June UCF News!

From Rev. Michelle:

Dear beloveds,

Happy Pride Month!

It’s difficult to believe that so many months have passed since my first letter to you, which I wrote surrounded by boxes in Ohio. Now I am writing from my office in the soon-to-be Rev. Sally B. White Center. And: I have some exciting news for you (which I am also a bit nervous about):

I have started my gender transition.

This is something that has been a long time coming, although I didn’t expect to start here and now. But, after a few months at the Unitarian Coastal Fellowship, it became clear to me that this was a healthy, supportive congregation, and that I could hardly do better. There’s no guarantee that the next place I go to won’t be toxic or dysfunctional! And so, I decided I had better seize the moment.

To answer some commonly asked questions: I started testosterone in March, and so far I feel great. No, I have not chosen a name yet.  Yes, my pronouns will change at some point. The best way that you—UCF, as well as the individual reading this—can support me is by continuing to be your excellent selves, coming together to be the best congregation that you can be. The timeline for my transition is a little unknown, because it depends on how quickly or slowly I feel comfortable going. We’re all figuring this out as we go along.

 Perhaps you have more questions that I haven’t answered. Perhaps you are not comfortable asking me your questions directly. That makes sense! If that is the case, the current Committee on Ministry has agreed to be question-takers. You may take your questions about me to: John Brobst; Leigh Harrison; Louise Hughes; Martha Kenworthy; or Terri Thomas. Their contact information is in Breeze. (And if you have not set up your Breeze account, now is a good time to do so! There is a very convenient phone app.)

I am taking all of July off (so there will be no July letter from me in Our Coastline) for rest and recuperation—and also to spend some time getting reacquainted with myself and make some decisions regarding name, pronouns, personal style, appearance, so on and so forth. So, when I come back, I will probably look and sound a little different. But I will still be the same person, I will still be your interim minister, and I will still be invested in the present and the future of UCF.

I’m so excited about this next year. I see a lot of possibilities for us. I can’t wait to get started!

From Board President Melva Kearney:

Happy June My Friends:

The end of my 2-year term as Board President is fast approaching. As a bookend to my columns, I offer here an inspirational snapshot of the past 2 years. Despite the lack of a physical meeting space during that time and the inherent limitations of Zoom, just take a look at what we have accomplished. Keep in mind that, every time I use the word we, you, your, our or us here, I am referring not to myself or the Board as an entity apart from the congregation. I am referring to YOU—the entire congregation of the Unitarian Coastal Fellowship. Let’s look back on what we have done together.

In July 2020, we hired a realtor to sell the Evans Street building. At the time, we knew the amount we needed from the sale was significantly higher than the appraisal price. We also considered whether selling the building too early would leave us homeless until the new sanctuary was built. We had no idea how long the pandemic would actually relegate us to Zoom. Yet, we still leaned in as though we had nothing to fear. The result—we sold the building for cash within 2 weeks of listing it for a whopping $72,000 over the appraisal price. Plus, we solicited a $5000 additional donation from the buyer and a return of one-half percent on the realtor’s fee, also a donation.

In August 2020, we began a strategic planning effort in anticipation of having a completed new campus. The purpose was to give voice to our dreams for UCF’s future and be able to make concrete plans to fulfill those dreams. At the same time, in anticipation of the Evans Street closing date, packing and moving crews, with the needed vehicles and boxes to empty the building, created a synchronized

schedule to keep everyone COVID-safe. We were nothing less than a well-oiled UCF machine.

In September 2020, we selected the design for our new sanctuary building and we signed a construction contract with Smithson Builders. That month, we also began sending volunteers to SUULE—leadership training sponsored by the UU Southern District. Because there was a huge discount on virtual attendance, we were able to send more than 15 of you to train for leadership.

In October 2020, we began renovating our Facebook page and the UCF website, the result presenting a more comprehensive and updated image to the larger community. At the same time, lots of useful information and options are also made available to our congregation.

In November 2020, we saw the real possibility of taking on too much debt to manage as a result of our building project. We put our heads together with an eye towards a solution, rather than calling a halt to our dreams. We were able to avert that crisis by forming the Building Bridges Taskforce. Within just a few days, scads of us joined together making contribution packets and scheduling meetings to assist our fellow congregants to plan their contributions. It made all the difference for our future and we have every reason to feel proud of the difference we made. Because of the Building Bridges Taskforce making that push, our outstanding debt is under $180,000 on a campus valued at almost $1,000,000. We still have to repay the Endowment Fund and a Construction Loan; but we will persevere.

In January 2021, we purchased the Breeze Management System. We can now go to a single online place to contact each other; synchronize UCF’s scheduled events; and more.

In February 2021, we called the Interim Minister Search Team to find a highly-qualified person to serve our transition toward a new settled minister. The Team’s task was to compose a packet containing our history, our current needs, and our dreams for the future of the congregation. This packet had to do more than introduce us. It had to present an inviting picture of UCF where applicants could envision themselves serving our congregation.

In March and April 2021, we prepared for and conducted Constructive Conversations with the Congregation. We signed up for focus groups and enthusiastically offered our answers to prepared questions. Attendance was so good that, in almost every case, two sessions for each subject had to be conducted to include everyone. This was a very valuable effort because, without knowing our wishes for UCF’s future, good planning is impossible.

In May 2021, the Interim Minister Search Team went back to work to interview the multiple candidates who showed interest in our position. After those interviews, the Team had to rank the candidates and the candidates had to rank the congregations. In UCF’s case, the candidate we gave the highest ranking also gave us the highest ranking. Happily, this is how we were able to hire Rev. Michelle Ma.

In June 2021, we had a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Sanctuary building at our new campus.

In September 2021, our Interim Minister—Rev. Michelle Ma—started her tenure.

In October 2021, Rev. Michelle began forming the Transition Team, designed to represent our interests as we prepare to search for a settled minister. It wasn’t too long before the Transition Team and the Furnishings and Finishings Team began coordinating our transition into our 2 buildings on Bridges Street. They are still doing this.

Between November 2021 and April 2022, we saw to a million small, medium, and large details regarding the new campus. One of those details was the installation of the Electric Car Charging Station. This Station is only one representation of our congregation’s commitment to harmony with the Earth.

In April 2022, we received our Certificate of Occupancy for our new sanctuary building. Let’s say it together—WOOOOOOO HOOOOO!!

On May 8, 2022, we held our first in-person service in our new sanctuary building. We had been meeting on Zoom for just short of 2 years.

So, here we are in June 2022. I hope you have found inspiration in what we have accomplished over the past 2 years. At the same time, know that this list represents only the tip of the iceberg. The UCF community is always focused on service to each other, to the Fellowship, and to the larger community. Excellent work!

Thank you all so much for your support in my role as Board President. It has been my pleasure to serve us all.

From the Finance Committee:

This is a big THANK YOU to all Friends and Members who generously increased their Annual Pledge this year to help us with our increased expenses and A big THANK YOU to all Committees, who voluntarily and significantly reduced their expenses for the coming year!

Together you helped melt away a deficit of $18K in our 2022/2023 Fiscal Year Budget!

Although we have a lot of unknowns in the budget this coming year, UCF is resilient and can always adjust, if necessary later in the year. We will let you know!

This is by far our largest budget ever, and will undoubtedly increase each year, as we need to attract a Settled Minister in the next two years! Therefore our minister’s salary budget line item MUST go up to be able to make life affordable that special person called to serve UCF, we hope for many years. Thank you for keeping this in mind as we move forward in our plans for growth and UU Ministry on the Crystal Coast. And remember, Finance Committee is always interested in your creative fundraising ideas!