State of the Congregation 2021

Dear UUCCers,
As you probably know, this year I’ve had the privilege, and challenge, of being the board president here at the Unitarian Universalis Congregation of Cleveland. Today I’m writing you to share a something of a “State of the Congregation.” This is long, so if you can’t read it in one sitting that’s ok. Treat it like a chapter book and read it a section at a time. Or read what interests you. There are some gems in here. 

It’s early 2021. Almost a year after we closed our doors to help keep us all safe from Covid. So where are we now? What’s going on? Anything? Are we ok? 

At this point our building remains closed to congregational gatherings. We want this to change as soon as it is safe and to that end the board is working on our guiding principles to define how and when we feel it’s safe to gather in person. I suspect this will start with smaller groups, but like this entire pandemic year – nothing is certain. 

In spite of not meeting in person, our congregation continues to be vibrant. 

Our Worship* Team managed to turn on a dime last March and have brought us a Sunday service each week since then. The services have brought voices from across the congregation and provided food for thought, as well as comfort and community. 

Our Youth Religious Education program has worked tirelessly to bring programming to your youth. Talk about plan A, and plan B… I think YRE may well be on Plan R by now. They have persevered in trying to find a way to engage our youth. They’ve learned our children and youth who have spent the better part of a year in virtual school NEED to be in person – however soon that can be done safely. Warmer weather will find masked youth back together on our property. 

Adult Religious Education on the other hand is thriving – we’re in the midst of the second of three mini-sessions with various class offerings. The attendance has been remarkable and the classes well received. It’s important to note that this is a new format and mostly new classes at UUCC. Impressive! 

Our Sunday Forums* committee has continued to bring a wide range of relevant topics to UUCC and the wider community each Sunday morning. They adapted pretty easily to using the zoom webinar, and their programs are very well attended. 

Many of our small groups from covenant groups to book clubs have also made the shift to meeting on zoom. It’s not the same, but it’s better than not meeting at all. As the weather warms I suspect we’ll see some of these groups in generously spaced lawn chairs on the church grounds. We’re really fortunate – there’s plenty of lawn for multiple groups to even meet at the same time. 

Our all virtual all the time has inspired new and different initiative from weekly coffee chats to UUCC Zoom-In…LIVE!* to virtual Game Nights to the just ready to kick-off UU Can Do University. And you know, I may have said this before – but if you have an idea – GO FOR IT! I don’t think we can have too many opportunities for our community to gather. 

All these, and I’m sure many I haven’t even named, ways we continue to be involved. But to me, the way I know we remain a vibrant congregation is that people are still saying yes when asked to get involved in projects or committees or any of a number of things. I know it’s been hard – so hard – but we are all here and connecting in the way we can right now. If you’ve been away maybe stick your toe in – the water’s great. 

Search You likely know that Rev. Joe is leaving UUCC at the end of June to pursue his next ministerial path. 

Our Ministerial Search Committee is hard at work on the process of identifying a new minister for our congregation. I don’t have any secrets to share (the process is, by nature, confidential at this point – and that applies to the board president, too). What I do know is that they are on schedule and hope to have a minister to present to the congregation for our vote this spring. 

Provided they find a minister they think is a good fit for our congregation we will likely have a Candidating Week where we get to know the minister – running from April 24 – May 2. We have a great search committee and I believe if there’s a good UUCC candidate available, our committee will find them.We should be aware of the possibility that the right candidate isn’t looking for a congregation this year meaning we would look again next year. We won’t be high and dry – there’s a process if that were to happen. Still, I’m hopeful and optimistic… 

The Lancashire Building – The building on Lancashire Road in Cleveland Heights that housed the UU Society for more than 40 years, but hasn’t much been in use since our reunification just over two years ago was put on the market this past fall. At this point I’m happy to let you know that our extremely hard working facilities task force has, working with realtors, identified a buyer, and we quite possibly will have a signed purchase agreement within the next few weeks. The buyer will be razing the current building and putting up a new structure. The purchase is contingent on site testing and approvals from the city of Cleveland Heights. It could take up to a year to complete (quite the surprise to those of us without commercial property sales experience). No guarantees, but again, I’m optimistic. 

I know the Lancashire Building holds great meaning, especially to our members who were a part of the UU Society. I want to assure you that there will be a service to recognize that meaning. This will be led by Rev. Joe before he leaves. 

Work going on for the future This has been a good year to tackle some of our infrastructure – much of it to support the strategic plan the congregation approved at the 2020 annual meeting. 

Our Marketing Committee is developing a marketing plan that will help us insure we are getting the word out to the wider community about UUCC – what we believe, what we stand for, what UU is. 

Along with Membership Committee, we have a team of members who are working to be in contact with new people through the entire process from their initial inquiry through first visit and ongoing experience to becoming a member of UUCC. Clearly this year is different from others, but we do have new people coming our way. Some are waiting to really get involved when we are in person, others pretty regularly attend our Sunday Services and other activities. 

The Communications Task force is working to make sure the UUCC community has the information they need, when they need it – AND where they can easily find it. The first piece of that is to make our website the center of our communications, followed by an early spring revision of the weekly and monthly communications based on the website.  

UUCC Remains on sound financial footing It should be good to hear that our (that’s all of our “our”) congregation is financially stable.

  • We are really appreciative that our members and friends are continuing to fulfill their pledges.
  • Our rental income down significantly this year due, primarily, to limited renter use of our facilities.
  • Fortunately our expenses are significantly lower due to limited use of the facility, so overall finances for this year remain sound. 

Now, here’s my chance to remind you of something or tell you something new – Even in a typical year our pledges plus rental income only account for 80-85% of our expenses. That means that each year we go to our reserves to make up the difference. That is not sustainable over the long term. For the short term we currently have over a year of expenses in our unrestricted funds. Still, we need to make a course correction. 

To this point the Finance Committee and the Board have worked on a five-year financial plan that takes into account membership and pledge trends. This helps the board make decisions that won’t financially strangle the congregation of the future. It’s good work. 

Last – Sailing into 2021 – Our stewardship committee has spent the last few months working on the Stewardship Campaign that will fund the 2021-2022 fiscal year (July 1- June 30). The campaign will kick-off soon – look for emails and video’s and goodies dropped at your door. 

There is so much more I could tell you about … next time. Be well. I hope to see you in a virtual space soon.

In Fellowship,

* NOTE: If you missed a Sunday Service or are curious about the Forum or UUCC Zoom-In…LIVE! they are all available on the UUCC YouTube channel – look for “UU Congregation of Cleveland”