Church News and Announcements

September 2018 Board of Trustees Report

Saturday, October 06, 2018

From Your Board of Trustees

The First Unitarian Church Board of Trustees held its September meeting on Wednesday, September 19. Vice President Alison Schwartz chaired the meeting in the absence of Board President Martin Schmidt. Al welcomed church member Jim Cunningham, who attended the meeting as a visitor.

Upgrade of Church Management Software

The Board accepted a comprehensive report on options for upgrading the church’s management software. A committee comprised of Treasurer Claus Makowka and church members Barb Gengler and Joan Harvey, with support from LRED Erica Shadowsong, prepared the report after evaluating church management software programs in use within the UU community. The goal was to identify a software package that would better empower staff and lay leadership to engage members in the life of the congregation. The software package that the church currently uses, Church Windows, has several limitations. Beyond its financial functions, Church Windows is currently used only to track very basic membership information. In addition, Church Windows provides very limited access to users other than church staff members.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the committee’s recommendation that the church purchase and install a new software package, Breeze, to handle membership and donations, while retaining Church Windows to handle accounting and payroll functions. Among the advantages of Breeze are that it comes highly recommended by other UU churches, offers support for an unlimited number of users, and is simple to use. The goal is to have the software changes up and running by the end of November 2018. Initially, Claus Makowka will administer the new software and will work with church staff, including business manager Rita Gates, to try to ensure a smooth transition. Ultimately, it is intended that a staff member will administer some Breeze functions while other tasks will be taken over by the relevant church committee (e.g., stewardship, membership, covenant groups). Backups of existing data will be created to ensure that no data are lost during the transition.

Safety Update

The Building and Grounds Committee is working on obtaining quotes to install crash bars on church entry doors and a security camera for the door leading to the church office. The Board asked the Safety Committee to prepare a plan for monitoring the Garden Lobby and Ellsworth doors on Sunday mornings. Al Schwartz said that she would find out who has responsibility for maintaining supplies for the defibrillator and the first aid kit, as stated in the security policy. The Building Committee requested a copy of the list of recommended security and safety steps that the Safety Committee prepared following the site visit during the summer by a manager with the City of Pittsburgh Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Energy Audit

The Building Committee has requested an audit by Duquesne Light of the church’s energy use. Results of the audit will help the committee determine changes to more energy-efficient lighting (especially in the Undercroft) and will also help with management of the new geothermal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

Stewardship Campaign Update

In keeping with this year’s religious education focus on the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), the theme of the 2018 Stewardship Campaign is “Noah’s Ark.” The campaign officially kicked off on Sunday, September 30 and will run through October. Sunday services during October will feature member testimonials. In addition, the Stewardship Committee is organizing “Getting to Know You Circles”; small groups of church members who do not know each other will be invited to share refreshments and conversation in members’ homes.

Social Justice Update

Board member Sarah Benson reported that a Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Committee (PIIN) task force is working to organize a workshop to help “returning citizens” – people being released from prison – reconnect with their communities and find employment. Another PIIN project, Circles, works with individuals on job training, resumé writing, and skill building, through Homewood Children’s Village, with the goal of enhancing employment opportunities. Some First Unitarian members are interested in or already involved in the Circles project. A training session for volunteers will take place in February 2019. For more information about the Circles program, go to

Church members are also involved in ongoing projects relating to voter registration, good governance, and gerrymandering. For more information about any of these projects, contact Sarah at

Board member Lynne Porterfield reminded everyone that the annual UU Pittsburgh Cluster Assembly will take place on Saturday, November 10, at the UU Church of the South Hills (Sunnyhill) in Mount Lebanon, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The keynote speaker will be Rev. Kathleen McTigue, director of the UU College of Social Justice. More information about the event is available at and on the UU Pittsburgh Annual Cluster Assembly Facebook page.

Vision, Mission, and Identity (VIM) Update

A new round of congregational conversations facilitated by members of the VIM team will take place during November. Questions for this round will focus on the identity and culture of the church and are derived from an adult religious education course on identity that Erica is developing. Questions will address issues such as how open we are to practices that may be alien to us but that make us seem welcoming to others.

Board member Cathy Rohrer, liaison to the VIM team, said that the team is looking for new members and for people to help facilitate the congregational conversations. If you’re interested or would like to learn more, contact Cathy at

Technology Report

Cathy’s son Scott, in consultation with Rob Schwartz and Claus, has volunteered to work on recreating the church website on Weebly, a user-friendly web platform that requires no knowledge of HTML (web coding language), which should make it easier for volunteers to maintain the site and post new information on it.

The Building Committee is working on upgrading the computer wiring in the church office so that new, more reliable internet routers can be installed. Once that is accomplished, the next step will be to upgrade the wiring in the RE wing.

Interim Minister Search Committee Update

Al Schwartz summarized the Committee’s communications to the congregation to date, including notices in the Chalice and an information session led by the Rev. Sunshine Wolfe from the UUA Central East Region on Sunday, September 16. A position description for the interim minister has been posted on the bulletin board in the Undercroft foyer. The committee is hoping to contract with an interim minister to start in January 2019 and serve until August 2021. A Q&A about the interim minister search has been posted on the church website (find it by searching for “Interim Minister Search”) [web version: link to]

If the right interim minister candidate cannot be found to start in January, the UUA will help us find a contract minister to serve from January through August 2019. Al is working with UUA Transitions Director Keith Kron to clarify the scope of a contract minister’s duties.

Update on Commissioned Lay Minister Candidate

David Herndon reported that Stephanie Pawlowski has completed the requirements of the Commissioned Lay Ministry (CLM) Program. He proposed scheduling Stephanie's commissioning ceremony for November 11, 2018.

The CLM Program, offered by the UUA’s Central East Region, provides an opportunity for UU lay leaders to take their congregational service to a deeper level. The training program typically takes two to four years to complete. Upon completion of the training program and an interview with the CLM Committee, the candidate receives a Commissioned Lay Minister certificate that is valid for three years, with the possibility of renewal in three-year increments. More information about the CLM Program can be found at

The Board of Trustees offers its sincere congratulations to Stephanie and warmly welcomes her participation in the church’s lay leadership.

Board Meetings

The Board meets on the third Wednesday of every month, starting at 7:00 p.m., in the Schweitzer Room. All members and friends of First Unitarian are welcome to attend.

Eleanor Mayfield, Board Secretary


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First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
605 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 621-8008     Map and directions
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