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State of the Congregation, May 2012
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 00:00

This has been a year of some trials and tribulations, a lot of personal growth, and the chance for me to develop deeper relationships with some very special people. Part of my job is to give you a short summary of the State of the Congregation at the end of the year—to tell you about our successes over the past year and to describe the road ahead for us for the coming year.

We have had a variety of success stories. How many do I tell you about, and where do I start without giving one higher priority than the others or leaving out something that I should have mentioned?

Perhaps the best place to start is in September when we finally passed our operating budget for the fiscal year. After a somewhat contentious summer, we were able to come together, agree on a budget, and move forward. Following that, the Governing Board held several Town Hall Meetings to increase dialogue and input from the congregation on issues of concern. As a result of our November THM meeting, we set up a Stewardship team that put together a great Celebration Sunday pledge drive, and that is preparing a year-long effort of personal contact with members outside of the pledge drive. We also asked the Finance Committee to put in place a process for putting the budget together that would insure input from the congregation. The result of that process is the budget that passed at our May annual meeting.

And on a side note, Jack Rivers, our Treasurer, believes we may have money left over at the end of this year. We have been quite frugal throughout the year. The Governing Board voted last week to retain up to $10,000 of a surplus in our general fund and divide any remaining monies between our UUA dues and our building reserves.

Last January we held a Town Hall Meeting on goal setting for next year. After we reviewed the suggestions, we realized that the majority of them were program related and thus the purview of the Program Council. We have forwarded the recommendations to PC for their decision on implementation. As a result of that Town Hall Meeting, the Governing Board also realized that we needed to work more closely with Program Council on congregational goal setting. To that end, we are planning a joint PC-Board retreat in June to better coordinate our efforts and build a good working relationship.

This year, the CYREC team put together a charter which received final approval last week from the Governing Board. This charter clarifies the decision making process for our Religious Education efforts. It was the product of a lot of hard work by Joann Mossa, Heather MacAuslane, and Rev. Leah Hart-Landsberg, among others. Speaking of Leah, we are really going to miss her, but we are so proud of her new position as Assistant Minister at the Fox Valley UU Church in Appleton, WI. Good luck, Leah.

During the past year, a committee from the congregation, working with Meredith, put together a Safe Congregations Policy for the Board’s consideration, and that policy was also passed recently. It sets up procedures in advance for dealing with all types of harassing behavior if the occasion should arise.

This year we decided to move the annual auction to the fall. This was one of the recommendations from our Town Hall Meeting, and it is intended to improve attendance and generate enthusiasm as we start a new school year. We have a great auction team working on this project, and I hope you will support them as they ask you for your donations and help.

UUs were present at three community marches this year: the Gay Pride Parade, the Martin Luther King Day March, and a march in support of seeking justice and further investigation, whatever the final result, in the Trayvon Martin case. Our yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts make us very visible as we publically make our voices heard.

We had a very successful congregation retreat this spring. In addition to a joyful time for everyone, we even made a little money—always a good thing! Special thanks to Carol Wyatt and Liz Stewart for all their work and long hours in putting the retreat together.

I’d also like to thank David Etherington, our ministerial intern, for his work over the past year. He has been a real asset to this Fellowship, and I would say that even if he weren’t a long-time member. We will have him around next year too as he completes his internship with us. He has done such a good job that I offered to double his salary. He was delighted until he remembered that he has been working for free. We have certainly gotten a wonderful bargain. I wish David were here today so I could thank him in person, but let’s give him a round of applause anyway. Thank you so much, David, for all you do.

And how can I let this moment go by without thanking Ruth Lewis for her wonderful music ministry! What would our services be like without the choir and the music? Maybe we should have a flash-mob presentation by our choir at the Oaks Mall sometime—and share our inspirational music with the rest of our community.

Next, I’d like to take a moment to tell you how proud I am of our minister.  Personally, I have been constantly calmed and uplifted by Meredith as I have dealt with the multitude of issues, big and small, that come to the president of the congregation. Perhaps it is his Zen training that makes this possible, but I have always left a meeting with Meredith in a better state of mind than when I began.  He told me that one of his jobs as minister is to keep the president on an even keel, and he has certainly been able to do that.

On a larger scale, Meredith’s task here at UUFG is to challenge and educate the congregation and I think he does that extremely well too. I suspect that he is one of the best UU ministers in the country at that job.  Remember his wonderful sermon a couple of weeks ago about Neurodiversity?  I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said it was one of the best sermons they had heard him give.

As part of that sermon, Meredith shared with the congregation that he is suffering from the disability of adult ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The positive aspect of ADHD is that people with this problem tend to be very creative. Meredith’s sermons are an example of the positive side, as are many of the approaches he takes to problem solving.  However, ADHD also causes some of the difficulties you may have encountered with Meredith on occasion such as failure to answer emails, and lack of followthrough on requests, to name but two. The Governing Board is working with Meredith to address the issues of ADHD and to make some reasonable accommodations for his disability.  I know this congregation will continue to support Meredith as he copes with this disability. This is certainly one way we can truly demonstrate our vision of accepting diversity and giving compassionate service to each other.

Setting up working guidelines for Meredith is only one of our plans for next year. The Governing Board is discussing holding a series of congregational conversations on the future of our ministries at UUFG. Currently we have four major ministries: Beloved Community, Religious Education, Worship, and Social Justice. Where do we want these ministries to go? What do we want to be known for in our community—both our UUFG community and our greater Gainesville community? What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong? Can we do more of the right and less of the wrong? What do we need to do to find our direction and then start moving there? What is our mission? Do our current ministries support that mission? What changes should we make to our ministries to further that mission?

This conversation is important to us all, and I encourage you to become involved in it as we move forward during the coming year. Let’s give Deborah McEdward a lot of support so that her State of the Congregation speech next year is crammed full of successes.

And finally, 2012 is the 60th anniversary of the founding of UUFG in Gainesville. We are a major home for those in the community seeking a liberal religious tradition, and we have been a beacon for Social Justice. Dawn Ayers is spearheading an effort to have a community-wide recognition of this milestone. Please join with her in planning an exciting event. Let’s all move forward in joy and celebration as we embark on another year of Unitarian Universalism in Gainesville.

Thank you.
Lynne Capehart, President 2011-2012

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