First, thank you for putting your trust in me as a new Trustee and as your new Treasurer. I hope you will join me in thanking Claus Makowka for his superb service as Treasurer.
Overall, our finances are in a stable position and basically where we expected them to be, although coronavirus has obviously disrupted many individual areas of income and expenses.
Asset balances as of June 30 2020 add up to $406,330. This does not include the money in our endowments and trusts. Total liabilities are $324,528. This liabilities balance includes the Paycheck Protection Act loan of $71,200, since we are still treating all of this as a loan until and unless we apply for loan forgiveness. This leaves us with $81,802 in net assets, which is a healthy but not extravagant balance from which to pay upcoming expenses and ensure positive cash flow.
The budget is slightly ahead of where it should be in terms of income ($274,688 as of June 30 versus $260,158 budgeted), and slightly under where we expected it to be for spending ($254,629 actual versus 273,216 budgeted). This gives us a better overall budget balance than expected ($20,059 gain actual, versus $13,058 loss budgeted, for a total budget variance of $33,117 in our favor). This surplus includes the $71,200 Paycheck Protection Act loan. If not for this loan, we would be at a greater loss than what we budgeted for, with a total current loss of about $38,000. In other words, our current loss without the loan would be about $25,000 more than what we budgeted for at this point in the year. We continue to monitor the regulations and application for paycheck protection loan forgiveness, and will make a decision in the coming months about whether to apply for loan forgiveness.
Our endowment and other investments are still down slightly (perhaps around 3% on average) from pre-corona levels, but have mostly recovered from earlier, more dramatic, drops. The Investment Committee recently met to rebalance our investments and monitor their health.
While we enter the 3rd quarter with cautious optimism, the rest of the year is still uncertain due to the ongoing threat from coronavirus. With the church closed for the rest of the year, for example we will see no rental income. Likewise, as we start to think about next year's budget, there are many uncertainties that everyone on the Board and Finance and Investment Committees will weigh carefully. I'll be sure to provide updates in these areas in future reports.
July 6, 2020
Dear First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh member:
We hope you are well and staying connected with family and friends. Now, more then ever, we need to call on the strength of our community, making sure we are helping each other to get through this difficult time.
As you may or may not have heard, your Board of Trustees and minister have decided to extend the closure of the church building to all group gatherings at least through December 31, 2020. Further, we have decided to decline scheduling future rental or congregational events in the building until further notice.
Weighing our desire to be together with our commitment to keep everyone who visits our church building as safe as possible, the Board decided that extending the closure to the end of the year was warranted. We made this difficult decision taking into account the recommendation of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) that UU churches plan for ongoing virtual gathering and operations through May 2021. “Guidance on Gathering In-Person When COVID-19 Subsides” from the UUA Safe Congregations Team, including considerations for deciding when to open, is available here: https://www.uua.org/safe/pandemics/gathering-guidance
As the UUA report notes, in making this decision “we are guided by science and our deepest values.” We will continue to assess the situation based on the advice of the Allegheny County Health Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the UUA.
We are grateful to Rev. Connie and the staff for their continued efforts to provide services and opportunities for fellowship during this time of church closure. The clarity provided by this extended closure date offers the opportunity for staff and congregants to plan for ongoing virtual gatherings. When we can open the building safely, such that all or nearly all of our congregants can freely enter and fully participate in person, we will joyfully do that.
Together, we can continue in our quest to become the congregation we want to be, not just today but far into the future. The church building may be closed, but the church community is open.
Scott Smith, President, Board of Trustees
Dear First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh member,
The goal of your minister and staff is to work within the limitations of the current situation, and to find the possibilities within those limitations, including expanded opportunities to be together in new ways using technology. Some things that are going on:
▪ Your Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Erica Shadowsong, is planning exciting and engaging curriculum offerings for children, youth, and adults, expecting to connect with Zoom at least through the fall.
▪ Your music staff, Ellen Gozion and Kris Rust, are finding ways to directly involve more congregants in the musical elements of our worship services, including slide shows, Zoom productions, and sing-alongs.
▪ Plans are underway to include more guest speakers in our worship services using recorded videos.
▪ Five potential new members attended an “Introduction to Unitarian Universalism” session by Zoom this past Sunday. Next steps are an orientation toward membership session, booksigning, and covenanting with the congregation, all by Zoom, for those who decide to join the congregation.
▪ An Engagement Team is forming, with the charge to plan activities and help congregants connect with the church and with each other. If you are interested in joining this team, please contact me at Constance.L.Grant@gmail.com. Let’s continue to explore the possibilities that are open to us!
Rev. Connie Grant, Interim Minister
The Board of Trustees met via Zoom on Wednesday, June 17.
Ratification of 2020-21 Board Officers
The Board had met in executive session immediately after the Annual Congregational Meeting on Sunday, May 17, and voted to elect the following officers for the 2020-21 church year: Scott Smith, President); Ebe Emmons, Vice-President; Eleanor Mayfield, Secretary; Kyle Gracey, Treasurer. The Board voted to ratify the election of these officers.
The Board voted to approve
· A position description for the role of Controller, which clarifies the roles of Treasurer and Controller.
The Treasurer is a member of the Board. The Treasurer develops the church budget in consultation with the Finance Committee, Minister, and Board, and advises the Board of Trustees on financial matters.
The Controller is a volunteer staff member who reports to the Minister and works closely with the Business Manager to manage day-to-day church financial operations.
· A revised Finance Committee charter establishing the roles and duties of the Controller on the committee.
· Appointment of Claus Makowka to the Controller position.
· Appointment of Kyle Gracey, Treasurer, to the Investment Committee, which is responsible for managing decisions on the church’s investments.
Appointment of Congregational Delegates to Virtual UU General Assembly (In addition to minister and DRE)
The church was eligible to appoint up to five congregational delegates (in addition to the Minister and Lifespan Director of Religious Education) to attend and vote at the UU General Assembly, which took place entirely online from June 24–29. A call for members of the congregation who were interested in serving as delegates had appeared twice in the weekly email newsletter. Three members volunteered (Ebe Emmons, Kyle Gracey, and Lynne Porterfield). The Board voted to approve these three members as congregational delegates.
Extension of Church Closure
Following discussion, the Board voted to extend the closure of the church building at least through December 31, 2020 and not to accept reservations for events sponsored by outside groups until further notice. This decision was made with regret and in recognition of the difficulties associated with safely gathering in the church building during the ongoing
coronavirus pandemic. The Board and the Minister will continue to monitor the situation and may revise the closure decision if circumstances change.
July Board of Trustees Meeting
While the church building is closed, the Board of Trustees is holding its monthly meetings via Zoom. The next meeting is on Wednesday, July 15, at 7:00 p.m. Members and friends of the church are welcome to attend.
If you would like to attend a Board meeting as an observer, please get in touch with Board Secretary Eleanor Mayfield (email@example.com), who will arrange for you to receive the Zoom link to join the meeting.
If you have an issue that you would like to speak about at a Board meeting, please send your request to the Board Secretary along with a brief explanation of the issue you would like to bring to the Board’s attention.
Let me begin by saying that Rev. Connie, the Board, and I recognize that some members of our congregation are dealing with reduced pay, no pay, or layoffs in addition to all of the social stresses of this pandemic. If that applies to you, please don't worry about pledge payments until your finances recover. Nor need you take precious time to email me about suspending your donation, unless you need my help to stop or reduce an automatic payment. If so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of us with the good fortune of a continuing income, if your practice has been to put your donation or pledge payment in the Sunday collection plate, welcome to the virtual collection plate! You can still donate in one of the following ways:
Please also consider making an extra contribution to Marion's Purse / Minister's Benevolence Fund so Rev. Connie is able provide some support for congregants with financial emergencies.
Thank you for your continued generosity in these challenging times.
Claus D. Makowka
THE UU COMMUNITY SINGERS is our church/community choir. Make our church and our city a better place through music. No long-term commitment required, just come when you can. All skill levels welcome, from beginners to advanced singers. Rehearsals are held every Tuesday, Sept - June, 7:15-9:00.
Are you interested in deepening your exploration of Unitarian Universalism? We are looking for facilitators who would like to lead a book reading group or facilitate a class on an area of interest. It's easy, and you don't have to be an expert; materials are provided! Scheduling is often determined by participant and facilitator preferences. Some potential topics for the 2019-20 year are the following:
UU history, older and recent
"Building the World We Dream About" - living out our hope of truly inclusive, multicultural engagement and community
"Spirit in Practice," Exploring spiritual practices
UUA Common Read book choice
Other topics of interest can be proposed, as well. Please contact Erica Shadowsong if you would like to know more about what is involved in facilitating. This is a wonderful way to contribute service to the church, as well as engage in community and enrich your own learning!
If you shop at Giant Eagle for your groceries, you can support the church by purchasing Giant Eagle cards after the service most Sundays. You are able to spend the full amount of what you pay for the card and the church gets a 5% commission on the sale. This is a great way to support the church at no cost to you, with just a little effort to stop by after the service.
First Unitarian Church began using Breeze for its church management software in January. Breeze includes the capability to provide an online directory of church members and friends. After initial testing with a limited number of users, the church is ready to roll out the online directory to the church community.
The UUA is advising that several UU congregations have reported that their members are receiving scam emails that are requesting gift card donations for a charitable cause. Religious groups and congregations are becoming easy targets for these types of scams.
Even in this time of transition, the church's fund raising practices remain the same. No staff member or church leader will call, text, or email you asking for an "emergency" donation for a charitable cause. Marion's Purse is our reserve fund for use in these situations, so no one will be called. Donations to the church are only via cash (at events and services), check payable to the church, texting as listed in our order of service, or our online giving page. The monthly Share the Plate during Sunday Service is the intentional way the church collects funds to support community groups.
As we have passed the halfway point of our church year and have fully entered our lay-led “interregnum” period prior to hiring an interim minister, here is a reminder of First Unitarian Church Priorities for
#1 Create a strong sense of BELONGING for ALL who enter our doors
#2 Explore paths to the formation of a long-lasting and meaningful First Unitarian / Community PARTNERSHIP
These priorities were established by the Board with input from the program staff and congregant participants in VIM Open Questions conversations. They are the guideposts for Board and Staff decisions, actions, and programming. We hope you see evidence of these priorities in all aspects of church life.
You've all heard the saying "Safety First!". The safety of all at First Unitarian Church is our highest priority. Recent events, including a perceived threat to our congregation this last August as well as the horrific shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue, have brought issues of our own safety to the forefront. We have revitalized our Safety Committee. We are organizing a safety training session (exact date to be determined). Finally, we have changed how and where we enter the building. We encourage everyone to use our Garden Lobby doors to enter on Sunday mornings. We have the Lobby staffed with both greeters and security. After the service and RE classes begin, the Garden Lobby doors will be locked. Our security person will let you in if you happen to arrive late.
Two Sundays ago, on January 20th, we had the unfortunate happenstance in that our security person was sick and unable to be in the Lobby. The doors were locked once the service was started and a note was left on the door with a number to call or text for those arriving late. Again, the rationale was that safety comes first. We will be developing plans for how to staff the Lobby in the future if our security staff cannot be present. If you ever arrive late and face locked doors, we ask for your patience and forgiveness. You may not agree with the locked door policy. However, this is the recommendation of our Safety Committee and the board fully backs their carefully thought out policy. Let us all do our best to handle what might be a minor inconvenience with grace, dignity, and patience.
Be on the lookout for your invitation to meet new people from the church and talk about how we can all build up our faith community. The new church year, pledging season, and Rev. Herndon's transition are soon upon us. We have an opportunity to share experiences and ideas from cross sections of our church communities about how we can make the most of these important events. Members will be hosting small group conversations in their homes, and will reach out to you with an invitation soon. We expect to hold all Commitment Conversations in mid-September to mid-October.