At our congregational meeting on April 19th, I was encouraged by the strong turnout. It’s exciting to see the congregation showing up in such numbers to take on the sometimes dry work of church governance (the way we structure and organize ourselves). But the strong turnout, as well as feedback we had received in the weeks preceding the meeting, also demonstrated that the congregation didn’t feel ready to responsibly address the questions posed by the Bylaws changes we had proposed. The Board hadn’t done enough work to share where we see the church heading, and why we felt that those changes to our Bylaws were necessary, and to engage your input along the way. It has been a big learning year for all of us, and we want to do more in the coming year to ensure an ongoing dialogue and engagement between the Board and all of the stakeholders in our congregation’s future.
I was disappointed to see that many of you still had questions when we ran out of time. In the days since that meeting, the Board has been considering various ways that we could provide the congregation opportunities to get those questions answered, and hear from the Board a clear description of our vision for the church’s future.
My friends on the Board and I have decided that the best format is to offer a series of smaller meetings, rather than another single gathering of 100-plus congregants. In smaller groups of ten or twenty congregants, we should be able to ensure that all those present get a chance to ask their questions, express their opinions, as well as strengthen relationships with one another, based in our shared commitment to our church and our Unitarian Universalist values.
As a result, we have scheduled meetings at a variety of times of day and days of the week over the next month, in hopes that all who are interested in attending will be able to make one of the gatherings:
- Thursday, April 30 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, May 6 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
- Saturday, May 9 from 9:30-11:00 a.m.
- Monday, May 11 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
- Friday, May 15th from 10:30-12:00 p.m.
- Sunday, May 24 from 12:30-2:00 p.m.
- Tuesday, May 26 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Each session will be hosted by two or more members of the Board. Whichever session you choose to attend, you’ll have the chance to hear about the Board’s vision for our future governance, with plenty of time set aside for your questions and comments. We will work to gather those comments and questions and, at the end of the process, produce a summary of frequently raised questions and concerns.
To express your intent to attend, please send an email to RSVP@foothillsuu.org or call the church office at 493-5906. With sufficient notice, we can likely make childcare available, so let us know if that is something you would need and we will do our best.
Bylaws presentation to the congregation April 19, 2015
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” – Scott Adams
Small acts of kindness – that is the mission of the Caring Team at Foothills. We, with the helpand support of each of you, strive to support Church members and friends in times of need. Some of the small acts of kindness the Caring Team coordinates or provides on a short term basis are:
- Meals for members and friends of the Church in time of serious illness, death, or other family crisis
- Rides to Church services or other Church functions
- Provide and serve simple refreshments when requested following memorial services held at the church
We also coordinate, provide or participate in:
- the Caring Card Table between services, sending cards to members and friends in recognition and support of important life events
- a Share the Care team when a family requests the significant resources that team provides
- sponsorship of Powerful Tools for Caregivers trainings and groups
- the Parish Visitor program
- the promotion of the Caring Stars program during the holidays
- other events/activities that promote community and support within the Church
None of these activities can be carried out without your kindness and willingness to help fellow Church members. A special thanks goes to each of you who have so often contributed your time, talent, and resources to benefit Church members and friends in time of need.
If you know of a Church member or friend who is in need, please use the firstname.lastname@example.org address and it will be routed to the caring person on-call. You can also call the office directly.
Would you like to join our Caring Team? We’d love to have you! Our next meeting will be May 21at 7:00 pm in the RE building – please express your interest to Rebecca Williamson at email@example.com.
As we on the Board have worked to refine the governance structure at Foothills, we have kept an eye on our bylaws. They are, we’re told, unusually specific and restrictive. There are areas where our practices have drifted away from the structures prescribed in the bylaws – in some cases, years ago. We have not kept a Church Council since before I began my time on the Board, for example, and we long ago began calling our Canvass Committee by the new name of “Stewardship Committee” instead. The bylaws were not kept up to date as these practices evolved.
More recently, we’ve come to realize that there are some other ways the Bylaws mandate a structure that poorly suits our needs as a large church experimenting with different ways of operating. When Rev. Keyes arrived, he pointed out that we might not want to continue to have a Committee on Ministry or Personnel Committee. He suggested that we might find we were able to get more accomplished with a smaller Board – perhaps 7 members, rather than the 11 that our bylaws mandate? And as we have begun to adopt what’s known as policy governance, where the Board focuses on questions of purpose and mission rather than day-to-day operational decisions, it’s become clear that the bylaws suit this new structure poorly.
In short, our bylaws need a thorough rewriting.
The changes you’ll see below do not represent that thorough rewrite, however.
In some cases, we’ve felt that we wanted to delay action on questions that we don’t feel confident we’ve decided yet. Our Committee on Ministry, for example, has spent most of the past year in recess, but neither the COM nor the Board has comfortably decided what that committee’s future should be, so we’ve retained the language in our bylaws requiring that there be a COM, for now.
In other cases, we on the Board have felt that changes suggested by Rev. Keyes, or practiced in other churches, might not suit the needs of our church well. For instance, we have decided to reduce the size of our Board of Trustees, but have settled on a 9-member Board rather than the 7-member size that’s been recommended by David and others. We may yet decide that 7 is the right number, but the composition of the Board seems like an area where caution and gradual change is called for.
Above all, we’ve tried to adopt a slate of bylaws revisions that do not make drastic, sweeping changes to the way this church is operating right now. Some of the changes we’re recommending impact the elections at the upcoming Annual Meeting on May 17th, and need to be made as soon as possible so that our Nominating Committee can know what is required of them. But there simply hasn’t been time for adequate discernment, adequate engagement with the congregation, adequate debate about the content of any broader changes that might be needed some day.
So… what you see below is a set of bylaws revisions that change only what really needs to be changed now. These are edits that seek to protect the church from dangerous practices, reasonably increase our flexibility and efficiency as we experiment with our governance structure, and – critically – leave for another day the biggest potential changes that will really require more debate than we have time for in the waning months of this church year.
I’ve detailed the exact changes below, along with line numbers referencing the most recent (May 2014) edition of our bylaws, and a brief explanation of the thinking behind the change.
Thanks are due to Trustees Elizabeth Stanley and Nate Donovan for their hard work and attention to detail on this project, and to David, Gretchen, and the rest of the Board for their insightful questions and suggestions on the drafts we’ve considered along the way. If you have questions about the revisions we’ve proposed, please feel free to contact me via the Board of Trustees address, firstname.lastname@example.org. We will vote on these revisions in a Special Congregational Meeting, to be held on Sunday, April 19th, between services. That meeting will follow the typical parliamentary procedures, with space for questions and comments as usual. But in the interest of time, I’d welcome a chance to publicly address any common questions beforehand, so I hope you won’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’re confused about the rationale behind anything we’ve proposed.
Thanks for taking the time to read about this. I’ll see you Sunday,
President, Board of Trustees