Reflections from Outgoing UUFA President

UUFA Congregational Meeting 5/21/18

A year is both a very long time and a very short time. As I look back, I’m amazed at both how much has been accomplished, and how much yet remains to be done.  Prior Presidents assure me that this is completely normal.

In terms of accomplishments, the most obviously visible involves the expansion of our building. At this time last year, we had not yet begun construction, though we were poised to do so. Uncertainties still abounded around every aspect, even as to whether we could continue to hold services and meetings here during the process. We were quite relieved when the construction phases did not require renting additional space. Preparatory work in the fall led up to our groundbreaking in March, and decision-making continues even as the evidence of our progress surrounds us.

From the outside, this probably looks like THE major accomplishment of my tenure as Board President, but in fact it is a testament to the work of prior presidents and boards, and most especially to the ongoing work of the EOV team.  My role has largely been to keep the ball rolling: to be copied on everyone’s work, to say “thank you” a lot (and mean it sincerely), and to sign some rather terrifying paperwork. Yes, it’s taken time and attention, but this accomplishment is the result of the collaboration of many, many people. Of course, that’s pretty much true of all of this year’s accomplishments.

While the physical infrastructure of the building has been undergoing expansion and improvement, a less-visible initiative has been to expand and improve our organizational infrastructure. Our congregation has a long history, beginning as a rather small group and growing to the size we are now. There are stages in congregational growth, and the patterns that serve well at one size do not serve well at another. Informal connections, word of mouth communications, and loosely-defined responsibilities are appropriate for a small congregation, but in a larger one, lead to frustrations.

Therefore, some of the work I’m personally proudest of involves documenting current practices and creating templates to guide future work, so that less energy goes into “re-creating the wheel” or relying on memory. (I don’t know about you all, but mine becomes less reliable each year!)  Here again, I built on the work of prior presidents and boards, and collaborated with others. At the beginning of my term, I asked the outgoing President and Secretary – Lee Cornell and Barb Teskey – to identify the key events and activities of the board for each month. The “Board Year at a Glance” that they developed proved an invaluable tool, especially when shared with other members of the Board. This month, the Executive Committee, which includes our current vice-President (now incoming President) Bob McArthur and our Secretary Aleta Turner, revised and expanded last year’s calendar to create a planning document for the upcoming year. This may sound like a simple thing to do, but sometimes simple things make a big difference. At a training session on strategic planning that I recently attended, the presenter said much of strategic planning is “making the obvious explicit.”

During the Board and Ministry Council Retreat at the beginning of 2018, we “made the obvious explicit” as we identified focus areas and a theme for the 2018-2019 program year. This annual retreat is an important planning step that allows UUFA to identify priorities and to assess what resources are needed, financial and otherwise, in order to meet our goals.  I consider this gathering one of the highlights of my time as President. It is rare and wonderful to have the opportunity to think together with other caring people in order to create a positive future. Just as this year’s theme of “Love Calls Us On” allowed us to identify the many ways we are called, next year’s theme “Making Room for…. ” offers us the opportunity to identify the multiple ways we intend to grow, beyond just in terms of our physical space.

As I near the end of my tenure, I see so much that still needs to be done, and that I hoped to get to. Again, prior presidents assure me that this is completely normal. Just as you feel you’ve grown into the job and have a handle on it, it’s time to pass the baton. I would leave with a bit of reluctance except for two things. First and foremost, I have superb confidence in the incoming president and board. Second, it’s time. In a healthy congregation, it’s important for members to step up, and to step back. To take turns, just as geese flying in formation rotate the position of leader in order to allow each one to serve in that role, before dropping back to rest and recharge. Shared leadership allows each of us to grow as individuals, which strengthens the Fellowship as a community.

I am sincerely grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as Board Member and President of this Fellowship. As I step down, I look forward to turning my attention to other opportunities within UUFA. Thank you all for this experience and most especially, for your support, which I know you will extend to the incoming president. ~ Linda Gilbert