Notes from the Board

December 2017

Last Sunday’s 2018 Budget passed unanimously. Board Chair Scott Donovan offers a reflection and a gratitude…..

Last Sunday, December 10th, we met as a congregation to review and endorse a budget document for 2018. It was an ordinary event in that it happens every year and we manage the consequences regardless. But this year felt extraordinary because of the commitment so many of you made to engagement in the process.

It was a difficult journey because so much was on the line – substantial expenditures that threatened to send us well into deficit. Yet holding that tension was the desire to extend our programming and invest in new initiatives.

The budget that was born from ten weeks of development and a robust pledge campaign passed handily last Sunday. It was a strong endorsement of healthy process. I believe the process created the conditions for us to explore the limits of things in a safe and respecting way. The willingness to take risks and healthy dialogue around money are key indicators of a strong community.

So be it.

Yours in gratitude, Scott Donovan.

 

2018 Budget Summary

Over the past two years our congregation has been experimenting with and implementing new ways of engaging in important dialogue. The Community Conversations group has hosted many programs that supported us using an array of group process tools and workshop types. With this behind us, and budget time approaching, this September felt like an appropriate opportunity to employ the toolbox to support us in developing a budget that engaged broadly, consulted wisely, and brought people together to hear one another.

I’m pleased to report that before the draft budget goes to the congregation on December 10th for discussion and approval, there have been many hands and many voices offering input and influence. I believe we’ve set a new benchmark for participation, and I’m certain we’ve succeeded in combining and including as many new initiatives as possible.

Budget year 2018 is not only marked by a participatory process. It’s also a break from the past in that there were an unusually high number of new initiatives and program ideas than in the past. There was passion, practicality, needs and dreams all packed into an invigorating showcase of ideas. Thankfully it’s coupled with robust canvass results that have demonstrated your continued commitment to generosity. Furthermore, we’ve been blessed with strong dividends from our investment fund, expertly managed, that continues to serve us well. Thank you, Mr. Wiggins, and others like you who have contributed generously to UFP throughout our relatively brief 56-year history. We are very fortunate to be where we are. and it befits us to be thankful.

On October 23rd, we hosted a participatory budget meeting: ‘If you had a dream for this Fellowship what would it look like?’ Individuals and committees were invited to pitch their inspired ideas for new projects. Twenty-five participants work-shopped and prioritized eight items, some colourfully named: Valuing Music, Collaborating with Beth Israel, The Monitors, Stairway to Heaven Safety, Re-Naming/Branding, Advocacy, Welcoming Space, and The Courtyard Project. Many thanks to Ben Wolfe for lending his expertise at hosting this event and supporting many others like it.

In October, the Finance committee, led by our Treasurer Fred Kooy, began the budget process by collecting requests from committees. Pledge amounts from members and friends were estimated, as were income amounts from our investments. Our most significant expenditures are salaries and wages for our treasured, hard working staff; Elaine, Kate and Rev. Julie. Kathleen Stephenson-Fields was able to lend her capable hand to qualifying staff expenses to comparable job descriptions and national indexed averages. A draft budget was developed by the Finance team on November 9th. Amounts from the new initiatives were held back as they were yet to be vetted in another round of scrutiny.

Also in October three very capable women, Sue Sauvé, Kate King Fisher and Avril Siddle, met to develop this year’s UFP annual canvass campaign. Their center piece was an online survey which asked for responses to a variety of questions and called on everyone to pledge to UFP for 2018. The results of the pledge campaign were announced at our luncheon event on November 19th with great fanfare: another banner year! Thank you so much for supporting UFP in the coming year and thanks to Sue, Kate and Avril for helping to make it a success.

The final figures for pledges for 2018 will not be available for some time, as they will continue to trickle in to year’s end. The pledge amount on the budget published this week (December 1st) will change. At the time of writing it is expected to top $121,000 plus an additional $5000 from an anonymous donor who is honouring a challenge to the congregation to top last year’s total of $118,000.

While our canvass campaign has been a huge success in strengthening our income stream, you will see on the books that that we continue to carry a budget deficit. While this may seem astounding to some, Fred Kooy, our uber-responsible and fiscally prudent Treasurer has pointed out that charitable organizations such as ours need to be seen as giving themselves away. We are called to demonstrate, through our actions, and expressed in our budgets, that we are punching above our weight. We are overextended, yes, which is a manifestation of a zealous community stretching beyond its reach, in a wilful act of insanity. Yet we remain grounded in hope that our generosity will attract the best in others, and they will join us in this bright vision we carry. Fred encourages us to relinquish our fear of scarcity and embrace the idea of giving more than we receive.

The Finance Committee, the Board, and leadership from our community gathered on November 23rd for another workshop-based open dialogue. The purpose was to develop a draft budget, piggybacked on the draft budget previously prepared by Finance, but with a focus on the new initiatives defined by the October workshop. Other expenses were added to the mix, namely salary increases. The list the group was asked to consider had grown to eleven: Welcoming hall, Stair refurbishment, Sanctuary monitors, Choir director position, Courtyard design follow-up, Admin. Assistant pay increase, Minister’s salary raise, New Religious Exploration (RE) support position, Community development & ministries, UFP funding of childcare, and Renaming/Rebranding UFP.

There were 16 people present. I believe the participatory format worked well. The new initiatives were heavily scrutinized; some projects floated to top right away, other were clearly not favoured by the group and were asked to be deferred to next year, and a few remained in the room for a long time, subject to discussion and lots of questioning. The group, in it’s wisdom, managed to workshop the list down to a clever combination of champions, deferrals, and mergers. It was good work and a clear statement of intention.

The work of the Board, at its November 26th draft budget meeting, was made easier. Karen, Fred, Casey, Jessica, Guy and myself were faced with giving shape to the priorities expressed three nights previously. Themes emerged, adjustments were made, and after yet another three-hour meeting, a list of seven items made its way into a draft budget for the congregation: Administrative Assistant raise (+2hrs/wk & merit & CoL increase), Minister (merit & CoL increase), Director of RE (merit & CoL increase), Choir Director new position (expense neutral for 2018 – new funds req’d for 2019 onward), RE Assistant position, Beth Israel cooperative projects funding, and Childcare for UFP events (expense neutral).

Five out of seven items are directly related to people resources – supporting individuals in their service to UFP. Number six, regarding Beth Israel, is about building relationships. The seventh item, childcare, is expected to be expense neutral as it is a money transfer out of the RE budget and into a new UFP line item in the budget, meant to draw attention to the fact that childcare is an accessibility issue that we all are responsible to, not just within RE.

The salary increases were self evident and uncontroversial. Raises have not been offered in years. Salaries were, as noted above, scrutinized against geo-indexed data from UU organizations and details are available by request.

The Beth Israel cooperative project is intended to fund a number of initiatives that have brought UFP and our sister congregation together. ‘Reimagine the courtyard’ is a goodwill endeavour meant to build relationship and work on a common project, Stair Refurbishment is a safety issue that needs to be addressed, and a third expense would be directed to a consultant with expertise in transitioning faith communities into new operational paradigms – a matter the UFP and Beth Israel leadership is exploring over the coming year. It’s expected that all these expenses will be cost shared with Beth Israel.

Finally, there are two new positions being considered for 2018, both of which are expected to be ongoing; Choir Director and RE Assistant. Each has merit in that they add value to what are arguably the two most significant ministries in our community: music and children & youth programming. Costs for 2018 have been rationalized down to a minimum, but the commitment in subsequent years is a likelihood, so decisions made now will have long-term implications. Trying to balance the passionate ideas of creative people with big, bright ideas with the concerns expressed by those who strive to conserve the precious funds that we have collected over time and will need in the future to sustain ourselves is a difficult task.

These two new positions that are seeking your approval in the 2018 budget are explained in separate documents attached as appendices to this report, as well as in links elsewhere in this document. I hope you will find in them the promise of enriched programming and a bolstered community.

A common thread that is an undercurrent in this budget document and has been evident by leadership within UFP over the past few years is the reduction of volunteerism. It’s impossible to draw generalizations, and the challenges are not unique to UFP; this is trending across the continent. Fewer and fewer people appear to be stepping up to sustain the programs that so many of us enjoy. This may change in the future, hopefully it will, but we are facing challenges now that we can’t ignore, and this budget seeks to address that.

While I’m not ready to give up on the dream of shared ministry; the goal of integrating people into ministries that serve their need to belong while drawing on their gifts to share, I’m also willing to bend to the other side: seek further pledges to support expanding ministries that need funding. If you are currently not pledging or contributing financially, I ask you to consider making a weekly commitment – start at a few dollars a week if that’s where you are at. You will be surprised with how good it feels. If you are a regular contributor, thank you for all that you’ve contributed. Now lean in, as the saying goes. Your ongoing support and increased generosity is critical at this time. Our vital programming needs you in order to remain relevant and attractive to newcomers.

I will end this rather lengthy budget description where I started – recognizing process as a medium that can carry us places, strong and resilient (trust in the group), and by offering a nod to the value in being intentional and taking risks – a willful act of insanity.

Please come to the Congregational Budget meeting on December 10th after the service. Your voice is needed and appreciated.
Yours in community, Scott Donovan, for the Board

Brief descriptions of the two proposed positions are appended below.
The 2018 draft budget is found here, and through a separate link in the Flame.

Appendix: Proposed Choir Director position

Music has evolved in our Fellowship over the years and is now an integral part of the life of our congregation.
As with other programs that require a level of expertise and skill, we believe it is important to act in alignment with our principles and be equitable and just in providing financial compensation for the professional services of ‘choir director’. Although we have been very fortunate to have this offered on a volunteer basis, we run the risk of losing this valuable service if we do not approach the standards for financial compensation in this regard. Paying professional staff for their leadership in the ministry of music is the norm in our Unitarian congregations and in other religious traditions. For example, other Unitarian congregations around our size such as Mississauga, Neighbourhood in Toronto, London (with about 75 members) and Halifax all have paid music staff.
Music falls within the scope of the Creative Worship Team (CWT). Knowing that this issue has been discussed by our committee we were approached to submit a grant proposal to help fund the position, and we received a grant for $1,500!! To accommodate this gift, which requires some cost-sharing with UFP, the CWT has re-arranged its 2018 budget to include ‘Choir Director’.
For this new position we are proposing a very modest budget line of $2,500 annually, which is far below the recommended guidelines endorsed by the Canadian Unitarian Council. With our grant for this coming year, that leaves $1000 left to fund and most of this is obtained through adjustments within the budget for the Creative Worship Team.
It is our hope that you, the congregation, value the professional expertise that is required for this position and will support this initiative.
Submitted by Marion Habermehl and Kathy McLay

Appendix: Proposed RE Assistant

Our Director of Religious Exploration (DRE), Kate Huband, has expressed a need for support in her work. The Religious Exploration (RE) Committee endorses that need.
The RE Committee has been working diligently on giving shape and definition to this new role, but we are doing so without Kate’s input as she is away on leave this semester, returning January 4th. We acknowledge that the role will bend to what the person brings to it. We are seeking flexibility and keeping the conversation open as the details evolve.
Basically, the position is to assist the DRE in preparations for programming, and to be present on Sundays as a leader in the RE program, including set up, clean up, and connecting with families. This means that two skilled and experienced program leaders could consistently be available on Sundays, fostering ongoing relationships with the youth and children, and creating the possibility for new streams of programming to develop. We envision the possibility of additional age group programming on Sundays, as well as family/child/youth programming at other times of the week.
When we deliver programming, each group requires supervision/facilitation by two adults. While enrolment is up, volunteering is currently lower than in past years. The hope is to return to a robust volunteer-based program, and a significant part of Kate’s work is in developing relationships to that end.
While this is envisioned as an annual position, the committee acknowledges that, if approved, it will be several weeks into 2018 until a job description and hiring protocol is in place, the position posted, and applicants interviewed. Therefore, the amount of the ask for 2018 is less than it might be for subsequent years.
Submitted by the RE committee
Link to: 2018 budget

September 2017

This month’s ministry theme is Welcome, a sentiment I wholeheartedly extend to you.

Welcome back! I hope you will bring yourself and cherished ones and find your way back into community. You will find much to explore, many to connect with, and lots to fall in love with.

Welcome home for those of you who consider this place a safe and familiar haven and contribute to community life with your life affirming presence. We need you and you need us!

And if you find peace at a distance, staying connected through our newsletter and web content, know that we will welcome you back in person should you you feel up for the journey. If your challenge is simply finding a way to our door, let us know. We can help get you here and we can welcome you in person.

And while we offer to you a place of peace and quiet contemplation, if you’re looking for more, this fall promises an abundance of events and activities that will engage and stimulate. Keep posted to this newsletter for news of congregational gatherings and announcemnets.

Your Board is meeting this weekend for an annual retreat. It a special time for us to reconnect, discuss our hopes and ambitions for the upcoming year, and learn a few things about what Board work is all about. I hope you will take the opportunity to check in with, and welcome us for a new year. Be sure to let us know about your experience of UFP. We are Guy Hanchet, Karen Denis, Fred Kooy, Jessica Lindeman, Casey Summers, and me, Scott Donovan.

February 2017

Last year your Board considered elements we want to include in our meetings and ways we want to sharpen our focus. The past couple of months has brought that into practice. We’re immersing ourselves in policy and planning matters. It’s a good direction for us, and it’s starting to affect the way we think.

We’re we are moving our governance model toward the program church with an emphasis on written communications for all committees (minutes, reports, and terms of reference) and diminished time on reporting. The bulk of our meeting time is now committed to planning and policy.

 We are developing, in Dan Hotchkiss’ s words, “… a strong resolve to avoid micro-management and to delegate authority… and draw a clear boundary between appropriate and inappropriate board business…” (Governance and Ministry). This new focus signifies a shift away from the parish church model where communications happen word of mouth, the minister is at the centre of everything, and assumptions float that everyone knows everybody else.

 Some recent policy initiatives are gifts to UFP, emergency incident protocol, and selling and serving alcohol at UFP functions. We are casting our sights on medium and long range planning horizons by dusting off the 2009 Long Range Plan and setting the table for the two new task forces requested through the Decembers Budget meeting; Human Resources and Long Range Financial Plan.

We have determined a need for support in a few areas of congregational life that are currently underserved; Fellowship (coordinate and source leadership for social events), Stewardship (coordinate, schedule and source leadership for fund raising activities), and Congregational Engagement (support and encourage a culture of shared ministry). If you have skills, interest or ambition to contribute to any of these endeavours please let us know.

The Board is functioning well in these early days of sabbatical. It will also be apparent to anyone attending our Sunday services that we continue to provide first class gatherings in Rev. Julie’s absence. Even the bumps and wrinkles that occasionally surface are received as joyful learning moments.

We are grateful for the efforts of the Creative Worship Team and the many volunteers who keep our Sunday mornings welcoming and comfortable, and to Elaine, our office administrator, who has stepped up to the plate in a big way by serving us with seamless efficiency.

Your Board is here to support the mission and purpose of UFP. We are Jessica Lindeman, Dave Wells, Deb Leudke, Kate King-Fisher, Karen Denis, and myself, Scott Donovan.

January 2017

Our December 11th Budget meeting ran long. Very long. Money and finance is a topic people feel passionate about. It’s the backbone to much of our mission, after all, and for us it’s complicated by our desire to be generous while acknowledging the necessity of frugality in the face of long term financial health.

For many years now we have been wrestling a monkey on our back; the budget deficit. We have a well established practice of spending more than we take in, year after year. We have been covering the loss by drawing from our investment fund. It’s not sustainable, we all know that, but we continue the pattern because collectively we know of no other way. Our expenses are lean and our income, although it rises every year, hasn’t yet reached that balance point. We remain hopeful, but without a plan. This is a big issue for us. It requires a broad analysis of the situation and some thoughtful consideration moving forward. At the December 11th meeting we approved a motion to strike a task force to consider the issues and develop a long-term, sustainable financial plan. If this is something that interests you, or if you have some expertise to offer, please contact me or any of our leadership.

Staffing costs are the largest item in our expenses ledger. We cherish the people under our hire and we want to express our gratitude and sense of fairness financially, yet the issue of the unbalanced budget rings loud. This is a difficult conversation to have, and a congregational meeting is not the best place to voice it. More on that later. What emerged at our Budget meeting was the absence of data to compare our practices with others and a clear history of what has come before. The grid, as it is referred to, was brought up repeatedly. It’s clear that our congregation wants to be fair and transparent but the data wasn’t available to respond to questions or substantiate concerns.

It appears we need to develop our Human Resources practices. A motion was carried at the Budget meeting that a task force be struck to develop a strategy and policy that moves employees through salary ranges. This work has traditionally been the domain of Religious Exploration and the Committee on Ministry, but the congregation felt an over-arching policy needed to be implemented to ensure committees, including Finance, acknowledge the importance of fair and equitable staff compensation.

It would certainly be advantageous to have these conversations well in advance of a congregational meeting. Each Fall committees are tasked with compiling financial data and developing budget figures to submit to Finance who prepares, in conjunction with the Board, a draft budget. That process is meant to shake out what’s unnecessary and hold up what’s most worthwhile. The process is intended to draw upon broad consultation such that draft budget can be passed at congregational meetings without controversy. Leadership has been advocating this process, but it appears as if the message hasn’t got out.

The Board, at our December 15th meeting, recognized that our planning process needs to be more robust and draw in more people. Budgets are, after all, the backbone to our mission and need to be drafted and debated widely. The Board committed to hosting a fall gathering where congregants can imagine possibilities for the coming year and attach financial commitments to our ambitions. Collectively, in the fall, we can plan for 2018 and discuss how we want to meet our financial goals.

Thank you to everyone who participated, in one way or another, to our fiscal journey. It takes a village to raise a budget. No matter how awkward or difficult the process, and regardless of how broken or disorganized we may appear, we have a strong foundation together and we hold the hope and ambition of a bright and prosperous future. Stay connected and please continue with your generosity.

Scott Donovan. Board Chair

Budget 2017 Summary

A draft budget has been prepared by the Finance Committee and your Board and will be discussed and voted on at the Budget Meeting December 11 after the service. A copy is attached.

Many of the budget figures are similar to last years. Our Program expenses are lean; committees are highly responsible with their resources. Administrative expenses are minimal; we operate well within the average for a not-for profit. Staffing costs have inched up. Millimeters actually. After much deliberation, some of it difficult, we are recommending against salary/wage increases for staff save cost of living. The budget contains a number of minor ups and downs, here and there, but on the whole there are no surprises.

There are several line items worth highlighting because amounts have changed more than $1000 over last year. Half of them are based on predictions, others are fixed and unchangeable. All totaled, we are faced with an increase of $10,635. Here is a brief explanation of the changes:

1. ‘Named, No pledges’ under Donations is projected to be $2750 lower based on actual figures for 2016. This is a peculiar pattern that is difficult to discern.

2. Income from investments is projected to be down $3385 from last year. It’s a prediction based on patterns and forecasting.

3. Professional accounting fees are up by $1000 over last year, yet due to a new lease agreement we will be saving the same amount next year in space rentals. So that’s a wash on the Administrative side.

4. Under program expenses, the Creative Worship Team is budgeting $2000 to pay guest speakers during sabbatical. At the same time we anticipate about $1600 in savings across several other program expenses.

5. We are budgeting $2000 in extra time for Elaine, our administrative assistant, for sabbatical due to increased workload.

6. Cost of living salary increases to all three staff persons amounts to about $1500.

Our pledge campaign was successful. It’s up six percent. Thank you to our Stewardship team and thank you to all of you who contributed. The increase is good, but it doesn’t get us to where we need to be. Our expenses continue to outstrip our revenue. But as our Treasurer Dave Wells reminds us, we don’t have an expense problem, we have a revenue problem. Income isn’t growing at the rate we need it to.

Thus our ledger shows a deficit this coming year, as in the past. As a consequence we are obliged to draw from our investments to make up the gap. We are able to pay a deficit of almost $23,000, yet aside from diminishing the principle, we also lose about $600 in dividends.

But we have lots to be proud of and to celebrate at UFP. Despite financial shortfalls, we are abundant in energy, spirit and love. We can grow our Fellowship and our prosperity as we share that spirit and love in the wider community.

Many thanks to Dave Wells and the finance team.

Scott Donovan. Board Chair

December 2016

We are wrapping up the pledge campaign for another year. If you haven’t done so yet, please consider making a pledge to UFP for the coming year. Show your support for community through a financial donation.

A pledge is not a promise, it’s an intention. It’s understood that circumstances may arise in the coming year that prohibit you from following through, but make the pledge regardless. It’s important for many reasons, not least of all for budgeting at UFP.

A pledge is like an attachment – you to community. It creates a link which strengthens ties and builds commitment. Making a pledge is like making a new friend (seriously!). It cements a relationship. It associates you to a community of people who care. A pledge affirms your connection.

Last year at this time we were seeking pledges for this fiscal year, and now that 2016 is winding down, please check that your pledge has been, or will be honoured. If you need information on the status of your pledge, don’t hesitate to ask. We can provide the particulars. If there is anything preventing you from honouring your pledge and you want to discuss it, please let me or Rev. Julie know.

One last point on money, then I will drop the subject. A draft budget has been prepared, reviewed, and commented on by a substantial number of people within the leadership of UFP. These people, stewards of our community, care deeply about the sustainability of our collective project. The draft budget will be released on or before December 4th and presented at a congregational budget meeting one week later, December 11th. Everyone is welcome to attend. It’s a good opportunity to see how money is allocated to programming, staff and administration, and how we generate revenue to sustain it all. I look forward to seeing you there.

Yours in fellowship; Scott Donovan, Board Chair.

November 2016

Budget 2017 Summary
A draft budget has been prepared by the Finance Committee and your Board. I’d say the document is more realistic than visionary, yet in being prudent, it gives us cause to assess who we are and how we want to move forward. It offers us a sobering look at where we are at and gives you the opportunity to address it. I suppose it might be seen as visionary after all!
Many of the budget figures for expenses and income appear remarkably similar to last years. Programs are holding their own and our general costs have not risen significantly. There are a number of minor ups and downs here and there, but on the whole there are no surprises, except the big six.
There are six changes that have the impact of raising the expense column significantly. Half of them are based on predictions and won’t really be known for some time. But they are realistic. The other half are fixed. All totaled, they amount to about $17,250. They are as follows:
• The ‘Named, No pledges’ line item under Donations is projected to be $3750 lower than 2016 based on the actual figures for this year. This is a peculiar pattern that is difficult to discern. Nonetheless, it’s a pattern and therefore can’t be ignored for budget planning.
• Income from investments is projected to be down about $6000 from last year’s budgeted amount. Again, a pattern that we can’t ignore. The market might not materialize this way, but for budgeting purposes, it’s where we’re at.
• Professional accounting fees are up by $1000 over last year.
• The Creative Worship Team is budgeting $3000 to pay guest speakers during sabbatical. This is an estimate based on their best guess.
• We are budgeting $2000 in extra time for Elaine, our administrative assistant, for sabbatical due to increased workload.
• Cost of living salary increases to all three staff persons amounts to about $1500.
To balance that burden, there are about $1000 in cost savings accumulated through a variety of items scattered throughout the budget. That brings the increased expenses of 2017 to about $16,250 over 2016.

This year we have re-ordered the process by which we develop and approve budgets. For the past several years we have delayed drafting a budget until our annual fund raising canvass is complete. This year the canvass can still be expected in November, but the budget is already on the table. Re-ordering gives us the advantage of moving into a pledge campaign with a fund raising target.
In order to calculate the fund raising target for next year, we need to consider not only the new expenses described above, but our annul deficit. The deficit has been a monkey on our back for years now. It’s estimated to be about $26,000 for next year. Despite the lean programming we manage and the generosity of so many members and friends, we still project a shortfall from year to year, and 2017 is no exception.
The draft budget takes the shortfall and buries it in our fund raising goals. It’s a simple and neat way of presenting a balanced budget, which is how the numbers fall out in our 2017 draft. A balanced budget is something we’ve aspired to; one where we raise the full amount of money necessary to run our programs, pay our staff, and cover administrative expenses. We would rather not continue the practice of drawing from the principle of our investment fund on an annul basis, or at least not to the extent we have been doing. That fund would do better if left untouched.
Our target for donations for 2017 is, therefore, considerably higher than last year. Now you get where I was going when I noted that this could very well be seen as a visionary document.

Maybe it’s time for us to step up. Now, for the first time in a long time, we can see the writing on the wall, and we can respond to that call. Maybe it’s time we own up to all the things we enjoy and consume within our beloved community. For you it might mean adjusting your annual pledge contribution. Possibly you’re inclined to support or offer leadership in a fund raising activity. Maybe you have a secret on how to introduce 50 new members into our community over the next 12 months!
We have lots to be proud of and to celebrate at UFP. We have first class programming on Sunday thanks to Rev. Julie and the Creative Worship Team. We have a spirited and dynamic Religious Education program lead by Kate Huband, and ongoing OWL training and retreat events making waves locally and regionally. We are active in social justice issues and connected to the wider community through programs such as Refugee Sponsorship and the Indigenous Working Group. We have brilliant people creating brilliant music. And we have a variety of adult programs like Journeys, Covenant Groups and Book Club that get people out and engaged beyond Sundays. We have abundant energy, spirit and love to share. We have one another. I have you and you have me, and there’s no end to what we can do together.

Consider the budget not a burden but an opportunity for us to step up to, and fully into beloved community. It’s a way to translate our fiscal energy into making community together. I hope you can find your way into that energy. You’re welcome to it.
Yours in Fellowship,
Scott Donovan

October 2016

Because there were no new faces on the Board this year, we saw it as an opportunity to break with the traditional agenda for our annual retreat and try something fresh. We hatched a plan to use the group-process teachings employed by the UFP Community Conversations last year; a toolbox of dialogue exercises intended to focus ideas and build community.
We approached our own Ben Wolfe to host the event. Ben is a professional facilitator and co-creator of the Peterborough Dialogues, an incubator group of the dialogue practices. Ben recommended we invite others to the retreat, based on the wisdom that new faces bring fresh perspectives. We called on four leaders from our congregation to join us. Together we were a group of twelve, strong.
We asked Ben to lead the group in exercises to sharpen our focus and articulate a set of priorities that the board could forward in the coming year. Across three gatherings, over almost ten hours, we connected personally, exchanged ideas, shared passions, and imagined possibilities in small and large groups.
Participants were asked to create ‘declaration of possibility’ statements (for example; I believe we can let go of outmoded ways and step into a clearing where there is a vitality that lights up our experience of community.) Open space technology was employed where everyone’s agenda items could be heard. As a group we managed to craft several priorities. We also took away some of the core teachings such that we could employ the practices in our own committees and the Board.
The retreat was productive, and importantly, it was a testament to the commitment, passion and care that our leadership carries for our Unitarian Fellowship. We are blessed to have high caliber and big hearted people tending to our programming, stewardship and fellowship.
Scott Donovan

September 2016

With hopes that your summer was restful and restorative, we now turn our sights on the coming church year. Rev. Julie, the Board, and leadership have a host of plans, hopes, and intentions to challenge, engage and inspire you.
Shared ministry is the name we give to service in our fellowship. It’s in the things we do for one another to support and sustain our beloved community. Shared ministry is volunteering by bringing your special gifts, passions and interests to others. And importantly, shared ministry is an opportunity to connect and develop relationship and grow together.
If you’ve been skirting around the edges, wondering how to connect, I invite you to step into the circle. You are welcome here. If you have been participating for some time and wondering what’s next, I invite you to step up. We aim to support you in leadership roles. You’re ready for it. And if you’re not feeling renewed and your spirit of ministry is waning, perhaps it’s time to step back and receive support from others. We appreciate all that you give and we all need a break now and again.
In the coming weeks watch for opportunities to join our beloved community in shared ministry.
Regardless of where you are at, we look forward to seeing you more often. Make your way back to community. Join us on any occasion and delight in the joy of fellowship.
In service, Scott Donovan

President’s Report to the UFP Annual General Meeting June 5, 2016

Last summer’s retreat encouraged the Board to include time in our meetings for generative thinking; big picture ideas, or asking ‘what came up for you?’. This lead to an analysis of what we spend our meeting time on, and the realization that we could refocus our work and look to larger goals such as long range planning, policy, and supporting efforts at expressing our purpose statement.

The CUC passed a resolution at last month’s annual meeting to endorse its new vision statement; ‘As Canadian Unitarian Universalists, we envision a world in which our interdependence calls us to love and justice.’ Both Rev. Julie and I were delegates to the meeting, her in Vancouver and me in Peterborough using electronic tools to participate on-line. The technology worked well and it’s hoped it will enable more people to participate in the future.

Having attended a number of UFP committee meetings, I’m impressed with the focused work, the dedication to our UU principles, and service to all. Three new committees emerged this past year to meet diverse needs. The Refugee Sponsorship Committee responded to an international crisis and a local opportunity. It was met at UFP not only with generosity, but caused us to include sponsorship as part of the mission of our Fellowship. The Communications Committee is now recognized as a standing committee of the Board, acknowledging the central role our website, print media, and other communications modalities play in keeping us informed and connected. Finally, the Accessible Spaces Committee began as a single issue task force on gender neutral washrooms and has flowered into a broader mandate; throwing light on, and addressing barriers to inclusion at UFP.

Programs that have brought many new faces to our building this past year are OWL by RE, speakers forum by the IWG, and special events by the Refugee Sponsorship Committee. These rich programs have been successful in demonstrating to others the good work UFP brings to Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

Since Beth Israel went kosher-style we’ve created many opportunities to gather around food. From Friday night potluck & discussions to Family Day and Community Conversations, we are being intentional about connecting socially around meals and linking that to events. Incidentally, we signed a three year lease with Beth Israel, finalizing a conversation around commitment and stability, but keeping the door open to an ongoing dialogue around ownership and leasing relationships.

As ever, we’re very fortunate to have Rev. Julie’s strong leadership as we explore our way through community and UUism. Julie has the ability to tend to detail while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. She anticipates future needs and reflects thoughtfully on things that have changed us. Administratively she’s being supported by Elaine in the office for more than a year now. The new admin position has been most successful. Thanks are due to the congregation for making the sacrifices that made this possible. Julie will be on sabbatical leave beginning in January. In her absence we will need many hands on deck to fill the large gap. But we’ve done this before. We are building resilience through shared ministry. Please consider what you might do to support our congregation when Julie is away.

At last year’s annual meeting the Board initiated a new format, table talk, as a means of connecting the work of committees to attendees in a more personal way. Last year we also changed up the budget consultation process. It’s hoped that small changes in the way leadership relates to the congregation will support better communications and enhanced engagement. Ultimately the most important thing we are trying to do is to connect with you. How are you doing? What’s working for you? How can we envision our future together?

A big thank you to Kim Black and Jessica Lindeman, who will be leaving the Board, for their commitment and care for our congregation. And much appreciation to those who will remain for another year; Karen Denis, Kate King-Fisher, Dave Wells and Deb Luedke. I count myself as part of the ongoing team, and again offer thanks to Julie for her spirited leadership and gentle guidance.

Let’s keep that flame burning bright. It looks good on you!

 

Notice of Upcoming AGM and Ministerial Sabbatical

The AGM for the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough will be held Sunday, June 5, after the service and lunch.

From January 1 to March 31, 2017, Reverend Julie will be on sabbatical leave.

Stay posted for details on these and other events in the coming weeks.

May 2016

A new lease was drafted this winter by Dave Wells and Fred Kooy with oversight by the Board. Beth Israel was seeking a longer term than the one year extensions we’ve been exercising for the past couple of years. They were seeking more reassurance than twelve months could offer, and were offering favourable terms in exchange. The new three year lease doesn’t begin until next year; we aren’t locked in, and it does give us some fiscal predictability.

And speaking of next year, the Board has announced Rev. Julie’s sabbatical leave beginning January first for three months. As a congregation, we have some practice filling the large gap in her absence. It’s a substantial task, but worth doing in that it’s an opportunity for us to flex our shared ministry muscles, the ones we’ve been developing for years and have been growing strong and reliable. Shared ministry is the support we offer one another and the gifts we share in service within our beloved community. If you’re wondering just what we’re capable of, witness, for example, the very recent OWL Youth workshop (May 6-8) or the accomplishments of the Refugee Sponsorship Program. Next fall we will enlarge the conversation about how to engage in the work of running our congregation sans Julie. And in the winter we will send her off with our love and best wishes for renewal and growth.

The Board is pleased that a new task force is underway with leadership by Aynsley Mauve. The work of the Accessibility Committee has been very much in evidence at UFP. They are doing preparatory work in education and awareness on inclusion and paving the way for action on lifting barriers.

On the May long weekend the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) will host it’s general meeting and conference in Vancouver. Rev. Julie will be there. New this year is virtual attendance. You can attend the business meeting on Friday on-line from your home and some of the programming on Saturday will be live-streamed. There is no cost for this. Please let me know if you are interested. I’m going to be a virtual attendee to the business meeting, and as a delegate I have a vote. I’m particularly interested in the discussion around the proposed changes to how the CUC collects is Annual Program Contribution (APC). Currently they collect a fixed amount for every member. The proposed format will affix a percentage to each congregations operating expense.

Preparations are underway for our own annual general meeting to be held in the downstairs hall on June 5 after a lunch. We will look to committees to present their year end reports, and we will look forward to what next year brings us.  Reports by Committee Chairs are due May 26. Please forward your committee’s report to Deb Luedke or Scott Donovan.

If it feels to you that UFP is a whirlwind of activity right now, you’d be right. We are operating at maximum speed. Over the next six weeks we will be buttoning up the bulk of our work and settling into summer mode, but for now this remains an interesting place to be! It’s fun to be part of an active and engaged community.

Yours in Fellowship,
Scott Donovan, Chair

April 2016

It’s an active time at the Fellowship with many initiatives underway and opportunities to connect. One new program brought to you by the Board and Rev. Julie is the Friday Night series. It includes a pot luck meal followed by a presentation with discussion. The focus for March was leadership and development. We chose Friday night partly because it was the only unscheduled evening of the week, as every other pocket of time is stuffed with meetings and commitments. Results from our first four events have been mixed. Your feedback is welcome, as we have more programming ready if we want to continue with the series. Let us know what it would take to get you involved.

Another Board initiative is our new series called Community Conversations, occurring after the service on the second Sunday of each month. We have several trained facilitators who are members of our congregation leading dialogues on diverse subjects pertinent to life in the Fellowship. Join us on April 10 for a conversation on religious education. Please make an effort to attend this or any in the series. Regardless of the topic, you will be pleasantly surprised at the depth of dialogue and the creativity that can flow from the process. They tend not to be outcome-oriented so trust in the process. If you are a goals-oriented person with a preference for specific outcomes and concrete actions, I encourage you to be there. You need to have your expectations challenged. And we need you!

The Board has scheduled Sunday, June 5 for our annual general meeting. Reports from committees will be due in May, which is only next month if you are reading this in April. We aim to make the event a rich experience by including a meal and timed table reports as we did last year. Book your calendar now and hope to see you there.

Over the past two months the Board has been exploring purpose and what we would like to focus on for our monthly meetings. Through exercises we have determined that too much time is spent reviewing reports and not enough in learning, visioning and policy work. We endeavour to adjust that in coming months, and hopefully enshrine new practices in Board work. Board service is a meaningful and rewarding task and we aim to use our precious time together to better serve the Fellowship.

Reverend Julie has announced that she will be availing herself of a portion of accrued sabbatical leave in 2017. As her plans develop for study time, so must we prepare for her absence. In the coming months we will be considering what it means to be sans padre. Julie will be away January 1st to March 31.

And just as we’ve been busy, so has our national organization, the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC). The annual conference and meeting will be held in Vancouver on May 20-22. A new initiative this year permits your virtual presence at the business meeting through an interactive online tool. Once registered as a delegate, you can vote online. If this or other CUC activities interest you, please see a UFP Board member. There are several ways you can connect with the ongoing efforts of the CUC. Recently a draft report has been released regarding a new Vision Statement for the CUC but relates to all Canadian Unitarians. It will be reviewed at the annual meeting. The statement, which is accompanied by five aspirations and, of course, our six sources and seven principles, is simple and direct. It reads …”As Canadian Unitarian Universalists, we envision a world in which our interdependence calls us to love and justice“. I encourage you to read the task force report. Google search Canadian Unitarian Council Vision Task Force Report (it’s not on the CUC website). It’s brief, to the point, and worthwhile. I hope you will find something of yourself in it.

And in the days and weeks ahead I hope you find yourself within one or maybe more of the many opportunities to engage at our Fellowship.

Scott Donovan, Board Chair

March 2016

In an effort to direct our energies to tasks becoming of a governance board, at our last meeting the Board embarked upon an exercise to help us focus critically on how we use our time.

Our reference text is Dan Hotchkiss’ Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership.  Hotchkiss offers insight, guidance, and practical steps to help congregations use leadership well. He emphasizes the critical role of the mission in all decisions.

There are several models for church governance and they play out typically around church size. Small congregations (<150) usually follow the parish model where board members are committee chairs, most everyone knows one another, and growth can present challenges. The program church, over 150 members, is known for the quality and variety of its programs, has a full staff and committees have autonomy to develop and implement their own policy and programs, and the Board focuses on long range planning and develops policy. UFP has inched beyond the parish church model but hasn’t yet attained the governance model of the program church.

Pursuing the model of a program church will help the Board know where to put it’s energy and focus. Policy-based responses to questions and issues that arise, and relating activities and ministries to a long range plan and our purpose statement are better ways to connect the work of committees to the aspirations of the congregation.

While the board is embarking on this journey, there are concurrent opportunities for leadership development and shared ministry happening at our Friday nights in March series. The Board and Rev. Julie are hosting webinars delivered from the UUA on that theme. We will gather around a pot luck meal and share in discussion after the presentation. It’s an effort at sharing a leaning experience together in ways that benefit ourselves and strengthen our community. It’s open to all and you are most welcome to attend.

Scott Donovan, Board Chair

February 2016

It’s heartening to witness the generosity and compassion our Fellowship and like-minded Canadians are directing to welcome and support refugees. It’s a singular and focused project that people are gathering around and giving sacrificially. The spirit is strong. We’re fortunate to have a ready-made community that serves as a platform for action. We have a network of resourceful people and immediate access to support organizations such as the CUC and the New Canadian Centre, as well as others. It’s a good project for us. It will become part of out history and it demonstrates our capacity as a caring community.

Similar in outreach, but distinct from refugee settlement is the Our Whole Lives program (OWL) completed late last year by Kate Huband and a team. Sixteen kids attended, many of whom are parented by people outside of our Fellowship. It’s a great service to the larger community and a means to showcase liberal religious values through progressive educational programming for youth.

It’s healthy for us to be putting energy into the wider community. Yet at the same time we need to work at home to keep our energy up and fortify our membership. Our committees meet regularly to keep our organization running smoothly and we have several events planned to ensure we never forget how to play and grow together.

We are planning a number of social events to help us through the winter. Family Day will be celebrated this year at the Fellowship, and Earth hour will be marked on March 19. The annual coffee house Blue Horse Cafe will guarantee to please on Feb 27. On April 9th we will host a concert by the Dixie Cats and square dancing that will raise money for refugee settlement as well as kick up the dust on the dance floor. Bring a friend. Our events are open to all and will be enjoyed in our kosher-style hall.

On the horizon is a new program that follows from last spring’s Big Circle conversations. In February we are sending candidates for training in The Art of Hosting at Axiom News in Peterborough. Beyond that they will facilitate a series of dialogues on pertinent questions in our fellowship. This work connects with the efforts that the Peterborough Dialogues have made in our city to engage citizenship and enlarge civic conversations. The movement appears to be making inroads toward bringing people together to talk about things that matter.

And for those who are interested in leadership and development, Rev. Julie and myself are planning to host a number of informal conversations and presentations. Our first one, March 8, is a webinar on stewardship. There are lots of possibilities with format and content for further gatherings, so if the subject interests you please join in. It’s an experiment, and like other things going on, it’s meant to support us in our journey to grow and strengthen our vital religious community.

Scott Donovan

December 2015

The budget represents what we can do together as a community. It’s capacity, and it’s action, codified. It’s commitment contained in numbers. It’s hope and ambition wrapped in dollars and cents. The budget is our way to actualize the act of fortifying ourselves first, through community building, then venturing out in the world to make good on the promises we’ve made to one another.

Following is a qualitative and unabashedly optimistic review of the ambitions contained in UFP’s 2016 budget. It was passed by the congregation on November 29. As you read on, I hope you will discover yourself somewhere, either currently embedded in the life of the community, or anxious to jump in. The actual budget, with all the rows and columns of numbers, can be found here.

Budget deliberations began with a joint meeting of Finance and the Board on November 6. A group of nine people assembled to review the figures that our Treasure(r), Dave Wells, prepared. Many figures were rolled forward from last year and others were submitted by committees. The group reviewed and scrutinized all amounts and their recommendations were brought to the Board who ratified the proposal with no changes on November 19.

From the beginning we were asking people to keep an eye on the bigger picture when considering the budget document. It’s easy to slide into long conversations over details and drill down into minutia. The larger perspective will mean different things to everyone. Putting the budget in the context of a long range plan for the Fellowship, or within the context of national trends of church attendance or global issues like climate change are a few examples. A larger perspective might mean considering the budget as a moral document, putting aside conventional economic concerns to favour funding activities such as extended child care, hosting OWL, or giving away a Sunday collection once a month. Finally, big picture thinking means linking the intent of the document to the purpose and mission of the church; consider who we are and what we want to become.

Under the Revenue column:

The revenue groupings in our budget are as follows, with the percentage of the whole expressed in parenthesis: pledges (67%), investment income (18%), special collections (10%) and fund raising (5%).

Pledges

Pledges are up this year, thanks especially to Gord Drew and his team for a successful pledge campaign: $101,500. But campaign never really ends, so if you haven’t yet made a financial pledge, please do. And speaking of endings, Gord has announced that the 2015 canvass will be his last. We have big shoes to fill, yet Gord has left us with several remarkable campaigns to draw from moving forward.

More and more people are using the Pre-Approved Remittance (PAR) to honour their pledge, which is an automatic withdrawal from your account, and a big help for UFP’s cash flow stability.

Investment Income

We are fortunate to carry a combined bequest and savings from the sale of our last building to draw on to support our revenue stream. We’re grateful to those who came before us, some of which remain with us today, who contributed in different ways to this fund. The value of our investment portfolio is down this year due to market volatility fuelled by an unstable oil markets. Beyond that we are managing reasonably well with our annual practice of expending all dividends and drawing about 4% of the capital. With these amounts, and in a growing economy, the fund generally remains stable.

We have not yet come to a place of consensus regarding how we want to see this fund used. Thus we continue to use it to support our operating costs and cover deficits when they occur, which is usually every year but the amount varies significantly. This remains the case with the 2016 projections. We have the opportunity to engage in a dialogue regarding the future of our investment fund. Read on to learn about facilitated, community-wide conversations proposed for 2016.

Special Collections

This past September a generous gift was made by David McLellan to express appreciation for the care his brother and UFP member Gord McLellan and Gord’s wife Claire received from UFP. Gord passed away in October. The board wished to make a legacy with the ten thousand dollar donation, and it seemed appropriate to direct the money to the newly created Endowment Fund. It was Gord, along with Ian Attridge and others who created the fund as part of UFP’s response to Planned Giving.

A second gift also arrived this fall, this one from Bob Hunter who is seeking to memorial his mom, the late Judy Backgaard, who was a member of UFP. Bob is interested in a gift in kind and is working with us to actualize a nature-inspired hanging artwork for in front of the ark, behind the pulpit, in the sanctuary. It is currently under development and is expected to be in place in the new year.

These two recent examples demonstrate that UFP remains a place where you can direct funds or gifts that benefit the UFP community and offer a fitting memorial to loved ones.

Fundraising

We have a history of good financial management and frugality with respect to expenditures, yet our recurring deficits remain. Clearly we need to strengthen our revenue stream, so we turn to fund raising. We have a number of events and activities that are ongoing, and others that need a kick start. The Board and Finance recognize the need for a person or small working group to schedule fund raising activities and ensure leadership is in place for the various events we look forward to every year. We hope to fill that position but we need your help to identify candidates.

Our shopping card program has enjoyed continued success, thanks to Evelyn Andrews and Ruth Shoemaker for imagining the idea and Don Barton and Hendrika Seshadri for implementing and operating it. They can use help in many ways, so please step up if you feel you want to contribute.

It’s important to recognize the link between fund raising and fellowship. Concerts, dinners, and auctions can be revenue generators while creating opportunities to connect and build community.

Ours is a musical congregation, thus we enjoy several events through the year to share music in a convivial setting. The concert series lead by Erica Nol and the Blue Horse Cafe by Kathy McLay are ongoing but in need of support. Last year’s Gilmore Street Yard Sale was a success, thanks to Jessica Lindeman and her team, and we hope to replicate that for 2016 as well. In all, we are seeking $5000 in fund raising efforts for next year. We failed to meet that goal for 2015, so we need to increase our efforts. It’s both necessary and worthwhile work, and truly, it’s fun! I hope you might find a way to contribute. There are more riches to be found in giving than all the cash we collect in our endeavours.

Under the expenses column:

The expenses groupings in our budget are as follows, with the percentage of the whole expressed in parenthesis: salaries (64%), administration (26%), and programs (10%).

Administration

Our administration costs are comparable with that of other, similar organizations. Lean. Our building usage costs rose last year due to increased occupancy, which is a good thing as it demonstrates an active community. We expect that will continue in 2016, especially considering the newly enacted kosher status beckons us to eat together, so increases are proposed in the budget. In an effort to mitigate further increases we are embarking on a 2-3 year lease renewal with the Beth Israel congregation to lock in lower rates that we have not enjoyed over the past few years on an annual lease. We might opt for a longer term but as a community we have yet to have that extended and difficult conversation about our goals for a long term home and a vision for a relationship with Beth Israel. And on that point, we have a $950 expense item in the budget to train facilitators to host such a conversation. ‘The Art of Hosting” is a workshop presented by the Peterborough Dialogues, a local agency committed to improving the quality of public discourse, encouraging citizen participation, and promoting local solutions to build a better Peterborough. As several UFP members can attest, the workshops offered by Axiom News and the Peterborough Dialogues are of high quality and that UFP will benefit from the opportunity. The proposal is to send up to three church members or friends for training with the expectation they will facilitate dialogues on one or more questions that were explored last spring in our Big Circle conversations. The two subjects that float to the top, but haven’t yet been confirmed , are money (that point raised earlier regarding our investments) and home (do we stay or do we go?).

Programs

Programming at UFP is run by committed volunteers. Our practice is to give committees and task groups freedom in developing and managing their own budgets. There is no micro-management from the Board. We are blessed to have highly responsible leadership offering stewardship over a relatively small amount of money. We receive great value considering programming represents only ten percent of our expenses. Figures are up for 2016 primarily because of the claw-back that all committees were faced with last year.

A new program surfaced in October and will run for at least one year: Refugee Sponsorship. Although it was initially expected to run as revenue/expense neutral, meaning that administrative expenses would be drawn from donations to the project, it was proposed and moved at the congregational budget meeting that UFP contribute $200 to cover administrative costs for 2016.

Salaries

Salaries typically swallow up the bulk of expenses for organizations. This is the case for us, and our concern this year is keeping check on the way salary expenses have crept up over the years, and how compounding leads to ever larger increases. Changes to salaries, up or down, due to their shear mass, create a significant impact on our overall ledger. On this subject the Board is seeking prudence. This budget, following on the heels of last years exercise in overall restraint in order to make room for the new salary expense of our administrative assistant, wants to continue on the path of fiscal responsibility. We are at our maximum now. A quick look at the numbers shows that our pledges don’t even meet the needs of making payroll.

With respect to our Minister, Julie Stoneberg, and our Director of Religious Education, Kate Huband, the Board agreed to respect cost of living increases because without that we would be, in effect, reducing salaries and wages. We’ve adopted the current cost of living rate from Revenue Canada at 1.3%.

Although the many who deliberated over the budget felt merit increases were in order for Rev. Julie and Kate, in the end they were denied in favour of fiscal prudence. We are not short on appreciation and awe for our high-achieving and super-committed staff. We believe we acknowledge our gratitude to them by placing their remuneration within the highest brackets of their job descriptions pay scale based on region and church size. In Julie’s case, we also recognized that our efforts last year at filling the newly-created administrative assistant position was intended to alleviate her of some of the burden of administrative work she was left with in the absence of a staff person. We hope that now, after having Elaine Kempt, our brilliant new admin. person in place for 10 months, she feels some relief and room to focus her energy on ministry. Furthermore, as many of us in the workplace will be cognizant of, it’s not always the case that padding salaries won’t necessarily increase job satisfaction. It may be the case that for both Kate and Julie the greatest boost might come from our increased presence and support in the programs at UFP. Ministry is a shared responsibility, and maybe it’s time for us to lean in, to use a current catch phrase, and find a place within this beloved community to share our gifts, support our staff, and create a place where we can all prosper from our collective riches.

Our budget document is a mirror of ourselves. In time, as we draw more people into the process of creation and dialogue, that mirror will reflect more of the diversity of our community. With your involvement, it will reflect more of what you want your fellowship to be. I invite you to step up, join in, and participate in this wondrous journey of co-creation we are on.

Yours in faith, Scott Donovan

November 2015

When searching for a theme that ties together the many business items your Board has been preoccupied with this month, the word money comes to mind. It’s October, and in our church calendar that means the season to pull together figures for our anticipated expenses, and roll that into the hopes for a successful pledge campaign. You have a thoughtful and considerate Finance Committee working diligently to craft a campaign that is both distinctive from past years, yet ever optimistic that we can exceed our wildest expectations for a pledge target. And so we should. We have much to be grateful for and many reasons to support this beloved community and our excellent programs. Please support this fall’s pledge drive and give generously.

Money also runs through the veins of a new initiative under consideration, but the heart of the Refugee Sponsorship program is compassion and altruism. There are many ways to give that demonstrate our desire to help a crippled world and our need to find hope in the face of adversity. You can offer your time, organizational skills, and of course, your money. It will take all three to make this project the success it deserves. Please support this significant endeavour and give generously.

And then we turn to the need for good old fashioned find raising initiatives. It’s probably not popular to discuss this in light of all the other demands UFP makes of you, but like other initiatives, it’s really about people, not money. It’s time to begin the conversation about social events we can orchestrate in the coming church year that will draw together close friends and newcomers alike, be it on the stage, through an auction, or at a market. We have many opportunities at our disposal, and all of them are about being together and having fun. If your interest is piqued around a fund raising project, please speak with someone from the Board.

Now I can see that it’s not so much about money after all. It’s about resourcefulness and enterprise. It’s about finding ways to contribute, and to engage and connect with things that are valuable to us. And it’s about being together, enjoying one another and celebrating our place in a successful community. From that we will prosper.

Yours in faith, Scott Donovan

October 2015

Your Board retreated on September 11 and 12. That’s not to say they withdrew; quite the opposite, it was more of an advance! At this year’s annual Retreat the Board considered priorities for the coming year. The process began with brainstorming and after discussion and voting, the long list got distilled to a few achievable goals.

Fundraising has always been a central task that motivates us. But our focus is typically on the annual canvass, which is not so much fund raising as stewardship. The Board and the Finance Committee feel it is time to create a separate entity (that may be an individual or a small committee) to offer coordination and oversight to the several ad hoc fund raising events we typically host each year. Of course we also need people to commit to hosting events, things they feel an attachment to, or a passion for. We invite you to step up if the match is right.

Our second goal is to increase opportunities for social interaction. Now that kosher rules are changing in our building (see page 11) we expect to assemble more often. We can meet around food in a variety of ways, such as committee meetings, work projects and others shared ministry events that call us. This year let’s make excuses to be together, to share a meal, and build connections within our community. If you are interested in coordinating or calling invitations to our receptive community, you should consider trying on this new role.

Money, food; what next, you’re wondering? People! We want more people. We want to see more people on Sunday morning, more people during the week, and we want to feel the energy of an engaged and active congregation. How can we do that? More and better communications may be one solution. Thanks to our new web site and connections to social media, we have terrific opportunities to broadcast and connect. We have a new Communications Task Force establishing these and other means to support UFP in becoming more visible. If you have a skill or insight in the field of publicity or communications, why not support our ongoing initiatives.

Of course there are other priorities on our list, and no doubt you have a number of your own. I encourage you to share your goals, visions, and priorities with any one of your seven Board members. We are here to listen.

Yours in faith, Scott Donovan

 

September 2015

It’s late summer; time to make the transition to the new year. Shake off those dreams of napping in the hammock, evenings on the lake to the call of the loon. Autumn is soon here. The call back to community is in the air. The empty house awaits us. Renewal!

Late in August your Board got an early start by planning our Retreat and considering goals for the year. I expect we will search for ways to include you in the planning process, such that Board goals merge with congregational goals, and we all march to a common chant.

We have much to build upon, considering our many accomplishments from last year. We tested and developed new ways to engage in dialogue. There were many themes explored, but the common thread was in learning to hear one another and the stories we tell. You should expect those conversations to continue. Ours is a fabric of shared experience and working toward common goals.

This coming year, please make your way into the circle. Shed your reservations. Don’t wait to be asked. Our spiritual community won’t be complete without your voice, energy and commitment. Make this year yours to step up and engage. Find your way to meaning and connection. Celebrate community. Help us to help you find your passion. Let’s embrace the new year and the blessings it brings. Happy new year!

In service, Scott Donovan

 

July – August 2015

The end of June draws closure on the church year. Quiet befalls this busy house, save for the summer tasks of Elaine in the office, Kate on RE, and of course our cherished Sunday evening lay-led services which provide continuity and ongoing connection. We are reminded by ee cummings that …”an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

Your Board has already renewed itself for the coming year by welcoming Karen Denis, Kate King-Fisher and Deb Luedke. With ongoing members Dave Wells, Jessica Lindeman, Vicki Avison, and myself rounding out our volunteer team, we are already making plans for our fall gatherings. Rev Julie energizes our group with her spirited leadership and gentle guidance, a tremendous gift.

At our last in-house service on June 21, the earth-turning day, we created prayer flags in appreciation of one another and the gifts we bring to community; shared ministry. May the intentions we imbued them with carry forward to the new church year with renewed vigour.

It’s my hope that your summer is restful and restorative: that we find one another in September to begin again in the cycle of community, renewed.

In service, Scott Donovan

 

June 2015

At UFP’s Annual General Meeting on May 31st, a new Board was elected for the coming  year.

Karen Denis, Kate King-Fisher, and Deb Luedke are newly elected Board members. Scott  Donovan and Dave Wells were also elected for additional terms (Dave for his 2nd 2-year term, and Scott for his first, as this past  year he was appointed by the Board to fill an empty position.) Jessica Lindeman and Vicki Avison will each continue on the Board in the 2nd year of their first 2-year term. Both Tracy Ross and Sue Sauve have completed their service on the Board; each brought many gifts and wisdom, and will be missed.

Much gratitude to the nominating committee for their work to find people to stand for election. And much gratitude to those who serve us in this important function. The Board will be meeting early in June to elect officers.

In service, Scott Donovan

 

May 2015

We have been working steadily on the many issues that were priorities for us this year. The time has passed quickly, and suddenly we are discussing our upcoming AGM on May 31. Childcare will be provided if needed; please contact Kate Huband in advance to request it. We are excited to try out a fun new format, and a light lunch will be provided. So put it on your calendar!

A relatively recent issue that we have been discussing is gender-neutral washrooms. The emails that I have personally received and the discussion at the Big Circle Conversation on April 19 indicates that most of us are in favour of initiating a process that would endorse gender-neutral washrooms. At this point, we would love to hear from you. Please email me with concerns you might have, or let me know that you would like to support this initiative.

I hope you are able to get outside and enjoy this lovely spring! Isn’t it wonderful to see our world come to life?

~ Tracy Ross