Joint Letter from Board President Mindy McPherson and Rev. Molly Housh Gordon
Dear UU Churchers,
With gratitude for the generosity and care of this community, we write together to share with you some of the discernment and decisions of your Board of Trustees and Minister in this uncertain time. We have been moved by all of the ways you have been supporting one another and voicing your support to our leadership. The courageous love, radical welcome, and deep connection of our congregation is undiminished.
- Our building closure – It seems clear that the UUCC building will remain closed at least through May. We will be working with a team of UU Churchers to discern together the circumstances under which we will be comfortable opening our building and resuming various kinds of in-person gatherings. This is less a question of a certain date and more a question of what science-based criteria will need to be met in order for us to feel that we are making a responsible decision for the health and wellbeing of our members and the general population – criteria such as widespread testing and availability of protective equipment. It seems wise to consider the possibility that it will be quite some time before it is safe to gather in the large numbers we usually see in our Sunday morning services. We grieve physical presence to one another in this time and are committed to continuing to innovate in creating deep community across any necessary distance.
- Our annual meeting – While typically held in the month of May, our bylaws (Article 4, Section 3) state that the annual congregational meeting shall be held during the last fiscal quarter. In order to have as much information as possible and time to figure out the technology, your Board of Trustees has scheduled our annual meeting a bit later than usual, on Sunday, June 7. To maintain social distancing, this congregational discussion will be held virtually. We will use a secure digital platform to conduct elections of new board members and adopt the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
- Our budget – We believe it is prudent to anticipate a difficult financial situation in the coming year given the economic upheaval we are all currently experiencing. We know some among us have lost jobs, job security, income, savings, and/or investments, and that there may be more loss to come (please reach out to Rev. Molly about our church Benevolence funds if you are in need of assistance – we currently have a healthy balance in those funds). We anticipate this reality will affect annual giving to the church, and we are budgeting accordingly. All payroll and ministry team budget lines will be held flat at their FY2020 levels as we create the budget for FY2021, and we will seek any necessary cuts in the least painful areas first, such as board discretionary spending. Thankfully, we know that our members and friends are committed to our congregation and will continue to give at the levels they are able to afford in their own circumstances. Additionally, because of the wisdom of many lay leaders over many years, we have a healthy reserve and emergency fund, which we will draw upon as necessary to weather this time of global crisis. Between these resources and a conservative approach to spending, we believe that we will emerge from this downturn intact.
- Our application for additional resources – After much in-depth discussion about the many pros and cons of participating in the program, the board voted at its April meeting to apply on behalf of the congregation for a Payroll Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration. If our application is accepted and funded, we believe that participation in this program can provide additional security in the coming months, as we are faced with uncertainties in our income from pledges and other revenue sources. Specifically, this will help us keep our commitments to all of our staff, including hourly Sunday morning staff. When we continue our commitment to keep our staff on payroll, the loan will be forgiven. The additional financial security helps to ensure that we continue to effectively carry out our mission and champion social and economic justice in Columbia and beyond.
- Rev. Molly’s sabbatical is postponed – After discernment and consultation with various leaders, Rev. Molly has decided to delay her sabbatical by one year, in order to remain steadily present to the congregation through the uncertainty of the coming days and months. This delay will also help ensure that Molly’s sabbatical allows for rest and renewal as intended. The new sabbatical dates will be May 10 to September 7, 2021.
- Our commitment to and agreement with Rev. Dr. CW Dawson – Your board and Rev. Molly unanimously agree that the just and faithful approach to our changed sabbatical plans is to honor the commitment and employment agreement we entered into with Rev. Dr. CW Dawson for this summer. We also believe that this will be a fruitful decision for the congregation, who will benefit this summer from the Rev. Dawson’s many gifts. Rev. Molly and Rev. Dawson are working to revise the sabbatical minister job description a Philosopher-in-Residence position and are very much looking forward to the opportunity to work together this summer. We hope that we will also be able to enter another agreement with Rev. Dawson next summer to lead through the rescheduled sabbatical, as we had planned. However, we expect we will need to delay that decision until we have more information about our financial circumstances as they unfold in the coming year.
Please do be in touch with any questions, concerns, or thoughts you might have about how we can continue to practice courageous love and deep connection in new and unfolding ways as we endure these strange and troubling times.
Mindy McPherson, Board President, and Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, Minister