Our “BIG Brouhaha Beyond Budget Meeting” on Sunday

Dear members and friends,

After years of imagining and planning it feels as if we, as a congregation, are preparing to make some critical and significant decisions about our home and future.

Our 2020 Budget Meeting this Sunday is one of two general meetings a year — this year we are calling it the Big Brouhaha Budget Meeting, and it will be about much more than approving the budget. We, as your Board, Finance Committee and Co-visioning Team urge you to attend.

We will do three main things.

  1. Present what we think is a routine 2020 Operating Budget.
    It was shared in last Friday’s Flame, and is linked here. There are no major changes or surprises.
  2. Update you on our Co-Visioning work with Beth Israel.
    Below, you’ll find a list of principles that clear the path for making the building we have shared for 16 years one we co-manage, at no greater operating cost, and know is our long-term home. Both our Boards support this model. It reflects a convergence of needs and opportunities, and trust in our deepening partnership.
  3. Propose a Capital Campaign to co-fund a lift.
    It was disappointing to not receive a Trillium grant for building accessibility this fall. We believe the time has come to live our values, commit to this place, and solve our accessibility problem.

    The Board unanimously endorses a UFP share in this project of (up to) $48,000. Beth Israel has already voted to fund an equal amount. We have $13,700 of our share already available in our Capital Fund. We will outline the project in detail, and seek a motion to proceed.

All through our work on these interwoven questions, we have thought deeply about our long-term financial stability and thriving. We will also update you on this, including the intention of launching a Planned Giving program in 2020, that may be the missing piece we have needed.

A moment of worshipful celebration, 2018


That’s the essence. Here’s some background.

6 Key Points of a Partnership with Beth Israel

 16 years into sharing space together, our two congregations have been working closely for several years on deepening our relationship, based on mutual respect and genuine hope that both our organizations can sustain and prosper into the future.

Our two Boards have now endorsed this set of principles that form the structure of a draft long-term agreement. There are dozens of details to be completed and vetted, that link the objectives with action items and budgets. It is part of work in progress, that we will review in detail over the coming months.

  • Beth Israel retains ownership of the building as well as the usual responsibilities of a landlord, which include custodial and building maintenance and repairs.        
  • UFP secures its tenancy with a perpetual lease, while adjustments are made in the terms and amounts paid. (UFP will no longer be billed for building use outside the stipulated Sunday morning lease arrangement.)
  • Both organizations agree to co-manage the facility through shared responsibilities and equal participation in a Building Management Committee. Building maintenance items will be funded by BIC and managed by the BMC. Capital improvements will be developed by the BMC and co-funded by both congregations.
  • A new administrative role will emerge from UFP’s current staff person, assuming the workload of UFP plus assignments from the BMC and bookkeeping for Beth Israel. This expanded role may require a 4 day/week position and autonomy, as the individual will be responsible to both organizations. Funding for this position will be drawn from savings found in the retirement of Beth Israel’s current building manager in September 2020, among other sources (all revenue from space rentals, for example).
  • Financially, UFP will enjoy a small benefit in the reduction of monthly rent, but will be stepping up to a leadership role in building management and decision-making.    
  • Beth Israel will also enjoy a modest financial benefit which they have expressed a need for in funding outreach programming to sustain their congregation long term. They also benefit from a relaxation in the burden of building management and decision-making.

Milestones in This Partnership

Guiding Values: September 2019

At an information meeting to discuss the accessibility plan, our work with Beth Israel, and the intention to move toward funding a lift, these values were named by those present:

Accessibility, Respect, Transparency, Community, Inclusivity, Fun, Love, Learning, Financial Responsibility, Honesty, Cooperation, Survival, Compassion, Empowerment, Clarity, Realism, Sharing Space, Multifaith, Optimism, Faith, Kindness.

The November 2018 Joint Statement: Shared Purpose

Our co-visioning team, representing Beth Israel and UFP, shared the following statement with both congregations, laying out the purposes and benefits of an agreement.

When our two communities, Beth Israel Congregation (BIC) and the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough (UFP) came together in 2004, we envisioned a relationship based on mutuality and sharing. That vision was largely left unattended; our initial intention lapsed, and our relationship became one primarily defined as tenant-landlord.

Beth Israel has aspirations for a community where congregational size, resources and leadership capacity are sustainable. They desire to assure a home for Judaism in Peterborough well into the future. The Unitarian Fellowship wants to feel settled, for the long term, in a place they can call home. They imagine that a greater degree of control over property-related matters would allow for a more palpable sense of ownership and place.

The intention of the joint leadership task force (as we call ourselves) is to explore various precedents and models for partnering around shared space. This includes models of co-management, co-ownership, and combinations thereof. Building on our shared values, our intent is to support and oversee opportunities to bring our congregations together in dialogue and relationship-building, and to explore win-win possibilities that bring us to decisions about our shared future that meet both our individual and joint purposes and goals.

The May 2018 AGM Motion: Working Towards Partnership

At our Annual General Meeting in May 2018, the following motion was passed by the congregation.

The Congregation supports and authorizes the UFP Board to pursue a sustainable and mutually-beneficial long-term relationship with Beth Israel Congregation. In doing so, the Congregation understands that;

  1. A co-visioning task force comprised of leadership from both congregations will research options and bring the best option(s) back to the membership,
  2. That the process will be open and transparent, with regular communication and consultation between the Visioning Task Force and the membership and friends of UFP,
  3. That entering into a long-term relationship is tantamount to buying a property, and will require a substantial investment of time, attention, and resources to bring it to fruition, and
  4. That the Beth Israel Congregation will be informed of the passage of this motion, and will be advised to accept it as UFP’s intent to work toward the common goal of a long-term relationship.

An Accessible Home: Co-Funding The Lift

 For years our relationship with the building stair lift has been tenuous because of its unreliability. It failed us completely in 2018, and since then it has limited our use of this facility because of a lack of accessibility. The Co-visioning Task Force responded quickly, with a full accessibility strategy, including a funding proposal through Trillium.

October brought the disappointing news that Trillium did not fund this work, so we’ve shifted to a less ambitious “Plan B” that covers the most urgent project — a lift. Thanks to a lot of dedicated effort by members of both congregations, we have contractor quotes and drawn plans.

Sharing in the cost of mutually desired capital improvements is a principle of our larger work on a Co-Management Agreement, and consistent with the improvements we joined equally in funding when we moved into the building in 2004. We are working with a 50/50 share of a budget, including contingencies, for a $96,000 lift.

The Beth Israel Board has approved funding for the lift.

DRAFT Motion: Up to $48,000 to Co-Fund the Lift

MOVED THAT the members of the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough approve, as presented, a capital budget of up to $48,000 in order to purchase and install a lift, with the Board authorized to draw as necessary on funds for this purpose from the principal and income of the Capital Fund and/or any donations and grants made for this or related purposes, and subject to an equal contribution from the Beth Israel congregation.