Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Thanksgiving Message: Gratitude List!

This is from my column in the November church newsletter, the Unigram.   You can read the whole issue at this link.

Gratitude List!

 

Medical studies reveal that cultivating a practice of generosity is good for your health. And one thing that generates generosity is the practice of saying thanks.

Our days can be long and full, and our challenges can be distracting, so it’s good to remember: it takes practice to be grateful. As I prepare to celebrate my eighth Thanksgiving season with UUSS, here is part of my gratitude list. I give thanks:

  • … for those who disagree with me with authenticity and love. It’s a gift to know that people trust me enough to challenge a recent sermon, or say they don’t see eye to eye with me on a point of theology or social witness. It means we not only are living out our diversity, but trusting one another. It means love!
  • … for the big, beautiful sanctuary building and the good things that happen inside: theater, music, book sales, large crowds on Sunday, coffee, soup, all-ages events like Thanksgiving dinner and the Holiday Party, fun fundraising activities, committee work, warm hospitality to newcomers, and care for others.
  • … for my dedicated staff colleagues, our committed lay leaders, and the many volunteers who make this congregation so vital and exciting.
  • … for the clear sky early in the morning, inviting me to read a poem or prayer and sit in reflection before I rush off. I would LIKE to be grateful also for a rainy morning—a whole bunch of them, soon!
  • … for the generous members, friends, and families who make and pay a monthly pledge to UUSS. Your gifts make so much possible in and beyond UUSS.
  • … for a home and a fun job, the relative safety which I am privileged to enjoy, the strength and vitality of the region and country in which I live, and the meals that sustain me every day.

Sometimes I forget to appreciate these ordinary blessings when they happen. That’s why I made this list. Thank you for reading!

Yours in service,

 

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Minister’s May Newsletter Message: Where there’s a Will, there’s a Way!

I’m overdue to redraft my Last Will and Testament. I also should create a Trust.

Since doing my will in 1991, things have changed. My nephews have grown up. They are out on their own, and their parents have done quite well, so they are not in need of all my assets. For 17 years, I haven’t even been in the Midwestern UU church that I listed as a beneficiary in my will long ago. Now I have a new congregation that is near to my heart and whose mission inspires my actions. This one!

 

Other things have changed. Since those days, I’ve become a graduate of one UU seminary and I feel very close to another one. I want them to continue to produce “all the ministers that are above average” for a long time to come.

 

At UUSS, our 50-year Master Plan for the Buildings and Grounds is visionary and beautiful, and the amount of resources necessary over the years for it will not be small. What made this plan possible in the first place were bequests of beloved members and friends of UUSS, now departed. You can see all their names on the metal Gratitude and Appreciation tree sculpture in the lobby.

 

Our fundraising consultant, Rev. Bud Swank, told me that we need an organized program to invite people to consider and plan on leaving a bequest or other legacy to UUSS with instruments like wills, trusts, mutual fund beneficiary designations, etc. This will ensure the Master Plan has sufficient resources down the road. I decided to get going on this need myself.

 

I don’t expect to die soon, but I don’t want to neglect putting down on paper the decisions that could put my assets to use in the service of my liberal religious values and in support of the mission and continuing ministry of this congregation.

 

If you’d like to talk to a minister about the kind of legacy you would like to plan for the future of Unitarian Universalism, please be in touch with one of us. I’m glad you are here now, in person. I look forward to seeing you soon on a Sunday. Take care!

 

Thank you for being part of UUSS.

 

Yours in service,

 

Roger

 



Senior Minister’s Message: A Big Deal! {Newsletter column from May 2014}

We easily achieved a quorum of members at the April 6 meeting of the congregation. After her introductory remarks, Linda, UUSS Board President, received a motion and a second for authorization to borrow up to $1.1 million to ensure sufficient financing of Phase 1A of the Master Plan for the Building and Grounds. This was a big deal!

After much respectful discussion from supporters of this motion and those expressing opposition, Linda called for a vote by hand. The results were 93 yes, 7 no, 2 abstain. Thanks to all for your enthusiasm and caution, your questions and ideas—thanks for your participation!

With this approval, we can set about doing two things:

1)    raising donations to minimize the amount of borrowing and to save on annual interest costs. We may launch a second two-year capital giving campaign for this purpose.

2)    getting ready to build; moving to our Home Away from Home by fall. The Master Plan Building Committee is working on all of this. Stay tuned for announcements.

 

I am confident the results of our Building Project will be worth it:

  •  A bigger, brighter, welcoming space for all the spiritually progressive and spiritually hungry folks who will come looking for a place to belong and connect.
  • An energy-efficient facility, plus bike racks, and better drainage—putting our green principles into practice. The facility will be more accessible and safer.
  •  More space so we can all meet together in a service and for fellowship activities. A beautiful sanctuary to give spiritual comfort in times of stress or grief.
  • A larger profile in the region as a beacon of liberal religion and service to the local community. More facilities to support our social justice ministries.

Because I think the result will be worth it—and because I like avoiding debt—I am thinking how deeply I can dig into my assets to increase my level of participation in the Building Fund. I know that many of you are thinking about that as well.

I know that not everyone can make a large gift. That is okay! We would never ask you to make a gift that you don’t have. However, we can all be generous, so we hope that everyone will find a way to participate in a way appropriate for them.

Your moral support, encouragement, good questions and creative ideas also matter very much. This is how we build the beloved community.   Thank you for your giving and your vision.

Thank you for being part of UUSS.

Yours in service,

Roger



Breaking news: More Saturday dinner tix available for UUSS auction, plus a UU justice conference Saturday

#1

Good news from Glory, our head chef for the New Discoveries auction dinner.

We have enough tickets left and enough fresh ingredients purchased that if you have not yet reserved or bought your ticket, you are LIKELY to be able to get one at the door! To be certain, you may email Elaine in the UUSS office today or call her at 916-483-9283.

Doors open and silent bidding starts at 5:30 PM. Dinner served at 6:30 PM. The live auction starts after dinner with Rev. Lucy as auctioneer. TOMORROW, April 5!

Dinner tickets $20. Kids under 12 eat for free. For the live auction only, tix are $10.

Professional child care provided at no extra charge in the Room 11 Nursery! If you’re coming you might email Miranda so she can let our caregivers know whom to expect.

I hope to see you! Let’s give our thanks to our hardworking team of auction volunteers for making this big event possible.

#2

UU Economic Justice Summit Saturday, April 5, in Walnut Creek

The UU Justice Ministry of California’s new executive director extends an invitation to the UUJM economic justice summit for UUs from around the state. It features inspiring worship, area experts on suburban poverty and food inequality, and the Robert Reich documentary, “Inequality for All.” The host minister is the Rev. Leslie Takahashi Morris, of Mount Diablo UU Church in Walnut Creek. It will be over in time to make it back for the UUSS Auction & Dinner. Read about it at uujmca.org/advocacy/economic-justice-for-all/



April newsletter highlight #1 — Senior Minister’s Message: A Big Step and a Bold Future

 

On April 6, our members vote on whether to authorize UUSS’ borrowing of up to $1.1 million to close the funding gap for our Building Project. A big step.

I don’t like debt! I pay my credit cards off each month (except when I forget). I don’t like construction and remodeling either. After two months of living in piles of papers after moving to the senior minister’s office, my friends came from the Walnut Creek church last fall to do an “intervention” for me. Call it a forced makeover.

 

However, the results have been worth it in my office (If you know the before and the after, you know what I mean.). I am confident the results of our Building Project will be worth it:

  • A bigger, brighter, welcoming space for all the spiritually progressive and spiritually hungry folks who will come looking for a place to belong and connect.
  • An energy-efficient facility, plus bike racks, and better drainage—putting our green principles into practice. The facility will be more accessible and safer.
  • More space so we can all meet together in a service and for fellowship activities.
  • A beautiful sanctuary to give spiritual comfort in times of stress or grief.
  • A larger profile in the region as a beacon of liberal religion and service to the local community. More facilities to support our social justice ministries.

Because I think the result will be worth it–and because I like avoiding debt–I am thinking about how much more deeply I can dig into my appreciated assets and increase my level of participation in the Building Fund. I know from conversations that many of you are thinking about that as well.

I know that not everyone can make a large gift. That is okay! We would never ask you to make a gift that you don’t have.

However, we can all be generous, so we hope that everyone will find a way to participate in a way appropriate for them.

Your moral support, encouragement, good questions and creative ideas also matter very much. Your presence here is what matters most. This is how we build the beloved community.

Thank you for your giving. Thank you for being part of UUSS.

Yours in service,

Roger



UUSS Campus Renovation & Expansion Project – Cost & Financing Issues–Meeting this Sunday

Frequently Asked Questions for the Congregational Meeting–February 23, 10:30 a.m.

 1.      What is the status of the building project?

As of today, the project is paused, or on hold.  Jackson Construction, the general contractor we have engaged for this project, has provided us with cost estimates for Phase 1a that significantly exceeds the money we have raised to date.  This financial “gap” is approximately $1.1 million.  Before proceeding any further, the members of Implementing the Master Plan (IMP) Committee and the Board of Trustees (BOT) decided it was necessary to pause the project and come up with a funding strategy to close this gap.  This means the construction and move to the Sierra Arden United Church of Christ will not start in May of this year.  A new start date for these events has not been determined.

2.     Where does the gap come from?

The Capital Campaign, sale of the duplex apartments and the identification of UUSS Endowment and Bequest funds resulted in a budget for the project of $2.0 million.  However, Jackson Construction estimates that general contractor costs and competitively bid subcontractor costs for our project will total $3.1 million.  Jackson Construction evaluated our design for a renovated Main Hall/Sanctuary building, landscaping, parking lot and utility repair and improvement–and the costly changes we are required to make by the County–and told us they estimate the project costs would be approximately $3.1 million.  This estimate includes almost $600,000 in infrastructure improvements and costs for parking lot repairs, a new fire hydrant, raising the level of the floor, and sidewalk, gutter and curb installation on Sierra Blvd – all required by our use permit from Sacramento County.  The remainder of the gap is a result of higher construction costs than expected for some of the items, but not all.

3.     What are the options?

The IMP and BOT members have identified 4 alternatives:

A – Raise and/or borrow the additional funds to finance the project as currently designed;

B – Raise and/or borrow additional funds and re-scope the project to match those funds;

C – Re-scope or scale down the project to match only the currently available funds;

D – Stop the project completely.

4.     What is being done now to evaluate the alternatives?

Leadership teams from the IMP/Building Committee and the BOT have initially rejected alternative D.  Due to the time, energy, work and cost already expended, and the great need for repair, upgrade, code compliance and accessibility, it was decided that walking away from the project entirely would be a strategic mistake.  Furthermore, the energy and momentum demonstrated from the calling of Roger as the new Senior Minister indicate strong congregational support for moving forward and growing as a presence in the larger community.  The aging grounds and facilities we have here need to be updated and modernized for the future, and this project is critical to that effort.

A small group of lay leaders has been exploring the option of borrowing from various lenders.  The UU Church in Davis experienced a similar challenge of cost increases with their building project and their members have been very helpful to us in sharing their knowledge and experience.  Members of the IMP team and the Finance Committee have been in touch with lenders and have received indications that we could successfully secure a loan.  In addition, we believe a renovated campus with a new commercial kitchen would result in much higher rental income and would be a strong argument in our loan application.  We also have a strong recent history of annual pledging and giving to the church.

Borrowing for this project would add loan payments or new debt service obligations to our annual budget and the impact of this increase is being analyzed.  The results of pledges made in the current Stewardship Month will be important information to consider our ability to make loan payments.  Our Capital Campaign team is considering options for additional fundraising.

The IMP Committee is exploring new designs for the Sanctuary and Welcome Hall that would reduce the number of structural changes planned in the original design.  This could lower the overall costs.  The use of the RE wing for housing all of our office staff is also being explored as another cost-saving step.

5.      What should UUSS friends and members be doing to stay informed? 

There will be a congregational meeting Sunday, February 23,between the services at 10:30 a.m.  We hope many of you will attend.  This meeting is designed to bring everyone up to date on the project and share more background and context regarding the information in this document.  There will be a brief period to ask questions at the meeting.  Members involved in this project will be available in a classroom this Sunday after the 11:15 service to answer additional questions and solicit ideas and input from you.  Another conversation is being planned for a Sunday in March.  Members should ask questions and share their opinions on the alternatives since this “home remodel” will affect all of us.

This project will transform UUSS for many decades and the support of the congregation is critical to its success.  We all need to be engaged and informed since balancing our annual budget while investing in the future is not just the responsibility of the BOT but one that belongs to the entire congregation.

6.     What is the background of the Master Plan?  What about the Capital Campaign? 

UUSS focus group conversations led to the congregation’s adoption of a long-range plan in 2008.  In 2010 members unanimously approved the 50-year Master Plan for our campus.  The plan included renovation of the existing Main Hall to retain the character of our UUUSS home and to save on the costs of a new structure.   In 2012, a fundraising consultant conducted a feasibility study and then supported us through a successful capital campaign among members and friends.  In 2013 members voted to sell the duplex apartments and use the proceeds for this project.

At 3:00 p.m. Sunday, March 16, lay leaders will hold a Capital Campaign Update.  We will invite those who missed the 2012 campaign.  All members and friends are welcome.



at UUSS, Which Minister Oversees What Programs and Staff Positions?

By the Acting Senior Minister

Given the revenue challenges in last spring’s budget preparations, we have only 1.5 ministry positions this fiscal year, versus the two ministry positions that UUSS enjoyed the prior 10 years.   Fortunately, we have an ideal match for our needs in our Assistant Minister, the Rev. Lucy Bunch.  She is here on a year’s contract on a half-time basis.

Lucy supervises our Bookkeeper, Facilities Coordinator, and Congregational Support Coordinator, who in turn oversee other dedicated staff members.  She leads our biweekly staff meetings.   Lucy provides ministerial support to the Finance Committee, Property Management, and Implementing the Master Plan (for our building project and the related relocation for the year when the renovation takes place).

Lucy will preach eight times this year and is at worship on the Sundays when she is here.  Often she leads a hymn or sings a solo.  As time allows, Lucy provides support to other committees.  She’s available for pastoral care, especially for any stresses and needs related to the many transitions we have begun or have gone through already.

As Acting Senior Minister, I supervise the Assistant Minister, the music program and staff, and the dedicated Religious Education Coordinator, who in turn supports our nursery staff and many volunteers.

I provide ministerial support to our volunteer teams for Stewardship, Religious Services, Music, Adult Enrichment, Child/Youth Religious Education, Social Responsibility, Family Promise, “Faithful Friends” Jail Visitations, Lay Listening Ministry, Membership/Greeters, Theater One, fundraisers, and the Endowment Trust.

I write the Ministerial Message for emailing to all.  I lead the Newcomers’ Orientation to Membership.  What am I forgetting?

I provide much of the pastoral care and, sadly, conduct our memorial services.  I’d like to do some baby dedications, soon!  In the senior minister position, I continue to be the minister who oversees Religious Education and All-Ages Community Building.  You could say that I am still a family minister–but for me, “family” now means the whole congregation!

Lucy and I both serve as ex officio members of the Board and Program Council and meet with the Executive Committee, which gives us input on management issues.  We share a Committee on Ministry, which meets monthly to reflect on the pulse of UUSS and the congregation’s overall ministry.  Lucy and I meet often, as well

I appreciate her wisdom, talents, commitment and energy!  I appreciate all the staff and volunteers who serve UUSS!

See you in church,

Roger