May Moderator’s Letter

May 11, 2017

Greetings Fellow Congregants,

Please remember to vote.  You should have received your ballot in the mail by now. Please review it carefully and mail it back or drop it off at the church.  Your ballots must be received at the Church by May 21. And if you have questions about the budget, the Finance Committee is hosting a meeting this Sunday (May 14) on the 2017-2018 budget as well as the church’s year-to-date financial results–10:30 a.m. in the Channing Room.

Many of you attended Reverend Bill’’s first quarterly Q&A on Sunday May 7. I trust you found it informative and kind of fun (nice to be in a less formal setting with our leadership team). There were many good questions.  Watch for another Q&A opportunity this fall.

Your board has received several questions about the financial impact of Bill’s UUA service as interim co-president, which will run until GA in June. The UUA is covering all of Bill’s expenses related to the work he is doing for the Association – travel, lodging, meals etc. He will also receive a small stipend for his significant support to the UUA. This is not a replacement for the salary he receives from First UU Portland. The UUA is also picking up any additional costs that First UU incurs related to guest preachers filling the pulpit, compensation for additional workload for the Executive Team here in Portland, and any miscellaneous costs we might incur. Over recent years, our church has not been able to fully fund our fair share dues to the UUA.  This work that Bill and our ET have taken on is an opportunity for our church to show support for our larger faith community.  

Our church theme for May is Privilege.  Rev Bill and Dana Buhl kicked off the month with a “teach in” on white supremacy culture and white privilege at the May 7th sermon.  It was a very informative and challenging presentation preceded by a moving testimonial from our Music Director DeReau Farrar.  There will be a follow-up session for congregants on May 28th after the second service. Watch the eNews and church bulletin for more details.  As reported by Black Lives of UU, over 660 UU gatherings nationwide conducted White Supremacy teach-ins at their services on April 30 and May 7.

The Board and Executive Team have made a significant effort to prepare and communicate the budget for our 2017-2018 church year.  This budget has its challenges, most specifically a need to bridge a $150,000 shortfall in our pledge goal.  Reserves and other funds can reduce that to $87,000.  This  part of the shortfall must  be covered by staff cost shifts and reductions.  Pledging was down this year. Please read Bill’s March message about the budget here.   (Since his note was written, the $70,000 shortfall he mentions has changed to the $87,000.)  As part of its efforts to understand changes to the giving patterns of our pledging congregants, our Executive Team reached out to the approximately 150 congregants who pledged for the 2015 AFD but, in 2016, either did not renew their pledge or reduced it significantly.  Nearly 1/3 of those contacted responded and provided the following reasons for a reduction or elimination of pledges:

48% — Change in financial circumstances

20%  — Moved or changed church affiliation

18%  —  Change in post-presidential-election charitable priorities

12% —  Forgot to pledge and subsequently renewed

10% —  Unhappy with something at the church

(total adds to more than 100% as some responders gave multiple reasons)

Our Executive Team expects to have a more detailed staffing plan to address the remaining shortfall by September.  Any pledges or increased/restored pledges will reduce that number.

On June 4th the board will host a forum, Facilitated Conversations: Listening toward Resolution.  This is a follow-up to the Board and ET open forum held in last February.  Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

Again, thank you to everyone who has been involved and continues to work with us in strengthening our beloved community. If you have additional questions you would like addressed, please write the board at

We’ll hold our next Board meeting on June 1, beginning at 7 p.m.


Randy Russell

Moderator, First Unitarian Church of Portland