At the Annual meeting the Board proposed a budget that would have an $8,000 deficit, the smallest deficit in some time. Because the pledge drive has come in a little lower than expected, the Board decided they need to think in some different ways about what our expenses are. I reflected with them on our resources, our needs, and the tensions we are navigating, and it has been proposed that we have one Sunday morning worship service next year.
The proposal to go back to one service would reduce staff hours and costs. Choosing this change is somewhat disappointing, but I think there is some sound thinking in it and some beautiful opportunities. Of course, it creates a more sustainable financial picture which is a relief to many. If it is part of a plan for strategic planning and mission clarification, I think it could be used as a powerful starting point for deepening our congregation and continuing to become a stronger presence in the world. I think it also gives us some opportunities to dig into our deep purposes: to be a place where we can talk about anything, to makes sure each person here has a spiritual practice, to take collective action together, and to be a place of Ultimate hope.
The Board will make the final decision about whether to return to one service at their June 11th meeting and they will make the final changes to budget, likely reducing the Director of Religious Education to a 20 hour position and a few other small reductions.
The largest concern about going back to one service is that we might be starting a trend of shrinking, particularly if we reduce the Director of Religious Education to 20 hours. So we need to be curious and active about religious education for our young people. It’s important that we be very mindful and explicit about making sure there is space and invitation for newcomers and long-time members as well as people in wheelchairs and with other special needs. We can certainly do that, especially with our Welcoming Circle program. I am hopeful that our new Membership Coordinator will help us keep our eye on the things that help people, new and longer-term, stay connected, involved and participating.
Some of the reasons I think it will be useful to have just one service on Sunday are:
Maintaining volunteer staffing for two services has been a stress for the ushers, the musicians, and the RE teachers and volunteers. Relieving that stress would give us all more energy and time to do other things.
With three new staff members and everyone working smaller chunks of time I will be spending a lot of time on staff issues for at least the first 6 months of next year (through January). Any simplifying we can do will be useful; so one service will allow us to focus on getting our communications and expectation clear with our new staff people.
Religious Education has decided to take on an exciting new way of programing for our children (namely that there will be a variety of options for children to choose from each week organized around themes and religious experience). Not having to figure out RE for two services would be a relief to those planning. This is an experiment that was initiated because Laura noticed that RE attendance was dipping and had several conversations with people about why they (and mostly their children) were not attending. The program itself seemed to be uninspiring and children didn’t seem to feel connected. So we’re trying a program that emphasizes connections, playfulness, and experience rather than instruction. This new program will also need extra reflection time. This will take extra time from me as well.
Tony is leading the charge to do strategic planning next year (and likely into the following year since we’ll be collecting information for the first part of the year). I think that is good work for FUUSE right now. And to go back to one service in that context makes sense to me – pause, take a breath, make some decisions about who FUUSE wants to be in the world and what difference we want to make, and to whom. And then go down the path that gets chosen.
I look forward to year of more focus, intention, and connection. I am excited about the opportunities that are available to use with new configuration. Next week I’ll describe the new RE program and invite you to be involved.
Wishing you the best –