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Supplement for Members - Cusp of the Future Update

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Combined Report of Group Sessions

UUMH Cusp of the Future

October 2022

 

INTRODUCTION

The following presents a sense of the congregation of UUHM from a series of small group meetings conducted in September and October 2022 to address issues impacting our future.

Comments are presented anonymously.  Editing has been done to blend reports from different groups.  An asterisk is used to indicate ideas that were repeated and there are overlapping thoughts as well.    Original comments were preserved as much as possible to convey the tone of expression. Although imprecise and somewhat messy, similar ideas were placed together in groupings titled Building, Programs, Scheduling of Services, Marketing and Why I go.  A “General” category was also used.  Please pardon formatting issues which were difficult with inputs form different reporters and computers.  Any omissions, errors, or paucity of proper  punctuation are the sole responsibility of the editor-Dave Van Wye.

 

 

How many members participated, including moderators?

 

40/82 and one active friend from a list of 38.

 

 

Most highly valued elements of the Meeting House ?

 

-Connection to UU principles and traditions, absence of dogma, intellectual stimulation, a welcoming community, but the strongest bond is a sense of community and the comfort of the company of interesting and open-minded people,

- UU history and being open to all religions.

- Commitment to social justice*

- Shared values. (traditional “religious” or spiritual concepts were not dismissed, but were not identified specifically as being important.)

-Community*(Zoom is not the greatest way to foster this.) “Community is what keeps us together.”

-Stay small and welcoming.

-Practice compassion.

-Pastoral care.

-Fellowship (service is second).

-Meeting in homes outside of church to get to know them in other ways, think beyond the walls of the church.

-Music at the church is so important.*  (Methodist church has a sing-along and loved it, musicians used to perform and practice at the church)

-Having small children participate.

-Fundraisers/concerts for outreach like the homeless.

-Tracy and Frank are talented and are appreciated.

-Programs and groups like the women’s spirituality group, craft fairs, other community activities drawing to church, candlelight dinners were also valuable, small groups are important.

-The building.  It is a beautiful building in a prominent location and the inside is attractive as well.*

“ I, for one, believe that having our minister and, for me, her Inspirational sermons every week, means a lot.  I, quite often, go back during the week to thinking about some of the things she said, and, even sometimes, go back to our website to read her sermon.  Her thoughtful sermons take a lot of time to think through and compose.  It would be difficult to get that level of depth in a sermon.”

 

Describe the UUMH in five years? (VISION)

 

-More meetings with people, making connections and attending programs.

-Chatham Band practice and offering space to other community groups.

-Promote new/open space to generate activities 5 days a week.

-A beacon of light to the community—personifying the UU concept of accepting each other as we find each other, and extending that out into the community at large through revitalized outreach efforts such as helping with the congregate suppers, working with other organizations and perhaps extending the thrift shop to a year-round endeavor. Programs will have to pay for themselves.  Programs other days of week…

-“I am of the opinion that our UU is not viable long term.  This same conversation was happening 5 years ago and few were willing to acknowledge that the situation would soon become dire.  Well now it is. If low attendance persists, particularly in-person attendance,  we should give it up and become a fellowship again. Concern about donating due to possible demise of church.”

-Another vision would combine these features:

  • New revenue sources  Auctions, interesting programming, teas, one-person plays.
  • Bring in new members via their own interests (like art, music, book club, Bridge, Mahjong) and other activities that they love doing.  Once they get used to being in the building, they will slowly learn about the services and meet friends, and then they will want to become a member.
  • Put the minister front and center.  Covid made it hard for guests to meet and get to know Tracy.  Once they know her, they will want to return.
  • More focus on being a church.  People who did not grow up in a family with religion, are not going to look for a church now. But people who grew up in a church environment still want the weekly inspiration that it provides. 
 

Steps and Suggestions?

 

Scheduling of services

 

-Move our service to a day other than Sunday and different times of the day.*

-Move away from Sunday morning worship and hold services at time other than Sunday Morning, due to so many other Sunday activities like kids’ events, sports, family day, and competing church services.

-Build a program of spiritual gatherings aside from church services…more of a spiritual center. Reference Ed Hardy’s Buddhist group which was well attended and met weekly, also music events and varied discussion groups.

-Bring back some of the programs and create new ones. We used to have programing and want those programs back – Chatham Band rehearsals, Art and Soul, Women’s Groups, Music, other organizations.

-Today’s parents have less available family time than their parents did. Many feel they must spend Sunday mornings with their children and to rest from the two jobs they are working. Sundays have become their only opportunity for catch-up time with their children.  Changing the UUMH service to, say, early evening, would be even more difficult.  It is hard enough now to get the family together for dinner.

 

MARKETING

 

-Ask the UUA why we have to work so hard to find the answer to survival.     What are they doing to help?

 -A fundraising initiative: Creating a UUMH glamorous Naked Old Ladies Calendar with women strategically covered by gorgeous landscaping, interesting old buildings, iconic Chatham businesses, etc.

-Banners (don’t need sign permit and are cheap)

-Host a couple of UU-appropriate films at Orpheum (films which speak UU), combine with social gathering, food and drink. Orpheum will advertise as will Chronicle.  See a super UU image and message on the big screen!  Invite all from First Parish Brewster (FPB) or even better partner with FPB!  

-Schedule Conflict Resolution workshop with Wilderness and Chuck teaching at the Community Center….advertised and open to the public (for a minimal fee? Or sliding scale? Businesses get discount for multiple employees attending?)     

-Show a great film about Conflict Resolution!  UUMH could sponsor it and still have a social gathering or discussion group following or a speaker following.

 -An arts based kids’ program which is not offered by any other church we know of. Also concerts and shows for kids.*

- A monthly kids’ group to do field trips,, etc….not RE curriculum-based.

-Develop programs to attract the general public, people in our towns. We have a great open meeting space centrally located.

-Consider programs like fitness/exercise programs too.

-Improve information for public.

-Do substantial radio ads.  Are you a UU without knowing it?

-Increase newspaper coverage. Pay for informative ads to let readers know what we are about.

-Use our mission statement in ads.

-Develop UUMH YouTube channels.*

-Better use of Signage!

-Consider Baptist Minister, Doug Scalese, who is extremely charismatic and does many very short and very effective radio spots…expensive…

 

 

WHY I GO TO CHURCH

 

-The key is to ask ourselves who we are, what is most meaningful to us, and what is it that makes us want to go to church.

-“Spiritual transcending of self”

-One of our first priorities should be to get people in the building – not just new people, but existing members. Understanding and being considerate of the fact that the demands of everyday life can often make in-person attendance difficult, we should be more open and direct in stressing the benefits to the Congregation of regular Sunday attendance.    “Attendance is an example of being supportive of one another, and  as an obligation of membership it is as important as financial support or committee participation. Attendance is particularly important to community perception of us when a guest has been invited to speak; an empty sanctuary during a couple of recent guest presentations was a source of embarrassment.  Attendance is not only mutually supportive, it also helps membership by projecting a sense of energy and enthusiasm to guests.”

-Determine how we grow membership?

-Reach out to younger people of all ages, including former RE participants.  Why are they no longer interested in UUMH?  What suggestions do they have?

-Ask Jaiden for insights on how we can energize and grow our community, improve our services, and what motivates younger people.

-Frank’s work with the choir and his musical talents.

 

 

THE BUILDING

 

-Create other uses for the building.

- Chairs for flexible seating being more conducive to discussion groups.*

-Put some pews on wheels with brakes which are easily moveable, to be augmented by chairs if needed, but still maintain the look we currently have when we want it. Also, allow for a center aisle for weddings.*

-If the building were more open and flexible, our constituency and membership might be able to grow more as well.

-The ability to form in circles would be helpful.

-Because the building is expensive to maintain consider selling the building and renting space for Sunday services perhaps at the new Monomoy Theater or a separate small space on the main street of Chatham for the minister’s office and room perhaps for small meetings, or share space with another church.

-We should think hard about what to spend money on, i.e., (solar, chairs vs. pews, furnace) if we will not own the church in 5 or 10 years,

-“… it is selfish and self indulgent to spend so much money and hold onto such valuable real estate for so few people.  I’d rather donate it to the poor. In fact I’m going to do that rather than following through with my small pledge this year, and instead give it to the food pantry.”  

-Consider if parking is that much of a problem at least for our UU parishioners.  There could be  a problem if we rent out the building.  Options are the large parking lot behind the CVS and the parking Spaces at the post office.

-“What churches do outside their walls is more important than what they do inside.”

-One of the strengths or assets that may be underutilized is our building.  Our location is ideal – and we need to make better  use of it.*

-Use all new revenue to pay down the mortgage. We have to spend money now to build a workable kitchen, storage spaces, and meeting rooms. Otherwise our efforts to attract people will not succeed. We should borrow the money, then after improving the building, we should use all fundraising revenue to pay down the mortgage.  All large expenses, like buying a new furnace, should be paid by special donations for that project.

-Without the Meeting House maintaining our sense of community would be difficult.  If there were no building or minister, there would not be a “there” there.

-A preference for the current configuration of the Sanctuary, but also acknowledgement that if change were indeed necessary then it would be supported.*

-Share the building.  Make it a spiritual center for many faiths.

-Share the building with First Parish Brewster.

-Share the Methodist church building. Each of us (methodists and Unitarians) might have a 3 hour window on Sunday for our service. (Consider what we could/could not do)

-Until we have the space (new kitchen & place for children) we can forget growing the RE program. And who wants to come to a church without a certified kitchen?

 

 

PROGRAMS

 

-Musical  events as a means of growth like Eric and Greg’s pre-pandemic summer concert series.  We have a good sound system so let’s use it.

-Although Zoom attendance is not ideal, it works well for some, and for others is the only way to participate. Realistically, however, Zoom or internet presentations are seen as a way for existing members to stay involved and connected, but not something that would likely be helpful as a way of introducing others.

-Think creatively about functions that could be held that would bring people in from the community.  As a specific example, reference prior efforts to install a summer music program, which had been planned but made impossible by Covid.  The primary benefit of the music program would be as a source of income, but it could also potentially  be an avenue for further exposure to the community. Getting people “in the door” is itself a benefit.

-An issue requiring thought and planning is that the Congregation is aging, including some members who devote enormous amounts of time and unique skills to the community. Their contributions may be irreplaceable and that is a significant concern.

 -Eastham has a small informal congregation.  We should attend and see what they do in an effort to develop ideas for ourselves.

-Consider a visit to the Unity Church in Hyannis… they use music as an integral piece of all of their services… they have a guitar player and singer who also perform in clubs and the service is always enhanced and very upbeat and uplifting,. They seem to have maintained their parishioners after Covid.  “The music does create a very welcoming and uplifting  energy making you happy you came!”

-There is a wide variety of speakers/presenters who might be available for new program possibilities.  These include, APCC Association to Preserve Cape Cod, Dani Davis, Broadway director, producer, Lisa Genova, Neuroscientist and award-winning author, Paul Schuyler, local film maker, The Emancipation Network etc.

-Appeal to youth (and others) with rituals and more earth-centered activities like celebrations of the solstice, (a part of their worldview and spiritual beliefs). Also, the renewal of a Christmas Eve service.

 

 

GENERAL

 

-There is simply too much work for too few volunteers.*   

-There are too many committees, staffed by too many people? If the committee burden were streamlined, would we find we have more energy to devote to individual tasks? Some solutions and efficiencies may be found just by examining the ways we are organized and function.*

 -Some of the funds from the thrift store should go to the poor and only part kept for operation of a UU community.

-Thrift Shop profits are currently directed to the church operational budget, but consideration should be given to using the funds for social justice and other purposes.

-The Thrift Shop serves our principles by protecting the environment, and connecting people with less costly goods in a dignified manner.

-Change the Order of Service as needed to make it more interesting while preserving some traditions, or at least enhance parts of it so it is less humdrum.*

 -Merge with other Cape UU’s on Sunday mornings via Zoom. 

-Use paid staff to support programs

-Move the thrift shop to the sanctuary and move the service to the Fleck Room.

-Keep the sanctuary for sermons especially to attract the summer people.

-Consider reaching out to the Brewster Church about possible partnership and sharing of programs and resources.  This might include finding why local residents prefer that church over UUMH.

-We need to be spirited and dynamic to draw people in. (This may include all facets of UUMH, including leadership, programs, communications, partnerships, administration,  how we do things, etc.)

-Enhance connections for those not here year-round.

- UU nature walks

- Partner with other organizations like Pilgrim’s Landing

- Provide space to groups and host community  programs.

-Change is needed!*

-Walk to a place like Publics Cafe for lunch to continue discussions after the service and create connections.

 -Open thrift shop year-round with seasonal Fashion Shows at UUMH and CBI!!!

-“But don’t let’s hit the panic button.”  Once the public gets to know Tracy, she will help to bring people in. COVID has gotten in the way.

-Older members should be more welcoming and listen to newer and different people.

-To restart RE, offer child care during services to attract the parents, reach out to former RE participating families for a “first Sunday of the month church visit” organized by program leaders.

-Hold community events, like jazz and theater, in the Fleck Room with food and drink permitted by the Chatham Health Department.

-Ask Frank and Tracy for their thoughts on what we can do for the future of UUMH.

-We could better serve our principles and the community if our awareness of that were to increase. One way to do this would be to have discussions about the root causes of poverty, to recognize that there is “hidden poverty” here, and to have “real and not theoretical” discussions about that.

 

 

OUR  FUTURE

 

Several major themes emerged from our Congregational discussions.  These include:

•        Do something different and creative. Try new ideas, programs, services, and activities including music, kid’s programs, and group circles.

•        Reach out to attract the wider community, including possible partners like other churches,

•        Maintain and Develop our member relationships/fellowship/community of people who share UU Principles and an open minded search for meaning.

•        Make better use of our beautiful building.

•        Consider the value of the Thrift Shop beyond fundraising, for redistribution of goods, reduction of environmental impact, possibly using a portion of funds for social justice or special initiatives. 

•        Streamline committees and better utilize our precious, few volunteers.

•        Do services at different days/times and in different formats

•        Develop a more flexible sanctuary.

 

Following are several broad possibilities for our future.  They must be filled out with specific details from the ideas shared at our CUSP group meetings or additional inspirations. 

 

Whichever way we go we must carefully deploy our resources of volunteers, funds, and spiritual energy. Even when we have a larger goal in mind we may decide to take only one or two steps to get started on trying something new.  Then we can go on to something else.  We should be ready to put available resources to work to make sure we have done our best before we loose the opportunity.

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

A.

Keep the building in a more flexible format and develop programs that are attractive to the community.  As the new blend of services/programs develops our minister shifts away from established Sunday services to more emphasis on pastoral care, youth education, and innovative forms of worship.

 

B.

Merge the UUMH with the First Parish Brewster (or another) and collaborate on ministry, programs, marketing, administration, and other needs.  Utilize both buildings for a wider array of  community and membership opportunities, including children’s programs,  a variety of services,  musical events, etc. Expand programs and events to both venues and foster relationships between members of both congregations.  

 

C

Sell the building and hold services in a rented space while maintaining weekly gatherings and using resources for value based initiatives.  Use reserves, general investments and the Endowment Fund to underwrite a variety of values-based programs and social justice initiatives.  This may be imagined as a fellowship with an investment portfolio like a foundation that promotes valued causes.

 

D.  Take Small Step(s) and See Where They Lead. 

 

Examples of  Details to Add to either A, B, C or D.  Others may be substituted as needed.

 

1.      Make the sanctuary more flexible and open by converting to chairs or movable pews.

2.      Schedule a variety of programs in addition to Sunday services.

3.       Operate the Thrift Shop May to September with an emphasis on the values of thrift, the environment, and donation of a portion of earnings to social justice. 

4.      Support new initiatives on a trial basis for two years by using some funds from Reserves and Endowment.

5.      Hire a program coordinator. 

6.      Offer diverse programs like a speaker series, movies and discussion, a variety of music, presentation of the arts with connection to UU Principles.

7.      Provide or rent space for other spiritual groups

8.      Offer “Fun Friday” (or other day) gatherings. 

9.      For selected Sunday services change the established order of service to emphasize music, a variety of presentation formats, and more group interaction, like discussion circles. 

10.   See Report  for additional ideas or add new ideas.

 

 

DV Oct 11, 2022


 
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Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, Chatham · 819 Main Street · Chatham, Ma 02633 · USA