The Board of Trustees met last night and we would like to share some key decisions we have made to secure a future for our congregation. We have, of course, made the difficult decision as a congregation to gift our historic building to another entity that can better serve the needs of the city we have served for 129 years. We have also made the decision to stay together and replant as a new congregation. This is a daunting task and requires buy-in to mission. This has been the question that the Board has been wrestling with for the last few months: Why are we replanting? Because we can’t let go? Or because we have something unique to offer?
We do have something unique to offer, and that something unique is our Unitarian Universalist values and principles. That something unique is a commitment to providing a safe space for life-long spiritual growth. We have a clear mission at vision already. It’s time to live into it.
Together we seek to grow as a vibrant presence in our community through sharing our welcoming faith and working to build a just world.
First Unitarian Society: A welcoming, inclusive community to feed the human spirit, to inspire compassionate action, and to serve as a beacon of justice and love.
Our new community will be a covenanted community, where we make promises to each other about how we treat each other, and have a clear path to communicate our pain when someone hurts us, and to forgive and be forgiven. It may seem unnecessary from the point of view of those of us who have been here for a long time. I expect my old friend to be able to tell me that something I said or did hurt or bothered him. And I hope our new community will be filled with our old friends. But that is not our mission. Our mission is to grow. Our mission is to share. Our mission is to be welcoming and inclusive. The covenant invites in the newcomer. It tells her that this is a safe space, and that her voice will be heard with the same clarity as mine. It promotes kindness and guides us on a path to forgiveness when we inevitably err.
Our new community will be a safe community, with explicit Safe Congregations policies and procedures. One only has to glance at the front page of any paper or tune in to a news story to hear about those in power, particularly in religious organizations, causing harm to the most vulnerable members of our society in the most heinous way imaginable. We will work to create a safe environment for our children, youth, and adults by making sure that we have appropriate guidelines for supervision and safety, and that those guidelines are followed. All of the members of our community have the right to worship free of physical or emotional harm.
Our new community will be a mission-driven community, and we will put our money where our mission is. That is the whole purpose of letting go of our building. It took up too much of our resources, both in money and volunteer power, in relation to the size of our congregation. We can now use more of our time, talent and treasure to live our mission, and less to figure out how to patch a hole in the roof. Our new community will have money in our budget specifically earmarked for mission work. We will have a clear procedure where members can have their mission driven projects funded.
This will be our “why”. Now onto the “how”. The Board of Trustees has developed the following timeline:
September: finalize rental space choices, meet with Replant team, make recommendations to the Board of Trustees for location.
October: Congregational meeting: we will vote yes or no to the rental space, make any necessary budget adjustments to the 2018-2019 budget. Yard sale.
November: Heritage Sunday, November 4th. Begin holding services in new rental location, if available.
December-February: plan pledge campaign, marketing plan, staffing plan for the 2019-2020 church year
September 2019: grand opening of our new community
Heritage Sunday will be our final regular worship service at 724 Park Avenue. Our plan is to hold service the following Sunday at our new location. Should we be unable to secure a location by November, we will suspend regular worship services until December. While people are encouraged to hold social gatherings in their homes, we cannot hold a public worship service in a private home due to liability and safety issues. Non-worship activities will continue in the months of November and December at 724 Park Avenue. Rentals will continue through December 31st.
We will have a final Christmas eve candlelight service in the Sanctuary on Christmas Eve.
We will have food pantry on November 17th and December 22nd. We will host a community dinner on Thanksgiving. We are currently seeking a local partner to house our food pantry in another location, and can also do this for future community dinners. Please speak to Joanne Macaluso if you would like to help.
As a reminder, we will be holding two more listening sessions this month, Friday afternoon, September 7th at Joanne’s and Friday evening, Sept. 14th at Melissa’s. Contact [email protected] for details.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please reach out to me, our minister Ann Marie, or any of the members of the Board of Trustees. I am available by phone and email, and am around most Sundays.
If you missed one of these President’s letters, they are archived in our blog at www.firstunj.org. Click on FUSP blog at the top right-hand corner of the homepage.
President, Board of Trustees