I’m happy to report to you that UUCR is a thriving, vibrant and welcoming spiritual community. We were built upon the stewardship legacy of our forebearers who created the spiritual home which we enjoy today. Now is our time to steward this treasure and ensure that it is here for many years to come.
There are so many aspects of our church which truly shine. We have a gifted minister who continues to inspire and challenge us week after week and continually draws in new people. We have a strong and diverse palette of programs and events. There is a palatable feeling of welcoming and caring in our church which newcomers continually comment on when I greet them. We have a committed finance and property team and a visionary governing board, leading us toward sustained prosperity and sustainable growth.
This year marks my 5th year serving on the governing board and my second serving as president. When I started on the board in September of 2007, my son Miles was 3 years old, still in preschool, had whispy, curly, blonde hair and napped for 3 beautiful hours a day. Now he’s 9 years old, halfway through 3rd grade, has straight, dirty blonde hair and would stay up until midnight every night if I didn’t see to it that he go to bed on time.
As I watched and fostered Miles’ growth over these years, I also have grown as a Unitarian Universalist and as a leader and I have watched and helped foster UUCR’s growth. Since 2007, we have grown in many ways. We have more members; we have a greater capacity to comfortably welcome people on a Sunday morning with the introduction of a second service; we have a larger staff; our annual pledge total has markedly grown, our organization structure and infrastructure are far more developed and our impact on the world is greater.
In fact it is during times - when I feel our impact on the world - that I am particularly proud to be a part of this community. There are two times in particular that come to mind and interestingly, both were in the Reading Memorial High School Auditorium and Reverend Tim was at a microphone. Some years back, I attended the Reading Drama Club’s performance of The Laramie Project which depicted Laramie Wyoming’s reaction to the gruesome murder of a gay college student. As Tim introduced the performance, I felt very proud to be part of a community which openly takes a stand to promote and affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
Just recently I attended Reading’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration where my son was singing with his school chorus. In the audience were many families of Miles’ classmates with whom I am friendly, although none of them are UU. Sometimes they ask me about my faith and I give them the latest version of my elevator speech and they usually crinkle up their eyebrows with vague confusion as if my explanation created more questions than answers. That morning, Reverend Tim represented our faith and talked about how Martin Luther King Jr. promoted equality and civil rights for all people, but that he also promoted peaceful means of conflict resolution. In the wake of recent episodes of mass violence, I felt proud to be a part of a community that stands on the side of love. Perhaps Tim’s speech helped the eyebrows of my friends to become a little less crinkled as they came to understand our faith a little better.
Throughout these years, I have developed a deep appreciation for the importance this church community plays in the lives of her congregants and I am continually moved by how much of themselves people freely give to steward our spiritual home. I think of Sue Conley, quietly working away in the background for years receiving our pledges and processing our checks. I think of Anne Mark working to digitize our archives so that our history can be preserved, supporting our partner church in Transylvania and running the Attic Treasures at the upcoming Spring Fling. I think of Blair Howell maintaining and improving our sound system, helping with Worship Services and supporting our Faith Development Director as part of her Advisory Team. I think of Bill Grace attending every annual business meeting, serving coffee, sweeping floors and ensuring that our property is well maintained.
In fact, it is often Bill Grace that I think about when I envision the role that I’d like UUCR to play in the life of my son, in 10 years when he graduates from high school, in 20 years when (with any luck) he’s graduated from college and living on his own, in 30 years when (with even more luck) he’s happily married and has had a few children of his own. Will Unitarian Universalism still be a part of his life? Will he bring his children up in the same faith? What will he have taken away from his experience here? I hope that what he takes away is a deep understanding that he, and every human being, no matter how different from him they may be, is inherently good and is an irreplaceable component of a humanity that is continually evolving until there is justice and compassion for everyone and until we learn to live on our planet in a sustainable way.
I’m working to make sure that UUCR is here for Miles now and in 30 years when my son has, no doubt, supplied me with a beautiful little brood of incredibly well-behaved grandchildren. I have a little fantasy that in 80 years, my son will be like Bill Grace, quietly, consistently and cheerily contributing to the experience of others and helping some 9 year old boy to fill his cup of hot chocolate at coffee hour.
Have we achieved the sustained prosperity and sustainable growth that I spoke about earlier which will ensure that my hopes for my son are achieved? No. Not yet. But we have outlined our path forward through the next couple years to navigate past some barriers which currently stand in our way. There are 4 areas in particular which require our financial stewardship: 1) our staff is not fairly compensated and is not large enough to truly support our needs; 2) our campus is not being adequately maintained due to minimal funding; 3) our programs aren’t funded well enough to have any sustained impact on our community and 4) are investments are inadequate to ensure our long-term financial wellbeing.
The governing board is spending this year and next laying the groundwork to address these 4 barriers for the long term. But all of us can make a difference today. If you are newer, you can step up by making your first-ever pledge. If you’ve pledged before, you can help by increasing your pledge by 5% over last year.
My husband Jim and I are increasing our pledge by 5% this year. I hope you will join us by considering an increase to your pledge too.