Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Annual Report to the Congregation
Board of Trustees
As we have done each year, the Board met at the beginning of the year to establish projects and priorities for the coming year. High on our agenda was the goal of developing an Outreach Program, which was approved and put into action, using diverse strategies, including social media, internet and an on-screen ad at the Loft Cinema.
Mid-year the board approved a proposal to form an Adult Education Committee. This ministry serves to implement and coordinate all adult education efforts including non-religious and religious education classes, workshops and special presentations and performances sponsored by MVUU and offered to members, friends and the wider community.
We also knew we wanted to participate in Tucson Festival of Books in 2019 – for the third year in a row — along with our other Baja 4 Congregations, another high-profile event for UUs.
This year we committed to completing a revision of our Policies. These, along with our bylaws, are now posted on our website — http://www.mvuu.org.
The Board continues to have liaisons to all committees, who report to the Board at every meeting. Together with semi-annual Council Meetings, the Board stays well informed.
We have also had a strong commitment to nurture one another within our walls – through post-practice activities and pastoral care. Once again, we held MVUU Meet Ourselves and a Christmas Party. The Pastoral Care team was also reorganized.
The year has of course seen an enormous amount of attention paid to finding our new home. The Board has been updated by the Project Management Team, received recommendations and acted on steps to meet this formidable goal. The Board also approved the sale of the Cortaro Farms property, which is now in escrow.
And last, but not least, the Board approved the formation of an Interim Minister Search Committee whose recommendations we anticipate receiving in the coming days.
The commitment to collaboration between committees, volunteers and the board has resulted in an especially productive and satisfying year for MVUU.
Kaaren Boothroyd, President
Project Management Team
At the end of the last fiscal year, the contracted architects concluded that the best use of our limited resources was to find an existing building which could be refurbished for our use. This was after the architects made an April presentation of a 4700+ square foot new building as the largest MVUU could afford on the existing Cortaro Road lot. Many in the congregation objected that the size was inadequate.
A building was presented for sale on Costco Drive that the architects thought could be remodeled for our use, and the PMT recommended that the Board make an offer to be followed by a congregational vote and due diligence procedures. The vote was a strong Yes, and a vote on sale of the Cortaro property was a strong YES. PMT Chair David Greene resigned as chair in August, remaining on the team and Anne Tatum became PMT Chair. This was during the due diligence period.
Building reports on the structure were only fair, with some areas labeled poor due to neglected maintenance. Neither neighbor gave MVUU permission to use or rent their parking on Sundays and the appraisal came in far lower than the asking price or the price we offered. We did have a loan offer from Mid-First Bank for up to $500,000. Repairs and Lloyd Construction estimates on the bathrooms and parking adjustments to meet code were beyond MVUU’s means, even with the loan. MVUU Board cancelled the contract, without penalty, in October.
The Board decided to continue to focus on refurbishing an existing building as the most cost-effective path forward, the PMT working with realtor Rob Tomlinson at PICOR. The PMT narrowed the parameters of the search to stay within means (available cash, pledges and a loan) and specified a size of between 7,000 and 8,000 square feet as the maximum MVUU could manage.
PMT learned from R. Tomlinson that purchases of existing buildings would be approximately $135 to $145 per square foot, compared with current (February) building costs (he talked with two contractors) of about $200 per square foot.
Adequate parking continues to be an issue in the selection process. PMT inspected some buildings and evaluated others to be inappropriate. Nothing has matched our criteria.
Because of congregant questions, Jim Gessaman offered to do a study for the PMT on a pre-engineered construction method and process and gave a preliminary report to the PMT at the end of February.
Current makeup of the PMT includes: Anne Tatum, Chair; David Greene; Jim Sauer; Jane Paul; Jim Gessaman; and Paula Lipsitz.
We have had a vibrant year in Religious Exploration.
We moved to thematic ministry, meaning across Practice and RE classes we are working on the same thematic content. We successfully integrated our preschoolers into religious education content, rather than exclusive nursery care. Children and youth have integrated into our Practice services and were active participants in our communion services. This spring, we transitioned the inter-generational moment from the minister to the DRE.
Our congregation has sponsored monthly events for families to foster a deeper connection to our MVUU community. Our teens have been involved in denominational affairs as well as social justice actions in the larger Tucson community. We worked with the RE team at UUCT on 22nd Street to provide Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education classes to our elementary and high school students who were able to participate.
MVUU’s RE program was featured in an article in the UU World regarding inclusivity and accessibility. I was interviewed for the article. I was also voted Chair of the national Religious Educator’s Justice and Equity Team, a subcommittee of the Liberal Religious Education Director’s Association (LREDA).
Linda Hill, Director of Religious Exploration
The Communication Committee members are Pam Donnelly, Pi Irwin, Elizabeth Reed, Chuck Tatum, with Kaaren Boothroyd and Ron Phares ex-officio. We are responsible for Marketing strategies, the Newsletter, Website, MVUU Facebook Page, the Order of Service, Twitter and Instagram accounts. We also produce an Information Sheet for Greeters to handout to visitors. The team is actively involved with tasks to assess and maintain a professional image for the congregation. We meet about six times a year.
A professional webmaster currently provides website design and maintenance.
Our Facebook Page targets Seekers, an audience unfamiliar with UUism, but anyone can comment on the Page. As a result of marketing efforts led by Chuck Tatum, we now have a full screen ad targeting Seekers at The Loft Cinema.
Beginning this month, the newsletter will be produced using Constant Contact software. This will enable a longer printable publication, with fewer hyperlinks; changing the look and functionality considerably. It will be published every other Friday instead of weekly. Erin Chadwell, MVUU Congregational Administrator, produces the newsletter and is gradually taking over website editing.
Current members are Charlotte Engvall and Samar Adi. We had a member of the Endowment Committee resign and so have an open position. Committee members can either attend Unitarian Universalist Common Endowment Fund (UUCEF) quarterly meeting live on line or listen to the report afterwards.
The last meeting we discussed the possibility of closing out Ameritrade and moving those funds to the UUCEF, as well as discussing ideas on how to increase endowment contributions. That is currently on hold until the empty committee position is filled and regular meetings are established.
- Current status of balances:
- TD Ameritrade balance on 5/3/19: $4,521.24
- UUCEF balance on 4/29/19: 73,878.06 (total liabilities and net worth)
- Total Balance: $78,399.30
- New Contributions: None
- Total Contributions: $45,795
- Current year net income UUCEF: $1,650.22
- Current year net income Ameritrade: $112.68
The Finance Committee consists of Julie Slayton-Frank, Treasurer, Alana Wyatt, Chair, Anne Tatum, Bob Bowling, Chuck Grabiel and Ray Oswald, who is a CPA. We craft the budgets to submit to the Board for approval and meet monthly to review our finances. We also track the Capital Campaign monies. As of the last review, our 2018 – 2019 finances were “in the black” and we drafted a balanced budget for the Board to review and hopefully approve at the Board meeting in May.
Two volunteers are counting the money weekly on Sundays. Last year we did two six-month budgets in hopes we would find a permanent building. This year we are doing one annual budget, which can be revised once a suitable building is located.
Justice Coordinating Council (JCC)
Members of our JCC help to ensure that we are making the most of our resources by coordinating with selected social justice organizations chosen by our membership. Currently our justice focus is on youth and families and non-profit organizations that serve them.
We currently are serving four Partnering Organizations.
- Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization (PCICEO)
- UU Justice Arizona Network (UUJAZ)
- Keep Tucson Together (KTT)
- Youth On Their Own (YOTO)
Each of these four partners receives two months of focused attention at our weekly Practice as well volunteer assistance.
We also support four At-Large Recipients.
- Interfaith Community Services (ICS)
- Primavera Foundation
- Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
- UUSC Arizonans for Gun Safety (AZFGS)
They receive weekly recognition at our Practice and donations to the charity basket for one month each year.
In April 2019, we started the process to change how we do our justice and outreach work as a congregation. During the last month, the Justice Coordinating Council reviewed the congregations’ survey responses. We are now ready to move to a different structure in September, 2019. We will prepare ourselves to respond to needs in four broad issues:
- Democracy: To reform our fractured governance and help heal national rifts.
- Climate Change: To care for the Earth, now and for our descendants.
- Immigration: To respond with compassion for migrants and fix our broken policies.
- Gun Violence: To advocate for sensible gun laws.
Jane Paul for Debbie Gessaman
The current membership committee members are Deborah Roberts (Chair), Conrad Paul and Peter Becskehazy. We meet monthly with the minister.
The Committee’s mission echoes that of the church: to welcome, care for and inspire. The Greeters, coordinated by Peter, welcome members, friends and guests to our Practice and provide new attendees with information about MVUU. Debbie oversees and coordinates the social events of MVUU, seeking to provide opportunities that foster a sense of community. This includes Finding Heart groups. Conrad’s responsibility, working with Reverend Ron Phares, is to organize, publicize and conduct Path to Membership classes. The committee assists in the ceremony at Practice when new members officially sign the book. Together with the Congregational Administrator, the Committee tracks membership numbers.
We have undertaken several initiatives this year. We held a training and discussion session for greeters, recruited volunteers and purchased sashes to make Greeters more visible. We now have an Information Table that is available during coffee hour. Social activities such as dining opportunities, movies and hiking have flourished with many taking advantage of opportunities to get together. One Path to Membership class resulted in five new members.
We have been discussing several new initiatives including offering to pair new attendees with a buddy, designing MVUU T-shirts and holding an all-church party.
As Practice Associates, our mission is to assist the minister and congregation to have the best opportunity to experience full spiritual engagement during the service. This includes management of the physical and spiritual space where our services occur to ensure the smooth flow of the service experience.
PAs oversee the set up of the sanctuary, plan the service elements with the speaker for that day, coordinate the filling of the pulpit when we have openings, arrange for support for the guest speakers, plan and conduct elements of the service such as joys and sorrows, offering and music introduction.
We also provide a sounding board for the speaker or minister through review and comment regarding liturgy and service elements, feedback on service flow and engagement and coordinate the production of the Order of Practice. Our goal is to facilitate the smooth flow of the overall practice experience. This goal includes attending to the needs and rituals of UU congregants by preparing the facility and ourselves to engage the congregation.
Current goals include:
- Expanding the number of PAs to five as we have four but two are leaving for the summer and fall months.
- Filling the pulpit and coordinating the services for thirteen Sundays during the transition to an interim minister scheduled for September of 2019.
- Participation in the search committee for the interim and permanent minister since PAs work closely with the minister.
- Hold monthly planning meetings with the minister and music director to review and plan upcoming services.
Responsibilities of PAs are a major commitment of time and effort as well as requiring public speaking ability. No doubt, this time commitment is a factor in recruitment of PA candidates.
Stewardship/Financial Commitment Campaign
Our Stewardship/Financial Commitment Campaign for the coming 2019-2020 fiscal year wrapped up at the end of April. I would like to thank the twenty-eight stewards who volunteered this year to contact our pledge units. I am especially grateful to those members who hosted cottage gatherings in their homes: Jane and Conrad Paul, Barb and Bob Seyfried, Deena and Avery Gentle, Elizabeth Reed and Bill Casey, Michelle and Ray Deeney, Nancy and Warren Reinecke, and Kathy Kouzmanoff and Bob Wallace. Over seventy members and friends attended these gatherings to share their thoughts on the present and future of MVUU.
This year, the campaign sponsored the distribution of the booklet, Inspire, Light, and Shadow, a wonderful collection of poetry and prose by our members and friends.
Sixty-eight pledging units (an individual or a family who makes a financial commitment) committed approximately $140,000 towards next year’s operations budget. The average financial commitment was $2,077 and 29 percent of units increased their commitment from the current year. The number of pledging units decreased from ninety-three units who pledged for the current fiscal year, and the total financial commitment for 2019-2020 was significantly under the total for the current year by about $25,000. This is due mainly to a number of circumstantial factors including: moves away from Tucson, snow and rain birds not returning to Tucson, changes in financial status and—tragically–death.
Tucson Festival of Books
On March 2-3, volunteers from all four Southern Arizona UU Congregations, the Baja 4, staffed both a booth with UU Books and a Tiny House. More than two hundred visitors stopped by each day to talk with UU volunteers. A steady draw for visitors at this year’s Festival of Books was the Tiny House on loan from the UU Congregation in Santee, California. The Tiny House was a nod to Thoreau’s cabin and the 165th anniversary of the publication of Walden, a book about simple living in natural surroundings. The Tiny House provided an example of reducing our impact on the earth by living simply. It also underscored the Seventh Principle; respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part.
A special thanks to all the volunteers at MVUU who made this possible. This includes Hobie Denny, Susan Neely, Derek Contreras, Ann Marshall, Kathy Kouzmanoff, Steve Bottorff, Betty Meikle, Pi Irwin, Zsombor Zoltan and Mary Nell Hoover.