May this holiday season be one of peace and good cheer! For this beloved religious community in particular I pray that we can celebrate all our many assets – especially our fellow members and friends; that we can recognize all the gifts we have been given; and that we can live joyfully and sustainably with that abundance, not always wanting more.
As we prepare for the future, with our sights on a new settled minister, we need to recognize that we are not the aspirational church we wanted to be when we built the amazing LEED certified Delaney Hall (the office and education wing) in 2004. When compared to other UU churches around the country, we have a higher expense budget to member ratio due mainly to our large, beautiful campus.
Let us celebrate you, our membership of over 200 wonderful people, who care enough about Emerson to pledge their support, with pledges for next year currently over $420,000. We are blessed! We have operated this past year within a budget that included a surplus from 2021 and Paycheck Protection Plan funds (with gratitude to our business administrator, Karen Van Horn, for securing the forgiven loan!) It appears that neither will be available in 2023.
What can we do to live within our pledged amount? That is a task for all of us, working with open hearts and open minds. It is also a task that takes a longer-range vision than a one-year budget. From the long-range visioning workshop conducted in 2020 where all ideas were welcomed, the possibilities ranged from sharing our campus with another religious institution to selling off part or all of our estimated $20 million dollar asset and relocating/reconfiguring to a more appropriately sized campus.
Past presidents Katie Scott and Martin Estill both wanted to create a long-range task force to address our sustainability, but due to COVID and the search process, we needed to wait. We are now re-beginning the process. More will be shared at the January 8 Budget Information Meeting and the Annual Meeting on January 22, both meetings held after church. It will be the focus of the Board retreat in February. We will seek input from the entire congregation in the spring and again (and again) once the new minister is with us. It will be a 3-5 year process similar to the Governance Task Force where the task force will look at all suggestions, all options, all possibilities.
I am grateful you are with us for this important journey as we seek to be able to sustainably worship, learn, and grow in mind and spirit as we build a better world.