Moderator’s Letter: February and March

March 15, 2017

Greetings Fellow Congregants,

     The word is out: we have a new Director of Music!  The search committee unanimously recommended that we hire DeReau Ferrar and Reverend Sinkford offered him the position.  DeReau has accepted and we now begin a new musical journey under his leadership. Congratulations to DeReau.  On behalf of the Board, I would like to also thank Reverend Sinkford and the Music Director Search Advisory Committee for their diligent work. There were many qualified applicants to winnow to the three finalists that presented before this congregation. It’s been gratifying to see the level of interest and the excellence of the candidates.  Check out the announcement under News and Events.

     Our fall 2016 Annual Fund Drive (AFD) currently stands at 90% of goal.  That 10% shortfall represents just under $150,000. Our AFD goal assumed a 3% increase to cover cost increases and an investment in a new congregational life initiative. The Executive Team (ET) and the Board are still examining the reasons for this reduction in pledging and how to address the shortfall in the budget. The ET expects to recommend the use of a variety of reserve and contingency funds to cushion the pledge shortfall for one year.  However, the entire shortfall cannot be covered and expenses must be reduced to  balance the budget.  These reductions will not go unnoticed by our congregation.  A proposed budget will be presented by staff to the Finance Committee at its March 28th meeting.  With the recommendation of the Finance Committee, this budget will be presented at the April Board of Trustees meeting.  The Board will discuss the presented budget and submit an approved budget for congregational vote.  

     The Board is striving to improve its skills to work together in right relationships according to our covenant.  Toward that end, the board attended an excellent half day workshop, led by Dana Buhl, on white privilege and how it operates in our society.   Dana is currently teaching an Adult Ed course at First U on this subject.  The work of the Board on this important topic will continue.

     As a follow up to Congregational Concerns Forum held last month, on May 7 we are planning a Café Conversation entitled Listening Toward Resolution: Facilitated Conversations.  This Cafe Conversation will emphasize small circles for listening and meaningful dialog.  Look for further details in upcoming e-News and my April letter.

   This is a spotlight month for our First Church Foundation.  I trust you heard Dev Dion and Mindy Clark’s thoughtful testimony last Sunday.  Please consider including the church in your will.  Members of the Foundation board are staffing a table in Fuller Hall after services during March.  They can answer any questions you might have.

    I’d like to highlight two more upcoming events. Tom Andrews, a former U.S. Representative and the current President and CEO of Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, is the speaker at the 2017 Sewell Lecture.  The lecture is just a few weeks away– April 6th.  And, on that same day, we’ll hold our next Board meeting from 4-6 p.m–earlier than usual so as to not conflict with the Sewell Lecture.

   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


Randy Russell

Moderator, First Unitarian Church of Portland

February Moderator’s Letter

February 16, 2017

Greetings Fellow Congregants,

On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the 140 congregants who braved the stormy weather to attend last Sunday’s Congregant Forum. We thought it was a big step forward in increasing communication and understanding between the congregation, Board and ET. If you were unable to attend, we’ve posted notes from the gathering which can be f ound here. Many questions were asked and answered. We plan to follow up as follows: listening circles, targeted for March, and a cafe conversation on long-term goals in April. Watch the eNews, church bulletin and future Moderator letters for more specifics on dates and times as plans are put into place. Some questions weren’t addressed for lack of time or relevance to the topics at the forum. We will address them all in upcoming expanded FAQ’s on the Board webpage. We hope to have those up by March 5. We can respond to two of them now:

  • Has First Unitarian Church been paying our employees in accordance with the
    UUA Guidelines? The answer is not a simple yes or no. In almost all cases, our compensation does fall within UUA guidelines, although our policies make no mention of those Guidelines. However, the UUA Guidelines do not drive most of our compensation decisions. Local conditions and principles of justice play a more important role. The increased compensation provided to our sextons and some other hourly employees was the result of both union negotiations and the need to match our practice with our advocacy out in the world. It was made possible by special congregational fundraising. With very few exceptions, the salaries of our professional staff meet at least the minimum UUA guidelines for comparable positions. That is true for all of our ministers, including Kate Lore. This however, does not address the problem that Reverend Sinkford spoke of at the forum. Many of our staff are paid near the bottom of the range when theiryears of service and experience warrant salaries closer to mid-range. Budget constraints hamper our efforts to change this.
  • What is our policy relative to selling church owned artwork? Especially items over 20 years old? We currently do not have a policy on selling artwork or historic items. It is now clear that we need one. The governance committee will be tasked with drafting such a policy. The board has solicited the help of the archives committee to identify and catalogue all such church possessions.

Our Annual Fund Drive (AFD) is coming to a close. We are about 10% short of our goal. Our policies require a balanced budget and this will mean reductions to spending in various areas (if you have not yet pledged, do so now so your contribution can help).

Our ET is currently working on that budget, and I’m sure many of you will want to know what changes are going to be made. A proposed budget will be discussed at the February 28th Finance Committee meeting. I invited you to attend that meeting as this is one of the most important of the year. Minutes will be posted on the Finance section of the Board web pages.

Reverend Sinkford reports that the Music Director decision is expected by mid March. One more candidate will audition before the decision is made. Check out the advisory committee news on our website.

I know many of you were able to take part in Seminary for a Day this year. It was a great success with a dynamite speaker, Rev. Kendyl Gibbons, the senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City and the 2015 Religious Humanist of the Year. She delivered a dynamic keynote on a humanist basis for morality. She followed up with a tremendous sermon on Sunday, January 29th, entitled “Defense Against the Dark Arts, or How Not to Become a Nazi.” If you missed it, you can stream it from our website.

Also of note, the Sewell Lecture is scheduled for April 6th. Tom Andrews will be the speaker. A former US Representative from Maine, he is currently President and CEO of Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Mark it on your calendars. 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.

Our next Board meeting is Thursday, March 2, 7 p.m.

Randy Russell