Posted by Nancy Steele

As I write this, our annual meeting is coming up on May 21st. I hope to see you at the meeting – if you can’t make it, please turn in your proxy. You can assign your vote either to the Board or to another member. After the meeting, stay for conversation and lunch. Senior High is selling lunch to raise funds to help them attend General Assembly.

At this meeting, you will adopt the budget and elect your officers and representatives to the Board of Trustees and Nominating Committee. The job of the Nominating Committee is to recommend the slate of candidates for the Board. We also have resolutions to consider: the Trustees have recommended a resolution on becoming a Net Zero church and a bylaws amendment to adopt a policy regarding granting Minister Emeritus/a status.

The Net Zero resolution was proposed to the Board by the Green Council and will, if adopted, set us on the path to being a Net Zero Greenhouse Gas emitter. The actions coming out of this resolution would be a commitment to ongoing education of the membership and development of a master plan, with timeline and budget recommendations, that would come back to the Board and congregation. In 2010 Neighborhood Church became an UU-accredited Green Sanctuary, affirming our commitment to the Earth in the areas of environmental justice, worship and celebration, religious education, and sustainable living. This Net Zero resolution will reaffirm the congregational commitment to “service toward a compassionate, sustainable, and peaceful world.”

The bylaws amendment to establish a policy on Minister Emeritus/a status arose out of our two-year- long process to review and revise our policies with two goals: (1) to craft statements that express our best intentions – mission, values, ends – regarding where our spiritual path will lead us next as a church; and (2) to adopt the best practices of policy governance for churches. Policy governance is a model that defines the appropriate relationships between the owners/members of an organization, its board of directors, and chief executive (our senior minister is our chief executive).

As we worked through defining those relationships, it became apparent that we had a gap in policy regarding how we elect a former minister to the Minister Emeritus/a status and we resolved to fix that gap. This required both a bylaws amendment and a new section in the Policy Manual. What we intend to accomplish is to define the appropriate relationship between the members, the Board of Trustees, our Senior Minister, and any minister that may be elected as Minister Emeritus/a of this Church.

We researched best practices, turning to the UU Ministers’ Association Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry. I have consulted these guidelines many times over the past several years as a member of the Board of Trustees and President. They comprise the ethical standards, expectations of conduct, accountability, and standards of professional practice for ministers in our denomination. As the Trustees of a UU church, we refer to these Guidelines to understand best practices in ministry.

The Board determined that the best practice for Neighborhood Church would be for the membership to amend the bylaws to make it clear that it is the Trustee’s role to make a recommendation to the congregation, and the congregation’s responsibility to make the decision on conferring Emeritus/a status.

The status as Minister Emeritus/a is not and should not be an automatic designation; that robs it of meaning. The status is an honor awarded by a congregation on a minister who has provided long and distinguished service. As far as I have been able to determine, Neighborhood Church has conferred the title of Emeritus Minister only once, on the Rev. Brandoch Lovely.

The role of an Emeritus/a Minister is to support the well-being of the congregation and the success of its minister, in the context of specified rights and responsibilities, ethical conduct, and best practices. And as a pre-requisite, our policies require that our settled minister and the retired minister have a written letter of understanding, detailing their relationship. I am pleased to tell you that Rev. Lissa Gundlach and Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson have signed such a letter, establishing a covenant between them and Neighborhood Church.

If you have any comments or questions, please catch me on the patio or drop me a line. This is likely the last time I will write to you as your President; it has been an honor and a privilege to serve you these two years.

In love, spirit, service, and community.

Nancy Steele, President,

Your Board of Trustees: Asia Bribiesca-Hedin, Clyde Derrick, Kirk Dillman, Esther Martin, Martin Morales, Janice Partyka, Nancy Steele, Patty Watson-Wood, and Lauren Worley.