The Board of Trustees had a busy summer. While many church programs go on hiatus during the summer months, the Board continued its work.
Annual Board Retreat
The Board met for its annual retreat on July 11 at the home of Board President Martin Schmidt. The purposes of the retreat were to orient new Board members, enable Board members to get better acquainted, and provide time for extended discussion of church business.
- Board members spoke briefly about the personal journeys that had brought them to our church and about their hopes and aspirations for our community.
- Treasurer Claus Makowka provided a highly informative primer on financial management for nonprofit organizations.
- Audrey Masahledan gave a preliminary report on plans for the Fall Stewardship Campaign.
- Vice-President Alison Schwartz provided an update on the status of the committee tasked with searching for an interim minister.
- Lifespan Director of Religious Education Erica Shadowsong spoke briefly about plans for the RE program in the coming church year.
- Board members reviewed and discussed a draft Strategic Plan for 2018–2021 developed by the Vision, Identity, and Mission (VIM) team.
July Board Meeting
Membership Engagement and Retention
LRED Erica Shadowsong presented a proposal for a membership engagement and retention program based on techniques used in video gaming. Erica’s husband, Alf Shadowsong, who works in video game development, responded to Board members’ questions. The Board thanked Erica and Alf for the presentation, into which they had clearly put considerable work. The general feeling was that the proposal offered much food for thought but that it would be premature to commit the resources required for such a program until the church has a new settled minister in place.
The Board approved a revised church budget for 2018. It was noted that utility costs were over budget and are unpredictable. The installation of the new geothermal heating and cooling system has not yet generated savings on utilities. Board members agreed, however, that the addition of air conditioning to the sanctuary is a great benefit, as it is now possible to use the space throughout the summer.
The Board voted unanimously to grant Brian Junker limited authority to negotiate and sign contracts with musicians performing in the SongSpace or Chamber Music series (a task previously performed by Emily Pinkerton). Template contracts will be used, with expected variations for specific events. Contracts that are significantly different from these templates must be signed by the Board President.
Music Program Leadership
The Board approved a position description for the Director of Vocal Music and voted unanimously to offer this position to Kris Rust, for 1 year with the possibility of renewal, and with an August 15 start date.
The UU Pittsburgh Annual Cluster Assembly will be held on Saturday, November 10, 2018, at the UU Church of the South Hills 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 http://uupittsburgh.org/page/assembly and on the UU Pittsburgh Annual Cluster Assembly Facebook page.
Vision, Mission, and Identity
The Board recognized the need to authorize an Assessment Committee, to include representatives of the four mission domain councils (Connect, Inspire, Serve, and Learn), to create metrics for measuring annual progress in meeting church priorities. Board President Martin Schmidt and Board member Cathy Rohrer (Board liaison to the VIM team) agreed to work on this for the Board’s next meeting.
The Assessment Committee will also oversee annual evaluations of church staff. Standardized evaluation forms will need to be developed for this purpose. Alison Schwartz (Board liaison to the Personnel Committee) agreed to take sample evaluation forms to the Personnel Committee as models.
Approval of Minutes and Reports
Minutes of the Board’s June 20 meeting were approved and minutes of the Finance Committee meeting on July 9 were accepted. The Board also approved a report from Ellen Gozion, Director of Instrumental Music, and a charter for the Interim Minister Search Committee.
August Board Meeting
Treasurer Claus Makowka presented a draft of the 2019 budget showing a deficit of about $15,000. Projected expenses for the interim minister are difficult to estimate. Our contribution to the UUA will increase due to a change in the way the UUA calculates contributions from member congregations. Income from the Endowment Fund will increase slightly. The Fall Stewardship Campaign will aim to raise $435,000 to fund the church’s operations for the coming year. A Fantasy Auction will take place in 2019 as a church fundraiser.
The Board voted unanimously to pay off the church’s cumulative operating deficit by transferring about $72,500 from the Gretchen Donaldson Fund to the Operating Fund and to approve Pat Schuetz as a new member of the Finance Committee.
Fall Stewardship Campaign
Audrey Masahledan said that she would be asking Board members to volunteers to give testimonials at Sunday services during the Fall Stewardship Campaign, to submit their 2019 pledges ahead of the Stewardship Campaign kickoff, and to each host a Sunday-afternoon tea for 8 to 10 church members during the campaign. Board member Sarah Benson will organize a major donor event that will take place on Sunday, September 23.
Communications and Marketing
The church website is facing some challenges. A new hosting service will need to be found because the company that currently hosts the site is discontinuing service. Additional help is also needed with keeping the site up to date. Cathy Rohrer agreed to investigate the church’s possible use of Weebly, a user-friendly website-building platform that requires no knowledge of HTML (the website coding “language”).
If you are interested in helping to maintain the church website (no experience necessary), please contact Board President Martin Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safety and Security
In early August the Board received information from the UUA concerning an individual who had been attending services and other events at First Unitarian and who was credibly reported to have made unsettling and threatening verbal comments. Acting in accordance with advice from the Pittsburgh police, the Board voted at a special meeting to ban this individual from church premises; any attempt to enter the church building would result in a charge of “defiant trespass.” On the advice of the UUA, the Board has not publicly released the name of the individual concerned.
Out of an abundance of caution, on Sunday, August 5, RE classes were cancelled, a plainclothes police officer was stationed in the Garden Lobby, and a police cruiser was on patrol in the vicinity of the church. The following Sunday, August 12, a police constable was again stationed in the Garden Lobby and all church members were invited to attend a question-and-answer session about church safety and security that took place in the sanctuary after the worship celebration.
The Board approved the implementation of the following short-term safety and security measures:
- For the next two Sundays, keep the doors at the Morewood entrance locked at all times, with a sign on the outside of these doors directing people to the Garden Lobby doors. Two people will be designated to unlock the Morewood doors if necessary. “Push bars” will be installed as soon as possible to comply with the fire code.
- For the next two Sundays, hire Kensie McElfresh, our security staff person, for security and have ushers and greeters at the Garden Lobby doors to admit people. All Garden Lobby doors will be locked during the service.
Additional safety measures in the works include providing training in the new security procedures for all ushers and greeters.
Prior to this incident, the church received a site visit from a manager with the City of Pittsburgh Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, who submitted a thorough report and recommendations actions we can take to make the church building safer and more resilient. The Safety Committee and the Board will review these recommendations and work on developing a safety plan.
Next Board Meeting
The Board’s next regular meeting will be on Wednesday, September 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the Schweitzer Room. All are welcome to attend.Eleanor Mayfield, Board Secretary