UUFC President’s Letter August 15, 2023

Letter from President, Connie Ussery

Dear UUFC Members and Friends,

With three new Trustees (two are recent members as well), your Board of Trustees has been hard at work since January–so hard that I have been slow to report to you on all that has been accomplished this year.  Here are the highlights of decisions made by your Board and a few details about how those decisions were carried out.  It tells you nothing about the hours spent on reporting and analyzing issues addressed here or the hours any of us spent at the campus, monitoring and/or participating in work on the facilities and grounds.

Buildings–After many assessments and quotes, the long-awaited roof repairs were addressed with replacement washers and screws on Grace Fellowship Hall (GFH) at tremendous savings to the fellowship.  In the past four months since the repairs were completed, no leaks have been detected on lower or upper floors. The January damage to the pavilion was repaired with upgrades to the patio area and added wooden structural supports for the sides and top.  Most of this work was covered by our insurance. We did max out the coverage limit and we added some improvements.  The Meeting House roof was replaced with a more durable metal one.  

The Meeting House–Now with a brand-new roof, the interior is still undergoing some improvements.  The Design Team selected new furnishings, including upholstered chairs like the ones in GFH, and ideas to enhance the walls.  Money raised with a “fund a chair” initiative for the purchase of these chairs resulted in enough funds to buy a new wall-mounted television. New member Amos Jones is helping with WIFI extension in the Meeting House. We’ve had a couple of movie nights in the past several months, and we hope to make the weeknight movie night a regular event.  With a large smart TV and enhanced WIFI access, we hope to have more options for adult RE to finally resume. When the kitchen area is finished, and when new wall decorations are added to the larger room, the Meeting House should be ready for a grand opening next month, following one of our Sunday services.  

Grounds–We are in the process of making an unused section behind the Meditation Garden into a pollinator refuge.  We stopped paying over $3,000 for professional landscaping, so this is managed by volunteers–Hal, Ron and Orm.

Safety and Security–We have Ring doorbells for the front and side entrances to be tested soon.  We are working on getting push-bars on the front glass doors if possible.  Making emergency access to the exits from upstairs as well as downstairs spaces is proving challenging, but we have a solution for now.  An emergency weather plan is in the works and soon to be tested.

Gradually Reopening–We also reopened our facilities for special events, a funeral in April and a baby shower in July.  These events led to a review of our rental policy by Brenda Stevens and me so that we are serving the needs of our fellowship with clear parameters for managing how the needs of different groups can be met while we make sure that our facilities are ready for regular Sunday services, discussion group, and Buddhist studies and meditation.  Zoom and outdoor meetings continue.  We are very aware that Covid and other diseases, as well as rising temperatures, now affect how we structure our gatherings.

UUFC History–Joyce Hickson and Brenda Stevens have been working hard on bringing our History of UUFC book up to date, a project initiated by John Nix who collected and organized our history book from the origins of our Fellowship in 1958 up to 2015.  This book represents the journey our Fellowship has made in its mission, goals, and expansion of membership, as well as issues and changes that inspired and concerned us along the way.  The Board recognized the importance of continuing this work and making it available to the membership and friends.

Finances–Financially we are in good shape. In the past several months, our expenses have been consistently exceeding donations by a few hundred dollars, but this has been offset by good investment gains. Our brokerage account is up 20% year-to-date. And we have a CD yielding over 5%. We still have gutter issues and one estimate exceeded $15,000, but we are working to find a better offer that maintains the quality we need.

Special Events–We have reached out to the greater community of Columbus and Hamilton as we marched in the MLK parade in January, Strut the Hooch parade in April, and Gay Pride parade in June. 

Social Action–Our most important work as part of the greater community lies in our dedication to helping groups that serve the needs of vulnerable populations by making them the focus of programs as well as donations.  I created a graphic slide to feature some of the organizations that our funds have supported, but Michelle Midgette also designed a notebook that is more detailed so that members and friends can appreciate our support for the greater community.

Children’s RE–We have recently welcomed children back into our Fellowship with programs developed by Ellen Harlan. She organized the Children’s Room upstairs and found ways to engage children in services as well as RE classes.

UUA–We are working on ways to embrace the changes in Article II, UU Values, that UUA approved in the June 2023 General Assembly.  Those will likely be adopted at GA 2024.  We will decide how to incorporate them as we move forward with our own mission to provide a home for liberal religion in Columbus.

Strategic Planning Meeting–Joyce Hickson and I developed the agenda for a SPM for 2023.  Scheduled for August 17, two days after our August Board Meeting, we will review the issues and initiatives set forth in the last SPM in 2018, led by then President, Bill Harlan.  Then we will work toward setting and attaining short and long-range goals for the future.

And I’ll work harder to keep you informed about what happens behind the scenes that you experience on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.  Every one of you is important to this Fellowship and to this community.  When people say they didn’t know we exist, it’s always with a feeling of relief and joy that we do.  Let’s keep that alive.  That’s your Board’s mission going forward, and I’m proud to be your president.


Connie Ussery