From the President's Desk

October, 2014

New Co-Presidents-Elect: Congratulations to Jennifer Barton and Janet Jensen, our new Co-Presidents-Elect.  Many congregations have gone to job sharing because of busy schedules and time commitments. We are fortunate to have two dedicated and qualified women willing to step forward and be our leaders. The Leadership Board will be working on the nuances of two people instead of one with regard voting and responsibilities.

Congratulations to Jenny Elsner-Miller, elected as Trustee to fill the vacancy left by Tom Tews.

Voice of the people: The Leadership Board values your opinions, concerns and ideas. We will now have, as part of our agenda, a 20-minute slot at the beginning of each Leadership Board meeting (every 3rd Thursday starting at 6:45 pm) to hear you.  We will give everyone 2-3 minutes to talk about whatever you want.  If you want to stay for the whole meeting, that is fine.  If you want to leave after you speak, that is fine also.  This is your time to be heard, and we will continue this through this whole church year.

If you have a business issue (something requiring a vote), please contact me at least 10 days prior to the Board meeting to have it added to the agenda.

Cottage Conversations: Please plan on attending at least one session of the eight planned for October.  We will be discussing how we can make UCN a sustainable community.  We need everyone’s ideas.  I know that we have really smart people with really great ideas that can be combined to solve our financial issues and keep UCN the light of religious freedom in the warmth of a caring community for Ozaukee County.

The dates of the sessions are:  Oct. 7 at 3 pm and 7 pm, Oct. 8 at 7 pm, Oct. 9 at 7 pm, Oct. 12 at 11:15 am, Oct. 15 at 7 pm, Oct. 18 at 10 am, Oct. 22 at 7 pm, Oct. 26 at 11:15 am.  We have daytime, nighttime and weekends for your convenience.  Please attend.

Open Space: Please come on October 11 from 9-3.  If you cannot stay for all of it, come for whatever time you can.  People have very positive feedback on this dialogic process.

Survey: The survey committee is now being lead by Leigh and will be ready for distribution in October.  Please take time to respond.

Talking Circles: The ad hoc committee on mediation (Carol Pawlak, Dean Johnson, Jon Olsen, Stephanie Loehr and Jeanne Durnford) has had two meetings and is looking at ways to help the congregation heal and move forward.  One method we are working on is Talking/Peace Circles.   More information will be forthcoming.

Potential Renter: I have met with a couple that wants an office space to rent.  It is quite promising, and more information will follow when terms are more certain.

Thank you for all you do-

Jeanne Durnford

September, 2014
From our new President, Jeanne Durnford 

Dear Community,

This has been a very busy summer with anxiety running high as we anticipate what will happen to UCN in the future.  Because of anxiety, sometimes, people say hurtful things to each other and about each other.  We can practice forgiveness remembering people are trying to do their best because they love this community.   Remember our congregational covenant and speak to people directly about problems and concerns and not about each other.

We will need everyone’s input to help us know the right solution of where the church will go.  We will have Cottage Conversations which will work on our assets of intelligent dedicated people, great ministry, and beautiful building and ask questions: How do we keep people inspired and increase membership?  How do we get the good news about UUism out to the people in Oz County?  How do we make the building pay for itself?  I will set up 10 times for small groups to meet to come up with ideas.  Please come to one.

We will also have an Open Space dialog for the whole congregation led by Stephanie Richardson on Oct. 11 from 9-3 where the lead question (suggested by Jeanne) is: What would UCN look like without a building?  That will lead to many other questions, like: What would UCN look like without a minister?  The process is quite exciting and was well received at the summer leadership retreat.

We have also been working on a survey, which will be coming out in September.  Please take the time to fill it out.

The Leadership Board wants to know what is on your mind.  Please contact Jeanne Durnford, Leigh Hoftiezer, Jenny Goetz, Peter Lima, Ed Ahrenhoester, Mark Bruhy, Gerry Schmitz, Ruth Duenk, Rosa Gomez, Stephanie Loehr, Mark Ludwig, Karen Ringlein with your ideas, suggestions or concerns.

I know this community can come to terms with our situation and make this a better place for all.  Remember why you came here and the wonderful gifts of community and spiritual insights that we build every week.  This, indeed, is where my heart is.

Please contact me by email or phone if you have questions, suggestions, helpful advice or concerns.  Email: jeannedurnford@yahoo.com or phone:  414-239-7935

Thank you for all you do-

Jeanne Durnford

President



 June, 2014

A Year of Gratitude

It is hard to believe that nearly an entire year has gone by since I assumed the role as UCN’s president.  While difficult decisions had to be made during the year and financial challenges are only temporarily held at bay, being part of a congregation that yearns for strength, stability and success has been integral to the support I received as we moved forward. Thank you all for helping me steer the ship by sharing your ideas while I tried to make the best choices for our church.

I particularly wish to thank Brian Mitchell, Jeanne Durnford, and Rev. Julie Forest for their encouragement and assistance this year. They each brought great wisdom and, when appropriate, humor to our conversations, so that my leadership work was far from onerous. Without them, the responsibilities faced would have weighed much more heavily on my shoulders.

Nearly 30% of UCN’s membership attended the Annual Meeting on May 18. By unanimous vote, after changing one word (“and” to “or” in the second-to-last point) the congregation passed the behavioral covenant that was distributed in the meeting packets before the big day. Thank you to the many people who participated in the months-long conversation to help us craft a covenant that would have meaning for our congregation. Also at this meeting we thanked outgoing church leaders for their service and unanimously voted in several more who will carry on. Lucy Friedrichs was recognized with our annual Dedicated Service Award for her many years of service in so many different roles. The final item on the agenda, the annual budget, was presented and explained by Treasurer Nancy Neumann and Finance Committee Chair Katie Egan-Bruhy. After some debate, it, too, passed, though not with a unanimous vote.

Moving forward, I hope all of us will take part in events and work planned in and around our church this summer. The Worship Committee has spent many hours scheduling speakers and preparing meaningful services every Sunday. The Playground Committee continues to be engaged in implementing the new design that is the result of a collaborative effort, and they would appreciate your help with the work, as well. The Building Committee is moving forward with repairs to the upper parking area and will need some assistance there. Other committees plan to continue to be engaged in their passions this summer. Be sure to check our website and the Friday Flyer during the summer for further updates and information.

I wish you all a splendid summer, and hope to see you often at church.

Leigh Hoftiezer


May, 2014

New Developments Bring a Brighter Day to UCN

After having written about dire circumstances surrounding the budget in my last letter to all of you, I am pleased to be one of those to announce that through the generosity of many members and friends, we have a reprieve on the budget crisis for the coming year. Generous pledges made shortly before and after the Budget Barn Banter on April 13, in combination with pledges already received, succeeded in completing the funding of our proposed budget for 2014-15. Thank you to all for the commitment of your time and your resources.

If the budget is approved by the congregation at our Annual Meeting on May 18, in the coming year our R.E. Director position will remain at approximately ½ time, as it has been for years. Our Minister’s position will be reduced to ¾ time, resulting in one less Sunday in the pulpit per month and one week per month when she will not be available. She will still have her sabbatical time for 5 months in the coming year, as we have contracted with her.

It remains critical to determine how our church may be funded in the future. In light of the need, members have stepped forward and begun to make contacts with companies that may assist us by providing a long-term renter. Another member has offered to manage lease agreements we already have, and to establish a facilities use team that would fulfill UCN’s responsibilities to our renters. Anyone not familiar with our already-established SCRIP fundraising program will have the opportunity to learn about it (and sign up!) in a fun and informative presentation in the coming weeks. Suggestions made during the Barn Banter for additional easy fundraising included the use of Amazon Smile and Igive.com, both of which are already being researched by our Treasurer. Other terrific ideas shared at the Barn Banter include, but are not limited to, the following: increase and improve signage and lighting along Port Washington Road; add a rental contact form onto our website; list rental information on Craigslist.com; promote our rental space at area events such as bridal shows. If you have interest in assisting with any of these ideas, or have additional suggestions, please get in touch with me, your Board members, Rev. Julie, or our Administrative Assistant Lyn Gust right away. I am confident that together we can achieve the goals we set before us.

Another development since the meeting on April 13 will be of interest to our members. Jeanne Durnford, President-Elect, has begun work on developing a Healthy Communications Team and a formal Conflict Resolution Process. She will report on these new ideas at the May Leadership Board meeting, and more information will be given to the congregation in the coming months. In addition, an ad hoc committee, led by Leadership Board Trustee Tom Tews, will be created soon to develop an employee performance management process with the intent of supporting UCN and our individual employees.

I am proud of the work so many do to maintain our presence on the North Shore. Thank you for your contributions to this wonderful church, and I hope to see you at our Annual Meeting on May 18. Be sure to pick up and read the Annual Meeting packet that will be available at First Sunday Lunch on May 4. Any packets not picked up that day will be mailed.

Leigh Hoftiezer,
Leadership Board President
 

April, 2014

Moving Forward toward the Annual Meeting-
A case for the Congregational Covenant

By Leigh Hoftiezer, UCN President

In just a few short weeks we will be gathering together to discuss and vote on key issues concerning life in this cherished community. Key issues will include approving the proposed budget for 2014-15 and deciding whether to accept the congregational covenant that has been written by several UCN members this year.

As a long term member I have seen people at their best here, working to strengthen our community with honor and respect for one another. I have also been witness to times when people were not at their best. The strife that created was damaging to the morale of our congregation and may have been avoidable. The purpose of a congregational covenant is to help remind people how we intend to be with one another, living our principles and pursuing our dreams in harmonious community.  

Your Leadership Board, Rev. Julie Forest and several members of our church have worked together to write a covenant that can be useful to help us now and in the future.  Its purpose is twofold: as a guide to members actively engaged in the life of the church, and as a statement that visitors can read to better understand how we intend to be with one another.  If approved by the congregation, it will be reviewed in the coming years, on a schedule yet to be determined by the Leadership Board, and amended as needed. This covenant is a tool for each of us to use now and in the future.You will be invited to sign it, and it will become part of the Membership Book that our new members sign.

This year’s annual meeting is now scheduled for May 18. I ask each of you to read the covenant below, discuss it with others, ask questions of me, Rev. Julie and/or your trustees, and be part of the decision-making process at the important meeting in May. I have always felt very strongly that such toolshad to come from the congregation and be approved or rejected by the congregation in a democratic process. I hope you will engage yourself in this conversation. To assist with this process, a Barn Banter to discuss the covenant has been scheduled for Sunday, April 20, at 11:15 a.m. in the sanctuary.

Unitarian Church North Congregational Covenant

In support of congregational life at Unitarian Church North, we value the open exchange of ideas and we respect the deliberative process. We make the following commitments to one another:

We create an atmosphere where all of us feel included, safe, respected and accepted, and in doing so are mindful of each other’s personal space.

We remember that building a welcoming community requires active participation and stewardship. We give generously of ourselves and our resources, and we inspire others to do the same.

After expressing our opinions, we work toward consensus. We practice the democratic process for decision-making, understanding that we will then support the final decision.

We recognize that at times we will agree to disagree.

When conflict occurs we work directly with each other and attempt to resolve the issue through our conflict resolution process.

We are imperfect human beings. We forgive ourselves and each other, and when necessary we begin again in love.

With great regard for each of you,

Leigh Hoftiezer,
UCN President

March, 2014

As many of you know, I and my husband are privileged to live in a home along the western shore of Lake Michigan. Many hours are spent gazing east at the deck, the beach, and the lake from my comfortable work station (a.k.a., the kitchen table), and the resulting sculpture of the landscape by numerous weather events never ceases to amaze me. Remembering with great joy the times my family has had in summer introducing our children, friends, and various dogs to the summer beach, the beauty, if not the comfort of the shore in winter is equally as striking. The seemingly endless weeks of cold weather have caused ice to form all across the Great Lakes, and this week’s predominantly east winds have graced our western shore with multiple rows of ice mountains that are colored by the natural sand, raised up by the waves. This same sand is used during our Sunday services to support our joys and sorrows candles.

 

The natural beauty is so captivating and so diverse, contributing to the character of the entire area that it inspires me to think about parallels with our church’s congregation. Part of my responsibility as your president is to lead meetings in an effort to engender civil discourse and attain common ground to achieve a solution that will serve the needs of every person. Repeatedly I have come away from these meetings not only pleased, but happy, inspired, satisfied, and at times ecstatic over the way every person participated in the conversation and resulting decision making. We do not always agree at first, but during discourse we have honored and respected both ourselves and each other in order to create a better “whole” that is more than the sum of the diverse parts. With a greater number of participants involved in the discussion, solutions are achieved that are better than any that one person alone could imagine.

 

Just as my beach consists of sand, water, trees, grasses, flowers, and a wide variety of animals, UCN consists of people who alone have their strengths, but together inspire one another to reach a higher plane in the life of our church. Thank you for lending your wonderful qualities to the character of our spiritual home.  We are better for it, and I hope you feel better for being here.

 

In faith,

Leigh Hoftiezer,
UCN President

February, 2014

 

As you can read in other articles that have been included with this newsletter, the focus of UCN’s annual pledge drive this year is directed toward recognition of the very positive identifiable characteristics and activities our church engages in and promotes. We do great things to support one another, from spiritual guidance, to pastoral listening, to religious education, to caring for the Earth, to reaching out to the community around us in a multitude of ways. We are intentionally conscious of the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, and strive to live them to the best of our abilities.

 

In addition, day by day many of our members make every effort to plan ahead to confirm that our church will continue providing the light of religious freedom in the warmth of a caring community. This means following through with the financial promises we made last year, participating in the work of committees that interest us, and looking for ways to achieve our dreams to support our spiritual home. Some of these dreams will not be fulfilled if we do not receive the financial support required.  

 

So many of us feel this is where we belong because intangible needs are being met here. Not only do we gain from what is given to us in the inspiration and wisdom shared by others, but we benefit from engaging with others in the multitude of projects that are part of church life. This is where I belong because with you I am better able to integrate the seven principles into my life. Your journey helps support my journey, and together our liberal religious faith becomes stronger while we strive to make our world a better place. I know this is where I belong and am grateful that you all are a large part of why I am proud to be a member of Unitarian Church North.

Leigh Hoftiezer

January, 2014

Though this letter most likely will not be read until after the holidays, as I write our families and communities are preparing for end-of-year celebrations. The Hoftiezer family will gather from points near and far, weather and road conditions willing, to rejoice in reunion and the love for each other that has sustained us over the years.  It will be our first Christmas without my father, and much of our time will be spent remembering and honoring him with stories of holidays gone by. By the time this is published, I hope that my loved ones and yours were able to have a holiday that will sustain them as winter moves in, and that all who traveled arrived safely.

As many of you know, a congregational discussion was held on December 15 to discuss whether UCN’s needs would be better served by holding only one service per Sunday throughout the year. Approximately 56 members attended and the final hand vote showed 50 were in favor of moving to one service, one voted against, and 5 abstained.  In addition, in my numerous face-to-face conversations, telephone calls, emails, and printed notes from 33 members, the unanimous opinion was in favor of the change.  Undoubtedly there was some overlap of the two groups, but the majority opinion was clear. The holiday schedule through January 5 has Sunday services beginning at 10:00.  From that point forward, services will continue meeting at 10:00 every Sunday.  Thank you to all who not only voiced their opinion regarding the question, but also to the countless members who worked very hard to help make the 2-services-per-Sunday schedule run smoothly over the past 5 ½ years.  Working together, I have no doubt we will all adjust to the new time and benefit by being part of this strong community.

Behavioral covenant discussions that were held in November and early December proved fruitful, attended by those who had interest in the project. We will be moving forward with this in the coming weeks and months, engaging all who would like to participate in the writing of 2 or 3 drafts that would serve the needs of our beloved church. The congregation will have an opportunity to vote on the final draft at our annual meeting in May. More information about upcoming draft meetings will be provided through the Friday Flyer.

With peace and blessings to all,

Leigh Hoftiezer

UCN President

December 2013

Perhaps my message will seem late since this letter will be read after Thanksgiving has passed, but gratitude truly has no deadline or expiration date. Reflecting on all that UCN offers, I am moved by the compassion, sincerity, devotion, and joy that so many of you share with the rest of us. In a multitude of ways we are moving in a positive direction, embracing our values, living our dreams for a better world, and supporting not just fellow members but also the larger community.  My gratitude toward all of you lies not only in the fact that you are sustaining the same kind of values that I have, but also that our work is having an impact in visible as well as intangible ways. The significance of being in community by acting out our liberal faith is not lost. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 Discussions regarding the development of a behavioral covenant have begun and are being held in the Emerson Room. Numerous opportunities are available for you to join with others to talk about the why and the details of this process. Your input is valuable and necessary in order for it to be meaningful and reflective of UCN’s interpersonal needs. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or any Leadership Board member.  The remaining schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, 12/3/13, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, 12/7/13, 10:00 a.m.

Thursday, 12/12/13, 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Your trusted servant,
Leigh Hoftiezer

 

November 2013

An open invitation to participate in developing something that will benefit UCN for years to come…

Study and discussions initiated a year ago by then-President Brian Mitchell were continued by yours truly at the leadership retreat in August of this year, centering around the concept of writing a behavioral covenant to serve UCN now and in the future.  I have chosen to move forward with this conversation because I believe a functioning covenant could be very beneficial to us, strengthening our relationships and helping us to continue working well together for the future of our church.  When churches face difficulties that challenge their members, having a clear idea of how members hope to interact with one another helps all to continue on a path that benefits the greatest number.

What is a covenant? In most basic terms, it is a promise.

  • Covenants can be used by leaders to model healthy and faithful behavior to others in the congregation and the community.
  • Covenants are promises to follow, not rules prescribing punishment.
  • Covenants describe behaviors, not personality changes.
  • Covenants are a daily, spiritual practice.
  • Covenants can be used to monitor behaviors by periodically being reviewed.

A covenant will empower and encourage members of goodwill to seek the higher ground in times of disagreement. It is best to write it now, when things are going well at UCN, so that ideas can be shared and discussed calmly.

Having a great number of members participate in brainstorming what we want as expected behaviors will be key to its success. Your Leadership Board Trustees, along with Brian Mitchell, Jeanne Durnford, Jenny Goetz (Board Secretary) and I have agreed to lead discussions and to listen to what you have to say about this process. We are offering a wide variety of times when you may attend these discussions at UCN. The schedule will be posted in the Friday Flyer, as an insert in the order-of-service, and will be on the church calendar that may be found on our website, www.ucnorth.org.

Are you still not sure whether you think a behavioral covenant is worth pursuing? In my research on the topic, I contacted a variety of UU churches whose covenants I found online. Having been asked whether they thought it was worthwhile, one church responded thusly:

The behavioral covenant was born out of a time of controversy prior to my arriving in 2007 to be their minister.  It sat as a dormant document for a period of time, surrounded with a system of resolution that seemed too big for a small congregation.  But, after a few years of dormancy, it was called upon in another time of controversy (or should I say attempted controversy) and the Covenant was cited by many in asking for and then affirming action by the Board to uphold those principles.  Once a clear line was both on paper (Covenant) and in practice (removal of a member for actions which threatened the well-being of the congregation), life became much easier and our shared community much richer.  The Covenant remains quietly in the background, but I hear on a regular basis how it has called people back to good behavior and right relations. (emphasis added)

Please consider joining us for this conversation.  YOUR voice needs to be heard because you and every member of UCN are a key part of who we are today and how we will proceed tomorrow.

October, 2013

Life is good here at UCN. With the resumption of activities that we normally see during the academic year, there is much to choose from for those who are interested in becoming involved. Many of the articles you will read in this Northliner, see announced in the weekly Friday Flyer, hear about from the pulpit, or see advertised in flyers around the church are indicative of the diverse interests and passions that help define us. If you haven’t already investigated those things that have sparked your curiosity, please do so. You can ask the church officers or any Board member for assistance. Our blue name tags will help you locate us on busy Sunday mornings.

On August 24 the annual leadership retreat was held at UCN, with members of UCN’s Leadership Board as well as committee chairpersons in attendance. Key points addressed at the meeting were developing the church calendar, reimagining UCN work for better use of volunteer time, the church-wide social justice initiative, and the introduction of behavioral covenant discussion where every UCN member will be encouraged to participate. Rev. Julie mentioned some of these in a recent sermon, others are discussed in this newsletter issue, and more information will be made available in the coming months.

This year one of my goals as your president is to help UCN develop a behavioral covenant that will serve our members in times of crisis. A covenant is a promise, and a behavioral covenant refers to how we treat each other and work together. As I mentioned above, things are going well at UCN currently, which means this is the time for us to engage in the discussion about healthy behaviors we want to continue and support.

Your Leadership Board is preparing to lead meetings at different times of the day and the week so that every person will have an opportunity to voice their opinion and discuss what they feel is important to our community. Not only will we talk about desired behaviors, but as a community we will determine what recourse there will be should a problem remain unresolved. Sign-up sheets will be available in October, with the discussion sessions taking place in November. We sincerely hope you will participate, sharing your ideas, your concerns, and your passion for helping to maintain the congregational health of UCN.

Leigh Hoftiezer, President

 


September, 2013

With this, my first missive as your new president, I would like to thank the Nominating Committee and UCN’s members for entrusting me with this important role. I am honored and humbled by your actions, and will do my best to fulfill the responsibilities of the position. Accepting the nomination was, for the most part, without trepidation because my extensive experience with all of you has been so positive. We support each other through thick and thin, and help one another succeed in myriad ways. Knowing in my heart that the community is there for me, and for all of us, I anticipate this year as president to be very rewarding personally.  Whenever you have a question or concern regarding the church, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I promise to do what I can either to answer the question myself or to direct the query to the person or committee that can.

There is much to celebrate and be proud of at UCN. This summer we had a truly outstanding variety of Sunday speakers who provided well-conceived and delivered, thought-provoking sermons.  From learning about creatures with naturalist educator David Stokes, to exploring questions about Unitarian Universalism with UU clergy, to being inspired by experiences shared in social justice work, there was something to catch the interest of the many people who attended our services.

At the end of June, 32 UCN members and friends represented UCN in the Mequon-Thiensville “Family Fun Before the Fourth” parade, carrying the American flag along with banners and placards that informed the public about our programs and our historical figures. Organized by Peggy Creer with help from Dean Johnson, Constance Fisk and Tiffany Meekey, we presented our message with honor and respect mixed in with a lot of fun.

The Social Justice Committee has continued working on the congregation-wide initiative throughout the summer and has exciting progress to report. The Landscape Committee put in hours of work to improve the beautiful grounds around the church, and welcomed the efforts of several people who weren’t members of the committee who wanted to help.  Our Green Committee has made plans for the upcoming electronics recycling event, and the Religious Education Committee is gearing up for the coming year so that our children, and that of our visitors, will have an enriching program to fill their Sunday mornings.

Events that were “sold” at our auction last April have almost all taken place, and from all reports everyone had a marvelous time getting to know one another in a casual setting, either over a meal or an educational opportunity, or both!  These connections help enrich and strengthen our relationships with one another, and many will be offered again at the auction next May. 

The SCRIP program continues to flourish, with gift cards from several local vendors available for purchase immediately after church services. Several people stepped up to sell the cards every Sunday, so that both our members and the church itself were well served in this regard. As always, you may still preorder gift cards on-line. If you need help with that process, get in touch with UCN member/SCRIP Coordinator Mike Strauss.

I am looking forward to the start of another great year at UCN, and hope you are, too. 

See you soon,

Leigh Hoftiezer

President