May 2017  
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President's Monthly Column

May 2017

One of the toughest things for me has always been being able to say, “No.”  I tell myself that I can’t take on anything new – and then I find myself saying, “Yes” when asked. I struggle with saying, “No.”

As I come to the end of my first year as President, I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic.   We’ve often talked at All Souls about the art of the “Sacred No” – those “no’s” that shouldn’t be questioned.  Those times when someone is really unable to say, “Yes.” When someone says to me, “This is a sacred no”, I understand that I shouldn’t try to cajole them into changing their mind.

And yet, there are a couple of people at All Souls who don’t really have the option of the “sacred no” – most especially, Carolyn and Caitlin.  We continue to ask more and more of them as the congregation grows in both numbers and needs.  Pastoral issues come up and Carolyn and Caitlin respond.   They don’t say, “No” to us, this beloved community.  Here are a few examples. 

Both receive texts from congregants 7 days a week, night and day.  Some are emergencies. Some are simple check-ins or questions.   All of these require attention. 

Then there are requests for financial help through the Minister’s Discretionary Fund. One morning this past week, there were four separate requests that came to Carolyn in the space of just a few hours.  Carolyn doesn’t say to these folks, “I’m sorry. I’m busy.  Can you come back tomorrow afternoon at 2pm?”  She stops whatever she is doing and responds, with care, respect, and compassion.

There are also projects that emerge, most recently the March for Women’s Lives and the White Supremacy Teach-In.  These kinds of projects can’t be put off. Certainly, other staff members step up and support this work – staff members Martina Bottinelli and Arlene Stoltz have been invaluable, for example.  However, Carolyn can’t pack up her desk at the end of the day and walk out the door, if the work isn’t finished.

This list doesn’t include Carolyn’s most visible responsibility: making certain that our Sunday morning experience is rich, meaningful, and engaging.

Caitlin is much the same way.  If there is work to be done relative to the Religious Education program, she works until it is finished.  She works beyond her scheduled hours to complete whatever is on her plate. She handles details that none of us even consider.

As I hope you all know, this year, in our Stewardship efforts, we set a goal of “Staffing for Growth” – of increasing our staff capacity to meet growing congregational needs.  We wanted to change Caitlin’s portfolio to include pastoral care and increased preaching and add a new Director of Lifespan Faith Formation, who would have also taken on some membership integration and engagement activities.

That was our goal . . . and we didn’t meet it. 

We saw some tremendous growth in our Stewardship work: 

• There are 13 financial commitments representing increases of more than 100% -- one is an increase of more than 5,000% and another was 3,270%.

• There are 20 new financial commitments for a total of $23,340. 

• 82 individuals and households were inspired and able to increase their commitments for a total of $40,422. 

Of course, there were those who needed to decrease their commitments because of job loss, or health issues, or challenges with fixed incomes.  This is the case every year.  And, yet, this year, we hoped it would be different.  We set an ambitious goal . . . and we didn’t make it.

What does not reaching this goal mean?  We won’t be searching for a new Lifespan Religious Education Director. The congregation will not be able to depend on the level of pastoral care we need and hoped to be able to offer.  The capital campaign will be delayed for at least another year as our ministers and staff are already working beyond capacity. 

It may not seem as though it will mean much to you and me and our experience at All Souls.  The reality is that we are balancing our budget on the backs of our ministers and staff.  They are carrying the brunt of our inability to staff for growth – the growth that is occurring despite not having the full staff capacity to effectively and fairly manage it.  Carolyn in particular won’t get the relief she so needs – and deserves – from the constant, important calls and requests for her time, attention, and energy.  Please note that this doesn’t mean the Staffing for Growth goal is off the table forever – just for the coming year.  We will keep on trying.

We asked every congregant to make a generous financial commitment for the 2017-2018 church year.  A number of you asked us, “What does generous mean?”  Generous means that you feel good about your commitment; that you know you are doing everything you can to support All Souls and its ministries.  Maybe it means you have to “stretch” a little to pay the full amount of your commitment.

So far this year, commitments range from $120 per year to $20,000 per year. In analyzing last year’s annual commitments:

• 25% of our congregants gave $6,200 combined, with commitments that ranged from $5 to $500. Their average pledge was just under $150. 

• The next quartile of congregants gave $18,575 with commitments that ranged from $501 - $1,200.  Their average pledge was just under $450.

• The third quartile gave $34,020 with commitments ranging from $1,201 to $2,297.  Their average pledge was $810. 

• And the final quartile gave All Souls $250,469, with pledges that ranged from $2,298 to $16,594.  Their average pledge was just under $6,000. 

Where do you fall in this quartile breakdown?  Are you working hard to maintain a commitment in that first quartile? Maybe you can see yourself moving from Quartile 2 all the way to Quartile 4 with a commitment of $2,400 or $200 per month? What can you do that perhaps you hadn’t considered?

We have at least 55 households/individuals who have yet to turn in their financial commitment cards.  How can we plan for next year, if we have so many holes in our worksheet?

What will we be able to do?  Our numbers aren’t final yet, so I can’t give you a complete and final answer. Please attend the Budget Hearing between services on Sunday, May 7 to learn more.  At this early stage it does look as if we will be able to bring our Office and RE Administrators up to a fair share compensation based on the UUA’s Salary Guidelines.  We may be able to cover the costs of providing pro-rated and appropriate benefits for everyone on staff who is eligible: Minister, Associate Minister, Office Administrator, and our RE Administrator.   We will likely be able to put part of the UUA Annual Program Fund contribution back in the budget.  This is huge, since for the past several years, that item was zeroed out.  This is all good news, if the final numbers allow this to happen. 

The bottom line is that this is up to you – the congregants of our beloved community here at All Souls.  There is no one standing in the wings, waiting to step forward and fill the gap.  If you are one of the households that has not yet turned in your Financial Commitment card, there is no time like the present. If you are someone who thinks that your commitment won’t make the difference:  think again.  Every commitment matters.  Every single one. 

To those of you who have submitted your financial commitment cards – thank you.  Thank you to those who made the promise to increase your commitments – whether it was by $25 or by $2,500. Please know that if it weren’t for your generous and, in some cases, significant increases, we wouldn’t be able to do what we are planning for next year. Thanks to those who are managing to maintain a consistent commitment – believe me, I understand the challenge and know that sometimes the best we can do is to simply hang in there.  Finally, thank you to those who needed to decrease your commitment.  We know that when things change and your situation improves, you will remember All Souls.

If you still have questions about our budget, about our Stewardship Campaign, about how things operate at All Souls, please reach out to your leadership and ask those questions.  We have answers for you.

With deep respect and faith,

Liz