be our leaders. The Leadership Board will be working on the nuances of two people instead of one with regard voting and responsibilities.
Congratulations to Jenny Elsner-Miller, elected as Trustee to fill the vacancy left by Tom Tews.
Voice of the people: The Leadership Board values your opinions, concerns and ideas. We will now have, as part of our agenda, a 20-minute slot at the beginning of each Leadership Board meeting (every 3rd Thursday starting at 6:45 pm) to hear you. We will give everyone 2-3 minutes to talk about whatever you want. If you want to stay for the whole meeting, that is fine. If you want to leave after you speak, that is fine also. This is your time to be heard, and we will continue this through this whole church year.
If you have a business issue (something requiring a vote), please contact me at least 10 days prior to the Board meeting to have it added to the agenda.
Cottage Conversations: Please plan on attending at least one session of the eight planned for October. We will be discussing how we can make UCN a sustainable community. We need everyone’s ideas. I know that we have really smart people with really great ideas that can be combined to solve our financial issues and keep UCN the light of religious freedom in the warmth of a caring community for Ozaukee County.
The dates of the sessions are: Oct. 7 at 3 pm and 7 pm, Oct. 8 at 7 pm, Oct. 9 at 7 pm, Oct. 12 at 11:15 am, Oct. 15 at 7 pm, Oct. 18 at 10 am, Oct. 22 at 7 pm, Oct. 26 at 11:15 am. We have daytime, nighttime and weekends for your convenience. Please attend.
Open Space: Please come on October 11 from 9-3. If you cannot stay for all of it, come for whatever time you can. People have very positive feedback on this dialogic process.
Survey: The survey committee is now being lead by Leigh and will be ready for distribution in October. Please take time to respond.
Talking Circles: The ad hoc committee on mediation (Carol Pawlak, Dean Johnson, Jon Olsen, Stephanie Loehr and Jeanne Durnford) has had two meetings and is looking at ways to help the congregation heal and move forward. One method we are working on is Talking/Peace Circles. More information will be forthcoming.
Potential Renter: I have met with a couple that wants an office space to rent. It is quite promising, and more information will follow when terms are more certain.
Thank you for all you do-
From our new President, Jeanne Durnford
This has been a very busy summer with anxiety running high as we anticipate what will happen to UCN in the future. Because of anxiety, sometimes, people say hurtful things to each other and about each other. We can practice forgiveness remembering people are trying to do their best because they love this community. Remember our congregational covenant and speak to people directly about problems and concerns and not about each other.
We will need everyone’s input to help us know the right solution of where the church will go. We will have Cottage Conversations which will work on our assets of intelligent dedicated people, great ministry, and beautiful building and ask questions: How do we keep people inspired and increase membership? How do we get the good news about UUism out to the people in Oz County? How do we make the building pay for itself? I will set up 10 times for small groups to meet to come up with ideas. Please come to one.
We will also have an Open Space dialog for the whole congregation led by Stephanie Richardson on Oct. 11 from 9-3 where the lead question (suggested by Jeanne) is: What would UCN look like without a building? That will lead to many other questions, like: What would UCN look like without a minister? The process is quite exciting and was well received at the summer leadership retreat.
We have also been working on a survey, which will be coming out in September. Please take the time to fill it out.
The Leadership Board wants to know what is on your mind. Please contact Jeanne Durnford, Leigh Hoftiezer, Jenny Goetz, Peter Lima, Ed Ahrenhoester, Mark Bruhy, Gerry Schmitz, Ruth Duenk, Rosa Gomez, Stephanie Loehr, Mark Ludwig, Karen Ringlein with your ideas, suggestions or concerns.
I know this community can come to terms with our situation and make this a better place for all. Remember why you came here and the wonderful gifts of community and spiritual insights that we build every week. This, indeed, is where my heart is.
Please contact me by email or phone if you have questions, suggestions, helpful advice or concerns. Email: email@example.com or phone: 414-239-7935
Thank you for all you do-
A Year of Gratitude
It is hard to believe that nearly an entire year has gone by since I assumed the role as UCN’s president. While difficult decisions had to be made during the year and financial challenges are only temporarily held at bay, being part of a congregation that yearns for strength, stability and success has been integral to the support I received as we moved forward. Thank you all for helping me steer the ship by sharing your ideas while I tried to make the best choices for our church.
I particularly wish to thank Brian Mitchell, Jeanne Durnford, and Rev. Julie Forest for their encouragement and assistance this year. They each brought great wisdom and, when appropriate, humor to our conversations, so that my leadership work was far from onerous. Without them, the responsibilities faced would have weighed much more heavily on my shoulders.
Nearly 30% of UCN’s membership attended the Annual Meeting on May 18. By unanimous vote, after changing one word (“and” to “or” in the second-to-last point) the congregation passed the behavioral covenant that was distributed in the meeting packets before the big day. Thank you to the many people who participated in the months-long conversation to help us craft a covenant that would have meaning for our congregation. Also at this meeting we thanked outgoing church leaders for their service and unanimously voted in several more who will carry on. Lucy Friedrichs was recognized with our annual Dedicated Service Award for her many years of service in so many different roles. The final item on the agenda, the annual budget, was presented and explained by Treasurer Nancy Neumann and Finance Committee Chair Katie Egan-Bruhy. After some debate, it, too, passed, though not with a unanimous vote.
Moving forward, I hope all of us will take part in events and work planned in and around our church this summer. The Worship Committee has spent many hours scheduling speakers and preparing meaningful services every Sunday. The Playground Committee continues to be engaged in implementing the new design that is the result of a collaborative effort, and they would appreciate your help with the work, as well. The Building Committee is moving forward with repairs to the upper parking area and will need some assistance there. Other committees plan to continue to be engaged in their passions this summer. Be sure to check our website and the Friday Flyer during the summer for further updates and information.
I wish you all a splendid summer, and hope to see you often at church.
New Developments Bring a Brighter Day to UCN
After having written about dire circumstances surrounding the budget in my last letter to all of you, I am pleased to be one of those to announce that through the generosity of many members and friends, we have a reprieve on the budget crisis for the coming year. Generous pledges made shortly before and after the Budget Barn Banter on April 13, in combination with pledges already received, succeeded in completing the funding of our proposed budget for 2014-15. Thank you to all for the commitment of your time and your resources.
If the budget is approved by the congregation at our Annual Meeting on May 18, in the coming year our R.E. Director position will remain at approximately ½ time, as it has been for years. Our Minister’s position will be reduced to ¾ time, resulting in one less Sunday in the pulpit per month and one week per month when she will not be available. She will still have her sabbatical time for 5 months in the coming year, as we have contracted with her.
It remains critical to determine how our church may be funded in the future. In light of the need, members have stepped forward and begun to make contacts with companies that may assist us by providing a long-term renter. Another member has offered to manage lease agreements we already have, and to establish a facilities use team that would fulfill UCN’s responsibilities to our renters. Anyone not familiar with our already-established SCRIP fundraising program will have the opportunity to learn about it (and sign up!) in a fun and informative presentation in the coming weeks. Suggestions made during the Barn Banter for additional easy fundraising included the use of Amazon Smile and Igive.com, both of which are already being researched by our Treasurer. Other terrific ideas shared at the Barn Banter include, but are not limited to, the following: increase and improve signage and lighting along Port Washington Road; add a rental contact form onto our website; list rental information on Craigslist.com; promote our rental space at area events such as bridal shows. If you have interest in assisting with any of these ideas, or have additional suggestions, please get in touch with me, your Board members, Rev. Julie, or our Administrative Assistant Lyn Gust right away. I am confident that together we can achieve the goals we set before us.
Another development since the meeting on April 13 will be of interest to our members. Jeanne Durnford, President-Elect, has begun work on developing a Healthy Communications Team and a formal Conflict Resolution Process. She will report on these new ideas at the May Leadership Board meeting, and more information will be given to the congregation in the coming months. In addition, an ad hoc committee, led by Leadership Board Trustee Tom Tews, will be created soon to develop an employee performance management process with the intent of supporting UCN and our individual employees.
I am proud of the work so many do to maintain our presence on the North Shore. Thank you for your contributions to this wonderful church, and I hope to see you at our Annual Meeting on May 18. Be sure to pick up and read the Annual Meeting packet that will be available at First Sunday Lunch on May 4. Any packets not picked up that day will be mailed.
Leadership Board President
Moving Forward toward the Annual Meeting-
A case for the Congregational Covenant
By Leigh Hoftiezer, UCN President
In just a few short weeks we will be gathering together to discuss and vote on key issues concerning life in this cherished community. Key issues will include approving the proposed budget for 2014-15 and deciding whether to accept the congregational covenant that has been written by several UCN members this year.
As a long term member I have seen people at their best here, working to strengthen our community with honor and respect for one another. I have also been witness to times when people were not at their best. The strife that created was damaging to the morale of our congregation and may have been avoidable. The purpose of a congregational covenant is to help remind people how we intend to be with one another, living our principles and pursuing our dreams in harmonious community.
Your Leadership Board, Rev. Julie Forest and several members of our church have worked together to write a covenant that can be useful to help us now and in the future. Its purpose is twofold: as a guide to members actively engaged in the life of the church, and as a statement that visitors can read to better understand how we intend to be with one another. If approved by the congregation, it will be reviewed in the coming years, on a schedule yet to be determined by the Leadership Board, and amended as needed. This covenant is a tool for each of us to use now and in the future.You will be invited to sign it, and it will become part of the Membership Book that our new members sign.
This year’s annual meeting is now scheduled for May 18. I ask each of you to read the covenant below, discuss it with others, ask questions of me, Rev. Julie and/or your trustees, and be part of the decision-making process at the important meeting in May. I have always felt very strongly that such toolshad to come from the congregation and be approved or rejected by the congregation in a democratic process. I hope you will engage yourself in this conversation. To assist with this process, a Barn Banter to discuss the covenant has been scheduled for Sunday, April 20, at 11:15 a.m. in the sanctuary.
Unitarian Church North Congregational Covenant
In support of congregational life at Unitarian Church North, we value the open exchange of ideas and we respect the deliberative process. We make the following commitments to one another:
We create an atmosphere where all of us feel included, safe, respected and accepted, and in doing so are mindful of each other’s personal space.
We remember that building a welcoming community requires active participation and stewardship. We give generously of ourselves and our resources, and we inspire others to do the same.
After expressing our opinions, we work toward consensus. We practice the democratic process for decision-making, understanding that we will then support the final decision.
We recognize that at times we will agree to disagree.
When conflict occurs we work directly with each other and attempt to resolve the issue through our conflict resolution process.
We are imperfect human beings. We forgive ourselves and each other, and when necessary we begin again in love.
With great regard for each of you,
As many of you know, I and my husband are privileged to live in a home along the western shore of Lake Michigan. Many hours are spent gazing east at the deck, the beach, and the lake from my comfortable work station (a.k.a., the kitchen table), and the resulting sculpture of the landscape by numerous weather events never ceases to amaze me. Remembering with great joy the times my family has had in summer introducing our children, friends, and various dogs to the summer beach, the beauty, if not the comfort of the shore in winter is equally as striking. The seemingly endless weeks of cold weather have caused ice to form all across the Great Lakes, and this week’s predominantly east winds have graced our western shore with multiple rows of ice mountains that are colored by the natural sand, raised up by the waves. This same sand is used during our Sunday services to support our joys and sorrows candles.
The natural beauty is so captivating and so diverse, contributing to the character of the entire area that it inspires me to think about parallels with our church’s congregation. Part of my responsibility as your president is to lead meetings in an effort to engender civil discourse and attain common ground to achieve a solution that will serve the needs of every person. Repeatedly I have come away from these meetings not only pleased, but happy, inspired, satisfied, and at times ecstatic over the way every person participated in the conversation and resulting decision making. We do not always agree at first, but during discourse we have honored and respected both ourselves and each other in order to create a better “whole” that is more than the sum of the diverse parts. With a greater number of participants involved in the discussion, solutions are achieved that are better than any that one person alone could imagine.
Just as my beach consists of sand, water, trees, grasses, flowers, and a wide variety of animals, UCN consists of people who alone have their strengths, but together inspire one another to reach a higher plane in the life of our church. Thank you for lending your wonderful qualities to the character of our spiritual home. We are better for it, and I hope you feel better for being here.
As you can read in other articles that have been included with this newsletter, the focus of UCN’s annual pledge drive this year is directed toward recognition of the very positive identifiable characteristics and activities our church engages in and promotes. We do great things to support one another, from spiritual guidance, to pastoral listening, to religious education, to caring for the Earth, to reaching out to the community around us in a multitude of ways. We are intentionally conscious of the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, and strive to live them to the best of our abilities.
In addition, day by day many of our members make every effort to plan ahead to confirm that our church will continue providing the light of religious freedom in the warmth of a caring community. This means following through with the financial promises we made last year, participating in the work of committees that interest us, and looking for ways to achieve our dreams to support our spiritual home. Some of these dreams will not be fulfilled if we do not receive the financial support required.
So many of us feel this is where we belong because intangible needs are being met here. Not only do we gain from what is given to us in the inspiration and wisdom shared by others, but we benefit from engaging with others in the multitude of projects that are part of church life. This is where I belong because with you I am better able to integrate the seven principles into my life. Your journey helps support my journey, and together our liberal religious faith becomes stronger while we strive to make our world a better place. I know this is where I belong and am grateful that you all are a large part of why I am proud to be a member of Unitarian Church North.
Though this letter most likely will not be read until after the holidays, as I write our families and communities are preparing for end-of-year celebrations. The Hoftiezer family will gather from points near and far, weather and road conditions willing, to rejoice in reunion and the love for each other that has sustained us over the years. It will be our first Christmas without my father, and much of our time will be spent remembering and honoring him with stories of holidays gone by. By the time this is published, I hope that my loved ones and yours were able to have a holiday that will sustain them as winter moves in, and that all who traveled arrived safely.
As many of you know, a congregational discussion was held on December 15 to discuss whether UCN’s needs would be better served by holding only one service per Sunday throughout the year. Approximately 56 members attended and the final hand vote showed 50 were in favor of moving to one service, one voted against, and 5 abstained. In addition, in my numerous face-to-face conversations, telephone calls, emails, and printed notes from 33 members, the unanimous opinion was in favor of the change. Undoubtedly there was some overlap of the two groups, but the majority opinion was clear. The holiday schedule through January 5 has Sunday services beginning at 10:00. From that point forward, services will continue meeting at 10:00 every Sunday. Thank you to all who not only voiced their opinion regarding the question, but also to the countless members who worked very hard to help make the 2-services-per-Sunday schedule run smoothly over the past 5 ½ years. Working together, I have no doubt we will all adjust to the new time and benefit by being part of this strong community.
Behavioral covenant discussions that were held in November and early December proved fruitful, attended by those who had interest in the project. We will be moving forward with this in the coming weeks and months, engaging all who would like to participate in the writing of 2 or 3 drafts that would serve the needs of our beloved church. The congregation will have an opportunity to vote on the final draft at our annual meeting in May. More information about upcoming draft meetings will be provided through the Friday Flyer.
With peace and blessings to all,
Perhaps my message will seem late since this letter will be read after Thanksgiving has passed, but gratitude truly has no deadline or expiration date. Reflecting on all that UCN offers, I am moved by the compassion, sincerity, devotion, and joy that so many of you share with the rest of us. In a multitude of ways we are moving in a positive direction, embracing our values, living our dreams for a better world, and supporting not just fellow members but also the larger community. My gratitude toward all of you lies not only in the fact that you are sustaining the same kind of values that I have, but also that our work is having an impact in visible as well as intangible ways. The significance of being in community by acting out our liberal faith is not lost. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Discussions regarding the development of a behavioral covenant have begun and are being held in the Emerson Room. Numerous opportunities are available for you to join with others to talk about the why and the details of this process. Your input is valuable and necessary in order for it to be meaningful and reflective of UCN’s interpersonal needs. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or any Leadership Board member. The remaining schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, 12/3/13, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, 12/7/13, 10:00 a.m.
Thursday, 12/12/13, 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Your trusted servant,
An open invitation to participate in developing something that will benefit UCN for years to come…
Study and discussions initiated a year ago by then-President Brian Mitchell were continued by yours truly at the leadership retreat in August of this year, centering around the concept of writing a behavioral covenant to serve UCN now and in the future. I have chosen to move forward with this conversation because I believe a functioning covenant could be very beneficial to us, strengthening our relationships and helping us to continue working well together for the future of our church. When churches face difficulties that challenge their members, having a clear idea of how members hope to interact with one another helps all to continue on a path that benefits the greatest number.
What is a covenant? In most basic terms, it is a promise.
- Covenants can be used by leaders to model healthy and faithful behavior to others in the congregation and the community.
- Covenants are promises to follow, not rules prescribing punishment.
- Covenants describe behaviors, not personality changes.
- Covenants are a daily, spiritual practice.
- Covenants can be used to monitor behaviors by periodically being reviewed.
A covenant will empower and encourage members of goodwill to seek the higher ground in times of disagreement. It is best to write it now, when things are going well at UCN, so that ideas can be shared and discussed calmly.
Having a great number of members participate in brainstorming what we want as expected behaviors will be key to its success. Your Leadership Board Trustees, along with Brian Mitchell, Jeanne Durnford, Jenny Goetz (Board Secretary) and I have agreed to lead discussions and to listen to what you have to say about this process. We are offering a wide variety of times when you may attend these discussions at UCN. The schedule will be posted in the Friday Flyer, as an insert in the order-of-service, and will be on the church calendar that may be found on our website, www.ucnorth.org.
Are you still not sure whether you think a behavioral covenant is worth pursuing? In my research on the topic, I contacted a variety of UU churches whose covenants I found online. Having been asked whether they thought it was worthwhile, one church responded thusly:
The behavioral covenant was born out of a time of controversy prior to my arriving in 2007 to be their minister. It sat as a dormant document for a period of time, surrounded with a system of resolution that seemed too big for a small congregation. But, after a few years of dormancy, it was called upon in another time of controversy (or should I say attempted controversy) and the Covenant was cited by many in asking for and then affirming action by the Board to uphold those principles. Once a clear line was both on paper (Covenant) and in practice (removal of a member for actions which threatened the well-being of the congregation), life became much easier and our shared community much richer. The Covenant remains quietly in the background, but I hear on a regular basis how it has called people back to good behavior and right relations. (emphasis added)
Please consider joining us for this conversation. YOUR voice needs to be heard because you and every member of UCN are a key part of who we are today and how we will proceed tomorrow.
Life is good here at UCN. With the resumption of activities that we normally see during the academic year, there is much to choose from for those who are interested in becoming involved. Many of the articles you will read in this Northliner, see announced in the weekly Friday Flyer, hear about from the pulpit, or see advertised in flyers around the church are indicative of the diverse interests and passions that help define us. If you haven’t already investigated those things that have sparked your curiosity, please do so. You can ask the church officers or any Board member for assistance. Our blue name tags will help you locate us on busy Sunday mornings.
On August 24 the annual leadership retreat was held at UCN, with members of UCN’s Leadership Board as well as committee chairpersons in attendance. Key points addressed at the meeting were developing the church calendar, reimagining UCN work for better use of volunteer time, the church-wide social justice initiative, and the introduction of behavioral covenant discussion where every UCN member will be encouraged to participate. Rev. Julie mentioned some of these in a recent sermon, others are discussed in this newsletter issue, and more information will be made available in the coming months.
This year one of my goals as your president is to help UCN develop a behavioral covenant that will serve our members in times of crisis. A covenant is a promise, and a behavioral covenant refers to how we treat each other and work together. As I mentioned above, things are going well at UCN currently, which means this is the time for us to engage in the discussion about healthy behaviors we want to continue and support.
Your Leadership Board is preparing to lead meetings at different times of the day and the week so that every person will have an opportunity to voice their opinion and discuss what they feel is important to our community. Not only will we talk about desired behaviors, but as a community we will determine what recourse there will be should a problem remain unresolved. Sign-up sheets will be available in October, with the discussion sessions taking place in November. We sincerely hope you will participate, sharing your ideas, your concerns, and your passion for helping to maintain the congregational health of UCN.
Leigh Hoftiezer, President
With this, my first missive as your new president, I would like to thank the Nominating Committee and UCN’s members for entrusting me with this important role. I am honored and humbled by your actions, and will do my best to fulfill the responsibilities of the position. Accepting the nomination was, for the most part, without trepidation because my extensive experience with all of you has been so positive. We support each other through thick and thin, and help one another succeed in myriad ways. Knowing in my heart that the community is there for me, and for all of us, I anticipate this year as president to be very rewarding personally. Whenever you have a question or concern regarding the church, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I promise to do what I can either to answer the question myself or to direct the query to the person or committee that can.
There is much to celebrate and be proud of at UCN. This summer we had a truly outstanding variety of Sunday speakers who provided well-conceived and delivered, thought-provoking sermons. From learning about creatures with naturalist educator David Stokes, to exploring questions about Unitarian Universalism with UU clergy, to being inspired by experiences shared in social justice work, there was something to catch the interest of the many people who attended our services.
At the end of June, 32 UCN members and friends represented UCN in the Mequon-Thiensville “Family Fun Before the Fourth” parade, carrying the American flag along with banners and placards that informed the public about our programs and our historical figures. Organized by Peggy Creer with help from Dean Johnson, Constance Fisk and Tiffany Meekey, we presented our message with honor and respect mixed in with a lot of fun.
The Social Justice Committee has continued working on the congregation-wide initiative throughout the summer and has exciting progress to report. The Landscape Committee put in hours of work to improve the beautiful grounds around the church, and welcomed the efforts of several people who weren’t members of the committee who wanted to help. Our Green Committee has made plans for the upcoming electronics recycling event, and the Religious Education Committee is gearing up for the coming year so that our children, and that of our visitors, will have an enriching program to fill their Sunday mornings.
Events that were “sold” at our auction last April have almost all taken place, and from all reports everyone had a marvelous time getting to know one another in a casual setting, either over a meal or an educational opportunity, or both! These connections help enrich and strengthen our relationships with one another, and many will be offered again at the auction next May.
The SCRIP program continues to flourish, with gift cards from several local vendors available for purchase immediately after church services. Several people stepped up to sell the cards every Sunday, so that both our members and the church itself were well served in this regard. As always, you may still preorder gift cards on-line. If you need help with that process, get in touch with UCN member/SCRIP Coordinator Mike Strauss.
I am looking forward to the start of another great year at UCN, and hope you are, too.
See you soon,