UUFC President’s Letter December 28, 2023

UUFC President’s Letter December 28, 2023
Connie Ussery

Happy Holidays everyone.

We had a wonderful Solstice event on Thursday, December 21, and the Holiday party on Sunday, December 24, right after the brief service.  I’m not sure how many attended the luncheon, but it was good to see some members and friends we haven’t seen in a while.  Amanda Jones and the children performed a cute skit with amazing costumes.  Ron and I set up the luncheon with help from Ursula King and Chris Nix.  Michelle Midgette and Orm Burnham were there to help with the cleanup. I’m sure others pitched in when I wasn’t looking. Thank you all.   We had set up 9 tables that seat 6 people, and we had to add one more Sunday morning.  Including the Tuesday morning Board Meeting, the Wednesday night discussion group (How to Avoid Scams), it was a busy week at UUFC!

Our new Board of Trustees was approved at the December 10 UUFC Business Meeting.  We all thank Pat Rankin and Joyce Hickson for their dedicated service to the Fellowship as Board members, as well as for their continued work every week.  Pat provides our morning refreshments every Sunday, and Joyce serves on our Congregational Care Committee.  Joyce is also working with Brenda Stevens to complete our UUFC History.  Soon, this added volume of carefully collected information will be available for members and friends to peruse and use for programs and discussions.  Joyce will remain as an ex officio member of the Board as she continues to maintain the records necessary for the history of UUFC as it evolves.

Our 2023 Mission Statement was approved at the December 10 business meeting, as was our first Values Statement.   New Covenants were not approved.  The rewording of Covenants will be considered at the next Strategic Planning Follow-up Meeting in February. Brenda has added our revised Bylaws and Mission Statement and our new Vision statement to the UUFC Website and other locations.

Our year-end donations have been strong.  We appreciate your year-round generosity and your continued support of our Fellowship and its mission in the community through donations and volunteerism as well as sharing your talents when you can.  We have been able to balance our year-to-date expenses and donations as of November 30, which is amazing considering the improvements and damage repair to our facilities this year.  Remember the fallen tree that damaged the pavilion last spring? During the months that followed, we were able to make improvements along with the repairs, replacing our outdoor patio space beside the pavilion, strengthening the pavilion structure.  Those expenses exceeded our insurance limit on the damage, but we were able to incorporate them into the necessary repairs while contractors were on site.  We were also able to address the persistent leak issue in our main building at considerable savings to the Fellowship compared to quotes we received prior to the pavilion damage.  And we replaced the Meeting House roof with a long-lasting new metal roof.  To think that we accomplished all that—three roofs and significant enhancements to the pavilion–and avoid a budget deficit is remarkable.

I hope everyone has had a chance to see the upgrades to the interior of the Meeting House.  Please thank Brenda Stevens and the other members of the Design Team for the work (including painting and picture-hanging) in that building, which is now ready for use.  Adult RE, Movie Night, and other meetings can now take place in the Meeting House in order to lower heating and cooling costs.  The heat pump and the dehumidifier help to circulate and clean air in that space.

Our Children’s RE Program has become very important to families in our fellowship.  The children participate in lessons based on our 7 Principles and UU values.  The children are forming a cohesive group, nurtured by their director, Ellen Harlan, and all the volunteers that support her work and make the program possible for school-age children who can read.  Greeters have been instructed to remind families with small children that they may sit in back with their child, with books and quiet toys. 

We are working to get the Adult RE Program going.  Sometime in January, Ron and Connie hope to launch the first module of the Adult RE program with Morgan Freeman’s series on God that was recommended by Dr. Joyce Hickson.  We will announce the results of that first RE session and decide about how to proceed.

Our Social Action Committee has been hard at work.  Just this month we donated shoes to the “Shoe us Some Love” campaign and generous funds ($1400) to Feeding the Valley.

Ron is looking into a program that might offer an energy audit on our building as well as a grant to help us decide about adding solar panels to augment our power system.  We have added Ring doorbells for added security.  We will need to plan a practice drill for weather and threat emergencies.  Our Building/Grounds/Security teams are developing a plan with muster locations for safety in various situations.  Look for that in January or February.

We are so glad that Craig Gonzales joined our Fellowship on December 3. Please get to know Craig, Haley and Harmony as they participate in our services and activities.   We are grateful to have them all among us and we will do all we can to make them feel at home. Several others have expressed interest in joining us as members.

We are planning work days in March and October.  We need input from everyone regarding issues that need to be addressed and your willingness to share in the work that makes us a stronger community.

Finally, take a walk around the grounds and pause to appreciate the volunteer work being done to beautify our campus, as well as support our 7th principle.  Our rugged grassy area beyond the hedges that border the Meditation Garden has been developed into UU “crop circles” connected by stepping stones.  Twenty-five more stepping stones were just added the day after Christmas.  Topsoil has been added and soon we will have wildflowers that promote pollinators.  He is adding eleven Natchez crepe myrtle trees next month. 

Hal is also designing a water system of 1″ PVC water pipe from the south side of the Meeting House to a new faucet point near the Pavilion.  At least three other faucets will be added at points along the pipe.  This system is not intended to be a continuous pressure system, but available for use when needed.  Think of it as a permanent, inflexible, and very durable hose.  Hal would like to initiate this project after the completion of the first phase of the wildflower and crepe myrtle projects. It was approved by the Board over a year ago.

At our December Board meeting, we discussed Hal’s proposal to have Trees Columbus provide trees along the city right of way from the UU parking lot to the first intersection at Heiferhorn Drive.  Hal asked that the Board consider this offer and let him know if there were objections.   At this meeting, most of the Board members agreed that this would enhance our property; however, the pre-Covid Board decision to add a sign on the exterior of Grace Hall was revived as a means of providing additional identification for our building.

Hal also asked for and received Board approval to approach an assistive hearing provider for a proposal on adding a loop system in the Grace Hall ceiling space.  This system would allow most hearing aids to wirelessly pick up the PA feed.  Look for more information on this as it evolves.

I hope to see you soon at services and at meetings.

Looking forward to an exciting year in 2024.

Connie Ussery, President UUFC