From the President – Karen Fisk – November 2018

Hello friends,

September was a formative month, and October promises to be another month of growth for us as we continue our third year of interim ministry and prepare for a settled minister. We have much to be thankful for.

The Board held a retreat September 15 that all found valuable. There was a good mix of feedback from presenters—Jackie Shanti from the UUA and Rev. Steve, our Interim Minister—as well as honest discussion and observations from our Board. We gained insight into the value of being on the Board, and began to experience a deeper and more sacred value to our work there as well as the fun we can have together while doing what we need to do to help sustain our beloved community.

We ended our time together that day with a list of goals for the year:

  • Continue to oversee and vision our financial state in order to offer fair compensation for our incoming minister as well as our current staff Increase our communication with congregation to keep all apprised of what is happening to keep our congregation vital
  • Help our Interim Minister introduce the transition and change that will help us all welcome a new
    Minister and help message the benefits of flexibility to our congregation
  • Hone a clear definition of division of responsibilities for individual board members and keep a record or handbook for incoming Boards
  • Enhance our leadership development to help ensure the kind of succession that will sustain the volunteer workforce of our congregation and grow the depth of commitment for new members
  • Identify best practices for leadership
  • Connect with UUA for Leadership Development.

As I said in my contribution to Steve and Susan Rice’s service on community building September 30: Leadership is relational; it is interdependent. Successful, sustainable leadership depends on all of us taking a turn and sharing the roles. This is illustrated by geese flying in v-formation: The leader makes it easier for the followers by taking on the headwinds, and the followers make it easier for the leader with the updraft of their wings. Most important, sometimes the leader falls back to rest, to become a follower, and one of the followers moves for- ward to take the lead. The geese model succession, which is vital to sustainable success. Everyone takes a turn.

Our seventh principle values the interdependent web of existence, the interdependence of people. Our faith is itself relational; it was created by people, for people right here, right now. To both give and receive with grace is a holy act that bestows worth and dignity to both giver and receiver. We lean on each other and we hold each other up. We talk and we listen. We help and we accept help. We share as the geese share; we have each other’s backs. And there are few feelings as remarkable as the knowledge that someone has your back, that you are not alone.

If you have never served or if you have served for years on end, consider how you can change that by either stepping up or stepping back. If you have been a committee chair for a long time, longer than two years, consider how you will cultivate a new leader for next year. And if you need help, contact me or anyone from the Leadership Development Ministry—Joe Flueckiger, Tom Fricke, and Bo Mack. We can help you find a successor.

Notes from September:
When Judy Mitrolka, our longtime congregational administrator and bookkeeper, resigned in June, the Board together with the Personnel Committee worked to find a temporary replacement. We were very fortunate to find Lea Douville through a recommendation of a congregant. Lea agreed to take on the position on a temporary basis over the summer—both to help us and to see if she liked the job. This also gave the UUSA time to do a formal search in September. Fortunately for all of us, Lea liked the job enough to throw her hat into the ring when we made our formal search in September. We had 17 applicants. I am very happy to announce that together with the Personnel Committee, the Board offered Lea the job of Office Administrator for 25 hours a week for 42 weeks over the formal church year, and 15 hours a week for 10 weeks over the summer. Lea accepted.

The Board and Personnel Committee similarly hired a bookkeeper consultant for the summer months to help us both keep our books and also understand what the job should look like going forward. Our consultant gave us the recommendation that we hire a bookkeeper for 5 hours a week over the course of the 42 weeks, and 2 hours a week over the 10 weeks of the summer. We are currently in our formal search for that position. We have six applicants.

The Personnel Committee continues to hone our UUSA Personnel Policy Manual. Over the last year the committee has created job descriptions for all positions, streamlined the staff evaluation process, and updated the manual to clarify the benefits offered to UUSA non-ministerial staff. In the past, we have not been consistent about staff evaluations and we want to make sure as we move forward that we honor the good work of our staff with helpful, consistent, recorded evaluations. Thank you to Kelly Aiken, Lisa Harvey, Jenn Chylack, and Mike Sussman for their hard work on this handbook. Thank you to the Board for helping to keep us ac- countable to this important process.

Our longtime Social Supper coordinator Carol Rothery has stepped down. We are all so grateful to Carol for her many years of coordinating time for us to gather together to share food and conversation. The coordinator position is now open and we would be so grateful for someone to step forward to continue to facilitate this important fellowship.

We would love to welcome more people to help with the Welcome Table—greeting and orientating visitors to the congregation. This is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and model the warmth of this congregation. Help with the Membership Committee is also welcome.

We also need help with hosts for the Art Nights, welcoming the public to see our beautiful window during the periodic Amherst Art Nights (first Thursday of the month, April through October for UUSA).

Please contact Karen Fisk (, or any member of the Board, if you are interested.

In order to renew our insurance this year, we needed to prove to the insurance company that we are in compliance with Safer Congregation rules, such as having two adults always present with children and youth under 18 years old. Our Director of Religious Education Rebecca Fricke was able to confirm we are in compliance and our insurance was renewed. It is important to note, though, that we had to shift one of our policies. We used to allow two youth age 13-18 to work with children with an adult occasionally checking in. We are not allowed to do this anymore. Our children and youth must always have two adults present.
The Safer Congregation Task Force will meet this year to continue to hone our policies, including active shooter strategies and fire alarms. As always the safety of our congregation is a responsibility we all share.

One of the recommendations our Interim Minister has given us is also a process we had begun before he arrived—it is time to change out the keys for our external doors. Too many people have been given keys with no record kept of who all has keys. A task force consisting of representatives from the Rental Committee, the Building and Grounds Committee, the Board, and our Office Administrator and Director of Religious Education (wearing her Safer Congregation hat) are implementing the change. You will hear more about this—policies and timing—soon. We will also be regularly changing the external code for entrance to the building. You will also be hearing more about that.

Charlie Atwood, from the Ministerial Search Team; Rob Fuderich, from the Board; and Gorden Wyse, from the Congregation, will work together to craft the Minister’s Compensation Package and will be the team negotiating the final package with the incoming minister. Steve Rice will serve as a pinch-hitter for this important task force. Thank you to each for their service to our congregation.

Energia has begun to add to the insulation in the attic spaces of the building, further enhancing our energy efficiency. We received a grant that pays for 3⁄4 of the work, thanks to the efforts of Energia and the Green Sanctuary Committee.
This is the first step in an ongoing exploration of energy usage to help ensure we are being responsible and frugal world citizens with our remarkable building.

More to come. Yours in faith, Karen

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