Some Important News Updates

brown and white star print gift wrapper

THE UFP BOARD and other core Fellowship working circles have been exceptionally busy this fall with routine and special tasks. Here are some key updates — in addition to the big one in yesterday’s Flame, our Congregational Budget Meeting on December 10.

“Contract to Call” — 
A Settled Ministry with Rev. Peter?

One of the exciting aspects of our contract arrangement with Rev. Peter Boullata is that it includes the option of moving to Settled Ministry, through a formal process of congregational discernment, if we all wish it.

At this month’s Board meeting we initiated a Task Force to lead the congregation through this important, participatory community exploration over the next six months. We have begun recruiting 5-7 members, separate from the Board, to lead this work.

Safe Gathering — Our
COVID Measures and Policy

COVID is very prevalent again this fall (along with other respiratory viruses), with the local Public Health risk factor currently and often at “High.” Many of us and/or friends and families have been affected.

The Board has carefully reviewed our COVID measures and policies and re-tested our air circulation and quality improvements, with highly valued support from our Safe Gathering advisor. We have found that our air quality measures are working, and no policy changes are needed at this time. This result relies on multiple filters in place since spring, and specific designated open doors and windows during gatherings. These measures have made it possible and responsible to gather. We hope this can continue uninterrupted; we continue to track weekly local data and Public Health advice.

We remain a “masks strongly encouraged but voluntary” venue. Masking works when practiced consistently, and is welcomed in our space. We are committed to continuing our hybrid in-person/online services, and are grateful for all who help that happen each week! Among many other benefits, this lets us self-screen as symptomatic, sick, or vulnerable to illness, and still attend. We have often had 15-25 people online on Sundays.

Our Governing Documents,
Our “Purposes”

Provincial changes require all Ontario non-profits, including UFP, to make substantial updates to our governing documents by October 2024. To meet this task and deadline, the Board struck a Governing Documents circle in the spring. Ian Attridge, Paul King-Fisher, Leigh Symonds and I (Ben Wolfe) are at work on this project, and treating it as an opportunity to be visionary and creative about our values and future rather than merely compliant.

The next step in this work is a reconsideration of our “charitable purposes,” for the first time in more than a generation. Our stated purposes are part of what enable our legal use of our charitable resources. These have been very narrowly defined until now. For example, they do not yet include social justice work, refugee sponsorship, and other things we clearly deem important. Watch for news and a community conversation on this early in the new year!

The Challenge of Building Security

Rising anti-semitism and violence in the Middle East have unfortunately led to a heightened sense of risk and need for security in synagogues and many other places of community gathering and worship. We are no exception. Our joint UFP and Beth Israel security committee has proposed some draft measures in response. Some of these measures may seem uncomfortable or daunting, and they clearly need further discussion.

We deeply value our friendship and partnership with Beth Israel. At its most recent meeting, the Board has accepted the need for “tiered, consistent, evidence-based security” for the building. In doing so, we have also affirmed “the constant need to balance the felt experience of necessary security with our deep values of welcome and inclusion, grounded in love.” Watch for more on this too.

A “Wake Up Call” Budget

Don’t forget the Budget Meeting on December 10. It’s important. As many of us discussed in the Finance Committee’s congregational engagement sessions this month, Finance and the Board see this year’s draft budget as a wake-up call. If you missed those sessions, you can view a recording here. If you haven’t read Treasurer Scott Donovan’s message and invitation in yesterday’s Flame please do!

With love and commitment for this community,

Ben Wolfe, President
(for the UFP Board)

Antisemitic Hate Pamphlets Distributed Locally

As reported in the Examiner, and picked up by Global News, the Peterborough Police are investigating antisemitic pamphlets distributed in an area of our community.

The joint BIC-UFP Security Committee wants to inform both congregations that they are reaching out to the Police Services to learn more about the occurrence and investigation. This is an effort to better understand if the police perceive any potential threat to the Synagogue and our two communities.

The Committee are grateful to the member of the public who reported this antisemitic pamphlet to the police and would like to remind everyone of the Peterborough Police online form that can be used to report any hate/bias incidents in our community.

The form can be found here:

— The BIC-UFP Security Committee

President’s Report

For the UFP Annual General Meeting, May 7, 2023

Let me begin by thanking our dedicated departing 2021-22 members, Heather-Lynn Fraser, Guy Hanchet, Chris Risley and Meredith Hill. Each made major contributions to the Board and congregation during the difficult period of the pandemic. 

The Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough 2022-23 Board of Directors included:

President: Ben Wolfe
Vice President: Aukje Byker
Treasurer: Joan Higginson
Secretary: Scott Donovan
Directors: Tracy Galvin, Mundy McLaughlin, Julia Wallace, Stephanie Wildheart

2022-23 has been a year to remember — a “year like no other” for UFP. A year without a Minister, in the third year of a pandemic. I hope and feel it is a year we will be proud of, looking backward. It took all hands to see us through, and we are coming through more than a little weary but loving, committed and strong. 

As we completed and celebrated our beloved Rev. Julie Stoneberg’s 15-year ministry with us last spring, we learned we were among many North American congregations who were not successful in search for an Interim Minister. The pandemic has disrupted the availability of UU ministers in unprecedented ways.

The Board and other leadership teams set to work in spring/summer. Our first key step was securing Rev. Peter Boullata as our very-part-time Consulting Minister. Peter has been a gift to us, and indispensable to our Transition tasks and capacity. 

At an end-of-summer Board retreat we named and felt our anxieties and our future vision. We understood this would be a year of emergent as much as managerial leadership. We created the Transition Leadership Team (TLT) — a Board-interlinked hybrid of what would normally be the Committee on Ministry during an Interim year. We also interconnected the Board with the Creative Worship Team (CWT), which was suddenly faced with the challenge of leading all services for the year. 

The triangle of these three teams — Board, TLT and CWT — soon found its way to an effective division of roles, communication, and collaboration as needed. 

And… as September began, our highly skilled Administrator, core to our day to day operations and communications, resigned to take an impossible-to-refuse job leading Artspace. And hopes that the pandemic was over after two years faded as the local COVID-19 level returned to HIGH.

In co-leading a September 18th service called “Transitioning in Love Together” I said: “We’re reinventing everything. We’re rediscovering everything. And in doing that we’re going have to love each other.… This is complicated, hard work. Some of it can be lonely.… [Th]e right question is not “Why haven’t you?,” but “How can we?” We can figure that out together.”

And we did. In visible and invisible ways, imperfectly, collaboratively and creatively, we — all of us as a congregation — stepped up and day-by-day, beautiful Sunday by beautiful Sunday, we guided ourselves across a bridge to a next stage of our congregational life. 

Many practices have helped see us through the year. Pre-meetings of our Executive a week before each Board meeting improved focus, efficiency and accountability. Community Conversations and a new, regular, after-service Business Salon initiated by Scott invited congregational cohesion and a better understanding of immediate and longer-term needs. Every Board member has been personally active in at least one other major area of congregational life — and in some cases several areas — and has brought this hands-on knowledge to the Board. 

Jessica Smith, our gifted and dedicated Director of Religious Exploration, initiated a seasonal series of outdoor, all-ages community gatherings, Grounded in Love, that brought large attendance, joy, connection, and many newcomers and young families. These were a highlight of the year. The Fellowship hired a new Joint Administrator, Barbara Hawthorn, who has held vital aspects of congregational communications and admin together for us with a lot of initiative under very challenging conditions.

Our multi-year Board culture of Sociocracy has served us well. Sociocracy is a meeting process based on rounds in which all voices speak, with consent of all members to decisions. The need to achieve consent changes leadership culture. It inspires deeper listening, genuine welcoming of differing views, and thoughtful balancing of complex needs. There is no win/lose. Every decision by your Board this year had the consent of all its members. 

Our Sociocracy work is pioneering among UUs and has drawn interest from congregations across Canada and the US seeking a renewed system of governance. Aukje and Ben have led multiple workshops and spoken in a UUA webinar in December. For the first time, the Board used the Sociocratic role-selection process in choosing its Officers.

The 2022-23 year was deeply affected by COVID-19. We opened our doors and relaxed our policies to the joy of meeting together in person, and then had to painfully retreat to online services again through the worst COVID spike of the year in late fall. Our Safe Gathering advisors, especially Heather Ballarin, have gone above and beyond, again and again, in a commitment to providing the Board with advice and vision. Our Creative Worship Team rose to the challenge and pivoted to delivering outstanding online-only services. And then we steadily opened up again in winter and spring. 

I am intensely proud of how UFP has managed multiple perspectives on many issues, including COVID policy. We’ve worked hard to create a safe, caring listening space. We’ve committed and equipped ourselves to provide long-term, hybrid services. Our COVID measures were responsible and effective, being aligned with public health data and recommendations. Peterborough Public Health has called us leaders in the community in our response.

Through the year, Board members with specialized professional skills have taken the lead in policy areas needing an update at this complex time. Our staff turnover required Human Resources policies, knowledge and effort. Rather than dealing ad hoc with matters arising, we now have a functioning HR Committee, led by Mundy McLaughlin. 

The Ontario Not-For-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) requires we update our our Fellowship Articles, Bylaws and other governing documents by Fall 2024 to be compliant. We have taken a broad view of this work, as we mark a generational shift in the life of the congregation. A Task Force of Ben Wolfe, Paul King-Fisher and Ian Attridge is beginning work to advise the Board on our charitable purposes and governing documents, to meet the ONCA deadline and in a manner consistent with the exciting possibility of formally adopting Sociocratic governance at UFP.

Our finances need special mention. The Board is profoundly thankful to our Treasurer, Joan Higginson, who is stepping into retirement from the role after serving with vision, diligence and grace for more years than she ever intended. The Board committed to Joan that this would and could be her last year. She deserves the whole community’s thanks. We somehow need to replace her. The Finance Committee, led by Joan, is very strong and has done extensive preparation for this transition, building many supports for a new Treasurer to step into. (Might that be you, reading this now?)

This year’s Treasurer’s Report includes important information about how our finances, member contributions and investments have fared through the pandemic and ministerial transition. There are impacts but they are less than might have been. There are reasons for optimism, including new ministerial leadership (see below), the launch of a new Planned Giving Program, and what seems to be (let us hope) the end of acute COVID.

Our best news over the last few months has been finding a path back to full-time ministry. Speculative conversations among TLT and Board members and Rev. Peter have led to excited dreaming, an exploratory circle, negotiations and the formal hiring of Rev. Peter Boullata as our Minister for 2023-25. His contract will be in place by the time I present this report at the AGM. Excitingly, Peter’s contract and all our conversations leave open the possibility of his becoming our Settled Minister should we all so decide in the future.

Your Board ends this year a little frayed at the edges (and desirous of shorter meetings) — and filled with gratitude for this place, this community, and every one of the other forms of leadership and service that has seen us through an intensely memorable year. 

Let’s find ways to let this rite of passage strengthen and serve us for years to come.

— Ben Wolfe

A Safety Notice to Our Community

As many of you are aware, the Peterborough Police Service have issued a notice for public safety with regards to a 20-year old male who has just been released on probation and who was arrested last year for an incident on a Peterborough trail. Our community often uses trails in the Peterborough area and we wanted to support the community call to awareness that the Peterborough Police have issued. Access to and safety in nature is a high priority for our congregation. It is crucial that the actions of one individual do not impede our enjoyment of and participation in nature. We ask everyone to be alert and aware of your surroundings and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police.

We are looking forward to celebrating our Grounded in Love event tomorrow and wanted to make volunteers aware so that they are able to answer any questions the congregation might have. It is likely to be rainy and we will be mostly indoors and off the trails. The likelihood of encountering this young man in such weather and so soon after his release (and the release of the public safety notice) seems minimal but, regardless, we need to be mindful of the situation. Community awareness is the keystone to community safety.

Additional information can be found here.

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