By Tom Mitchell

We are closing in on plans for a new sign for UUMC at Trinity and Washington.

This replaces the two existing signs (the old, steel and stone foundation sign from the 1950’s and a newer, maroon sign, taller and narrower).  Problems with the existing signs are their deteriorating interiors and appearance, narrowness of newer sign prohibiting any long words to be shown, letter rack on old sign falling apart, neither sign in best location for visibility.

Several options for the layout of the sign are under consideration.  These are included in a binder in Fellowship Hall.  The cover of the binder shows a “Photoshop” image depicting one of the designs as if it were already in place.

The sign will be metal, standing on two 18-inch metal posts.  The interior will be backlit by LED lights timed from dawn to dusk, which will illuminate the wording and logos.  The width of the sign is about 9 feet, and the height about 5.  The sign will be a few inches deep, and have content only on the front side of the sign.

The sign will be placed at the brow of the lawn, facing square onto eastbound Washington. This provides best visibility from eastbound Washington, and imperfect but best possible visibility in both directions on Trinity, both for pedestrians and cars.

The placement of the new sign and removal of the old opens up our lawn at the corner for better use.

The sign will consist of three panels, which can be independently replaced or updated, by unscrewing and pulling out.  One panel has the church name, and presumably needs little updating.  A second panel has our tag line, worship time and web site.  We envision that seasonally we could have a modified message on alternate panels.  The third section contains the logos.  These will be built pop-out several inches, and with colored inserts to display the logos.

We do not have final plans on the landscaping and/or skirt for the sign.  Ideas are:  low-lying plantings, or stone surrounding each leg or continuing between the legs.

In late 2015 UUMC was awarded a $2,500 grant from the Missouri Untied Methodist Foundation, based on a request submitted of $3,830, subject to us finding the difference of $1,330.  In 2016 we had initial discussions on signage update, and raised, quietly, $1,415 to do the match asked for by MUMF.  The $2,500 was received early 2017.  Of the $2,500, $1,660 was budgeted for a sign, based on a quote obtained by UUMC.  Several other smaller projects for signage and promotion of the church were in our proposal.

We were very naïve about signage costs --- Looking for a high impact, quality sign was going to cost much more, in the range of $5,000 to $15,000.  For example, the yellow and brown signs for the 570 Wash U. building across Trinity cost about $15,000 each.  The learning about our misestimate became apparent as most of the firms we requested proposals from declined to bid or referred us to other vendors.

We have been working with SOI Signs fruitfully for several months, including their visiting University City staff concerning design of the sign and University City regulations affecting our project.

The Leadership Council has approved the basics of the plans for the new signs and our financial plan for it.  There will be a final review and approval process at the appropriate time.

Here is our financial plan for funding the sign:

  • Quoted cost for sign, excluding electrical, permitting, skirt, removal of existing signs: $8241
  • Estimated cost of items not included in quote:   $1259
  • Total cost: $9500

Funding:

  • MUMF Grant   $1660
  • Funds from congregation in hand: $2415
  • Memorial Funds: $2925
  • New fund raising needed for the sign: $2500
  • Total funding: $9500

We are looking for donors to get us the finish line.  We will take gifts of any size, but are suggesting gifts in the $100 to $500 range.

Gifts should be directed to UUMC with the notation “Signage Fund 4.95.26”




 

Mission and Social Justice Team Leadership Team Update

In 2015, the Mission and Social Justice Team articulated a vision of encouraging our congregation to build a missional life. We created a brochure and mission fair to help congregants identify opportunities and provide contact names and more information about the organizations we support. We said at the time, "Supporting mission is more than just 'throwing money at an issue,' although that is important. We want to provide opportunities for small groups to put 'boots on the ground.' …Participating in God's mission (missio Dei) through mission and social justice activities is an expectation for all church members. We desire to quickly and easily help newcomers to University UMC participate in mission. Mission is a form of spiritual formation in small groups and social justice is tied to mission/service."

By January 2017, the Mission & Social Justice Team still wanted to grow congregational participation in volunteer, feet on the ground, service. While, as a Team, we will continue to do all we can to support individuals in their service to the organizations and activities to which they feel called, we wanted to focus UUMC’s efforts in order to meet the goal of encouraging fellowship and building community through service and social justice. Therefore, we set the following goal: Choose 3-4 organizations/projects to invest in more heavily in a top-down, institutional way in order to encourage UUMC congregants to come together around these organizations and their work.

We reviewed all of the mission and social justice projects in which our congregation has been involved and used the following criteria to evaluate fit:

  • Does the project/organization present an opportunity for long-term engagement for a significant number of congregants (i.e. more than 1-2 people)? 
  • Are there short-term ways that individuals can become involved in the long-term projects? 
  • Will it build community within the congregation? 
  • Is there a potential for the relationship to be mutually transformative? What would need to be in place to realize that potential? I.e. money, time, education, trips, etc.
  • Will it increase our presence in the local community to address those needs identified by the community? (This should also be an avenue for reaching potential new members—why doesn’t the congregation more closely reflect the demographics of U City, for example?)
  • Can the church reasonably sustain the project/involvement with the organization for many years?
  • Is this accessible to all ages, nations, and races? Will it help us live into our mission, vision, and values of growing as an intergenerational, multicultural congregation?  
  • Does this project follow best practices for mission, service, and justice? For example, does this avoid creating dependency? Does it reject colonialist, hierarchical assumptions? Does it focus on needs or gifts? We read and discussed Toxic Charity to learn more about some of these pitfalls.  
  • Does this project have a champion, someone who will enthusiastically lead and share about the project? 

Through discussion, the Team decided to focus on the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Safe Housing for the Elderly and Disabled (SHED), Health Protection and Education Services (HPES), and the Open Door food pantry. Each of these organizations have a history of engagement with the church and with the U City and/or greater St. Louis community. Due to the locations and activities of SHED, HPES, and Open Door, the Team agreed they provided the most immediate and sustainable options for increased investment of the church’s resources, both material and human. UMCOR allows UUMC members to connect with emergency and disaster relief efforts both domestically and internationally, which has long been an interest for our church. In the future, we will be looking to add an additional, international organization or opportunity but the Team is still evaluating possible fits, while paying particular attention to the principles of sustainable engagement and “do no harm.” We will also continue to support a few other once per year activities, such as ASP trips and

In order to orient UUMC to this new approach, various Team members and people who work with these organizations have been highlighting their activities over the last couple of months. This will continue in May as we highlight the work of SHED and in June when we will discuss HPES. Stay tuned for further announcements about all of these and how to get involved!

Last but not least, the Team has decided to initiate a new year-long theme to unite service activities and learning across age groups in the congregation. We will introduce a new theme each August, which will then run through the academic year. Around the theme we will have a sermon series, youth and adult Sunday school classes, and all-age service days, for example. The overarching goal is to, every three years, cycle through themes that are local, national, and international. In future years, around March or April, we will ask the congregation for other theme ideas. Future themes might be centered around topics such as restorative justice, food security and climate change, gender equity, or access to education around the world. The theme for 2017-18 will be “A Healthier St. Louis” and will include a focus on the many ways in which we can work towards building a St. Louis community that is healthier and more just for all its residents.

Also, be sure to check out the Team’s bulletin board in the Fellowship Hall for more updates and information.

 

New UUMC Leadership Structure Approved 

On February 10, the current Leadership Council and Administrative Team unanimously approved a new leadership structure for UUMC.  Our District Superintendent of the Missouri United Methodist Church will now review the structure and is expected to approve it.  Therefore, effective July 1, 2017, the start of the next calendar year, there will be one team for visioning and administrative functions at our church.  This Leadership Team will include thirteen UUMC members, not counting the Pastor:

  • Lay Leader & Leadership Chairperson
  • Lay Leader to Annual Conference (participates in UUMC Ministry Team meetings)
  • Staff-Parish Relations Lead
  • Staff-Parish Relations Sub-team Member
  • Trustee Lead
  • Trustee Sub-team Member
  • Finance Lead
  • Treasurer
  • Recording Secretary or Communications and Office Manager
  • Ministry Team Chairperson
  • Ministry Team Member At-Large
  • Ministry Team Member At-Large
  • Membership Secretary

Some of the current Leadership Council and Administrative Team members will continue on the new Leadership Team if they are in the middle of their three-year term.  The UUMC Nominations and Leadership Development Team will be prayerfully identifying and contacting members to fill any vacancies on the Leadership Team and the larger sub-teams for the Staff-Parish, Finance, Trustees, and Technology areas.

If you have any questions about this change, please contact Rev. Diane (314-309-0442) or Dan Barrett (314-726-2509).

Leadership Council Approves 2017 UUMC Budget and Discusses Future Reduced Giving

On December 15, the UUMC Leadership Council approved the 2017 budget for UUMC.  This is one of the annual responsibilities of the Council which is the strategic planning and final approval body of the church comprised of one member of each administrative and ministry team plus other key positions in the church. 

The budget represents expected income of $334,700, expenses of $337,681, and thus would require nearly $3000 more income if actual income and expenses exactly match the budget.  

A small budgeted deficit is minor.  Our problem is that budget shortfall will increase by several thousand dollars in the next few years because of known reductions in current giving unless UUMC brings in more income or slashes staff or ministries.  

There is a direct correlation between the number of church members and giving.  The bottom line is UUMC needs more members to avoid unpleasant outcomes.  We are fortunate that the active members measured by church worship attendance has stabilized at 96 per week for both the 2015 and 2016 calendar years after steadily dropping from 126 in 2011.  

The Council does not have all the answers to growing the church but that team will continue to address the issue.  Your input is welcome and needed.  Please direct those ideas to Rev. Diane (314-309-0442 or revdiane@university umc.com), Dan Barrett, Lay Leader Administrative Focus (314-459-3954 or danwbarrett@yahoo.com), or attend the UUMC Visioning Retreat (January 14, 2017 from 9:00 am – Noon).  Details on the retreat will be provided in the near future.                

 

 

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Leadership Council Adopted Church Priorities for 2016-2017

In August, the UUMC Leadership Council adopted the following church priorities for the period of July 2016 through June 2017.  The LC is the strategic planning and final approval body of the church comprised of one member of each administrative and ministry team plus other key positions in the church. 

 

Build Trust:

  • Establish memorandum of understanding with UUMC Preschool for Leadership Council approval.  Responsibility:  Task Force that started last year.

  • Continue transparency with whole congregation.  Responsibility:  All church leaders.  Emphasis on communicating:  Budget preparation, financial issues and process changes, membership trends, minutes of meetings (Book of Minutes in UUMC library), church policies, and upcoming actions before finalized.

  • Review of and recommend long-term direction for church property and investments.  Responsibility: Trustee and Finance Sub-Teams starting in January 2017

Align ministries with our Mission, Vision, and Values:

  • Review and potentially reframe Mission and Vision Statements.  Responsibility:  Task Force

  • Start the Reconciling Ministries Process   Responsibility:  Task Force

  • Note: “Reconciling Ministries” is a 1980’s United Methodist term which basically means making churches and individuals open to people of any sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer, LGBTQ, or gay community).  
  • Strengthen discipleship building.  Responsibility:  Discipleship Ministry Team

  • Connect better with inactive members  Responsibility: Membership Secretary & Congregational Care Ministry Team  

  • Plan activities so they are inter-generational and / or multi-cultural  Responsibility: Ministry Teams

  • Develop a strategic plan for mission and social justice, potentially including a flagship ministry, missional financial stewardship, and communication  Responsibility: Mission & Social Justice Ministry Task Force

  • Determine how to avoid problems encountered this year in filling church positions  Responsibility: Nominations & Leadership Development Team  

Leadership Council to Approve Church Budget on December 15

Any church member is welcome to attend the UUMC Leadership Council (LC) meeting on December 15, when the 2017 budget for the church will be reviewed and likely approved.  The meeting starts at 7:00 pm in the church library.  

On December 8, the UUMC Administrative Team (AT) recommended that the LC approve the budget that the AT prepared.  The budget represents income of $334,700, expenses of $337,431, and thus would require $2,731 more income if actual expenses exactly match the budget.

The budget is for the 2017 calendar year.  Earlier this year, the LC changed future budget years to start on January 1 rather than running from September 1 – August 31 of each year.      

The LC is the strategic planning and final approval body of the church comprised of one member of each administrative and ministry team plus other key positions in the church.

Administrative Team Update - December 8

The UUMC Administrative Team (AT) met on December 8.  The AT handles the UUMC functions related to buildings and grounds, personnel, and financial matters with our vision of growing as a church for all cultures, all nations, and all ages.

The AT has two primary goals from July 2016 through June 2017.  In January, the review will start by the Finance and Trustees sub-teams on the long-term needs and financial requirements of UUMC for proper maintenance and upkeep of the church and grounds.  The second goal is moving forward by a task force to prepare a memorandum-of-understanding to define the on-going relationship of UUMC and the UUMC Pre-school focusing on liability, expenses, income, relation to mission, vision, & values, and University City outreach.

In early 2017, the church’s financial processing and accounting will convert to a new software system.  Parallel processing has been occurring for some time.  Reduced processing time and improved reporting will result.   

We started the discussion on a possible, revised leadership structure for the current Administrative Team and Leadership Council; the Ministry Team structure might not be affected. Much more discussion will follow.

The group had received a draft 2017 budget for all operations and ministries of UUMC which was developed from the Estimates of Giving and requests from all budget areas of the church.  A motion passed unanimously to recommend that the Leadership Council approve the $337,431 budget at their December 15 meeting which would need $2,731 more income if actual expenses exactly matched the budget.

The next AT meeting will on February 23, 2017.

CHARGE CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

Our annual charge conference meeting will be held on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 7pm at Salem-Ladue United Methodist Church. Charge Conference is the official, yearly meeting of a local church under the direction of the district superintendent.

Charge conferences are required to sell church property, elect new leaders, and establish a pastoral housing allowance --- things we have already done this year! This final charge conference will affirm the nominations report and pastoral salary, approve the membership audit (including reviewing active/inactive members), and receive the trustee report, staff-parish report, and pastoral continuing education report. It will also include a time of intentional learning.

Voting members of the charge conference are the people elected to Leadership Council. All of our church meetings (except for those dealing with personnel matters) are open meetings, so all are welcome to observe.

 

Changes to Church Library

You're invited to borrow books from the newly reorganized UUMC library! The Library the room to the north of Fellowship Hall. With the help of Bonnie Jacobs, a retired United Methodist pastor, the books on the shelves were reviewed and culled. Those discarded were either sold to a used bookstore or donated to Goodwill.

The remaining library books are arranged on the shelves by Dewey Decimal number. A blue vinyl binder with listings of the books in the Library by Title, Author and Dewey Decimal number may be found on the library counter.

Borrowing of books from the Library is on the honor system. Please return the borrowed book to the counter –or in proper order on the shelves when you are finished with it. Special thanks to Bonnie, Rev. Diane, Donna Carey and Jamie Emery for their invaluable professional advice and to Cindy Mitchell for envisioning this project and carrying it to fruition.

Donations to the library are encouraged with the caveat that inclusion of books donated is subject to review. Books donated and not placed in the library will be given to Goodwill.

Parsonage Sale

The parsonage has been sold.  The sale price was $357,500 which netted UUMC $339,292.23.  

The original signed contract was for $400,000, with an appraised value of the house of $385,000.  House inspections revealed 5 major problems.  The sewer line was cracked underneath the basement floor.  Rebar had been exposed and rusted in the concrete floor of the house.  The electrical mast bringing power into the house had chafed wiring and needed repair.  The shingles and gutters on the house were past their life expectancy and in need of replacement.  The biggest item was structural deficiencies in the roof that had led to cracked and sagging major support members.  The trustees agreed that the buyer’s request for compensation for these items should be granted.  A midpoint of bids for the items was calculated to be $42,500.   The Parsonage would be sold ‘as is’ with cash compensation to the buyer to make the repairs.  

However, the original buyer lost his job during the final stages of loan negotiation so the loan agreement could not be granted.  Our realtor contacted a company that renovates old homes and resells them.  They were willing either to assume the contract or offer us a cash settlement of $357,500 which would net us the same amount as the final contract.  The trustees agreed to take the cash, ‘as is’ offer from TPA Investments, LLC.  This company will fix all of the needed items, update the kitchen and bath, and make other improvements.  

The proceeds from the sale will be placed in an investment account with the Missouri United Methodist Foundation.  The trustees used a historically conservative earnings estimate for this account of 3% which will provide $10,180 towards the pastor’s housing allowance.  UUMC’s current annual budget already includes $8000 for parsonage expenses.  These two combined will cover the proposed $17,500 annual pastor’s housing allowance with a little to spare.

The housing allowance allows our pastor the freedom to choose where she lives and the opportunity to build equity in a home throughout her career.  The trustees are now freed from the ever increasing tasks of maintaining the parsonage and can now concentrate on our church building.  We are also no longer at risk of surprise parsonage expenses which just in the last three years have totaled over $10,000 that was not in our annual budget.  After several months of intensive work on the parsonage, all the trustees agreed that there was ample opportunity for a steady stream of more surprises.  

Thank you all for your encouragement throughout this process.  The trustees are very happy to have the sale behind us and look forward to serving all of you in a much more visible and productive manner.

Upcoming Charge Conferences

This year we are holding more charge conferences than usual. These multiple charge conferences are occurring as we sell the parsonage, elect new leaders, establish a pastoral housing allowance, and complete required denominational paperwork. Normally we will only have one charge conference in the summer to elect leaders and one charge conference in the fall to do the official business of the church! 

When this meeting is convened as a "church conference," then all professing members of the church are eligible to vote. When it is called as a "Charge conference," then voting members are those persons elected to leadership council. All of our church meetings, however, except for those dealing with personnel matters, are open meetings. Anyone may come.

In May we held a church conference to authorize the Trustees to sell the parsonage. You can read the minutes of that decision here

On Thursday, August 4, the Leadership Council will meet for the first time in the 2016-2017 leadership year. At 7 PM, they will convene as a charge conference in order to elect members of the leadership council, administrative team, ministry team, and nominations and leadership development team. 

Following the election of 2016-2017 leaders, the charge conference will adjourn, and the Leadership Council will hold their first meeting of the new year. The  leadership slate will be published on our website in the coming weeks. 

Our third charge conference of the year will be held at 8:45 AM on Sunday, August 21, in the library. We will approve the new pastoral support form, which will have a housing allowance instead of a parsonage. Copies of the proposed salary/housing sheet Will be available following the August 11 administrative team meeting. This housing allowance will go into effect on September 1.

The final charge conference of the year will be on Thursday, October 27. This charge conference will complete the remaining required reports and actions for the denomination, including reviewing active/inactive members. 

All Church Charge Conference

Sunday May 29, 2016 immediately following the worship service. Rev. Mark Harvey opened the charge conference saying that this meeting was called so that the congregation could vote on the selling of the church parsonage. Brad Hershey, one of three trustees, including Alice Mohr and Ann Wymore, said the trustees have spent nearly a year leading a study on whether the church should sell the parsonage. Two all-church meetings have been held and information has been provided on-line and through mailings. The trustees first recommended to the Administrative Team that the parsonage be sold, and in early May the Administrative Team passed that recommendation on to the Leadership Council. The Leadership Council voted to present the following motion to the entire congregation. The all-church charge conference allows all professing members of the congregation to vote. A member must be present to vote so there is no absentee voting. Brad moved that University United Methodist Church sell the UUMC parsonage (7928 Teasdale Ave. St. Louis, MO) and establish a housing allowance for the pastor. Proceeds from the sale of the parsonage would be invested in a designated United Methodist Foundation Fund that meets all guidelines in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and Missouri Annual Conference Journal. Gary Hollingsworth seconded the motion. The floor was opened for questions and answers:
Q: Is there a firm figure for the housing allowance?
A: There is not a firm figure yet, but it will be around $18,000 a year. Rev. Harvey clarified that today’s vote was only on selling. There will be another conference on the housing allowance which is part of the pastor’s overall compensation package.

Q: Will the house be sold “as is”?
A: The trustees are doing some essential maintenance and some cosmetic improvements, but there is no plan to do any major projects prior to selling the parsonage.

Q: Are there restrictions on proceeds?
A: Yes. They will go to into a United Methodist Foundation Fund Trust account. Earnings from this account will help fund the housing allowance. The intent is to leave a portion of each years earnings in the account to provide at least a partial shield against inflation.

Q: Is there a sense of how the housing market is now? Of what the house is worth?
A: The market is very brisk right now. The initial goal is to clear $400,000 after all expenses have been paid.

Q: Is it possible that trustees have a fiduciary duty to get an appraisal and do not have a choice in this? Subsequent comments indicated that the trustees did in fact have a fiduciary responsibility to get an appraisal.
A: All three trustees agreed in the presence of the Charge Conference to get an appraisal prior to entering into any contract on the parsonage.

Q: Can an amendment be made to the motion to require an appraisal?
A: Rev. Harvey says an amendment cannot be made to the motion. He also added thatit appeared the trustees had agreed to get an appraisal.

Q: There was a comment about home ownership being good for couples and a question about what our pastor’s preference was?
A: Rev. Diane said that she would be ecstatic to have a housing allowance.

Rev. Harvey said that the vote would be a hand vote, unless anyone was opposed. There was no opposition. The motion was read again. The vote was taken. All who voted were in favor of the motion. No one voted against it. A few members chose to abstain. The attendance list of forty-eight (48) of professing members is on file in the church's records.

Rev. Harvey thanked the congregation and Rev. Diane closed the meeting with a prayer.

Phyllis Hershey, recorder
Minutes approved by electronic ballot by Leadership Council on July 18, 2016.

Charge Conference for Parsonage Vote

Members are invited to an all-church Charge Conference immediately after the 10:30 a.m. worship service on Sunday, May 29 (Memorial Day weekend).  A vote of all church members will be taken at this charge conference to authorize the sale of the church parsonage via this motion that: 

“University United Methodist Church shall sell the UUMC parsonage (7928 Teasdale Ave., St. Louis, MO) and establish a housing allowance for the pastor.  Proceeds from the sale of the parsonage would be invested in a designated United Methodist Foundation Fund that meets all guidelines in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and Missouri Annual Conference Journal.”

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Parsonage Question Goes to Congregational Vote

On April 28, the UUMC Leadership Council unanimously decided to have a congregational vote on whether to sell the church parsonage.

This decision process started last July, when the Council requested that the UUMC Trustees review the long-term needs and costs of the church parsonage.  Their review indicates that providing a housing allowance to the Senior Pastor is a better long-term alternative for UUMC rather than providing a parsonage.

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Administrative Team Update

In July 2015, the UUMC Leadership Council requested that the UUMC Trustees review the long-term needs and costs for the church and parsonage of University United Methodist Church.  The Trustees concentrated on the parsonage portion of the request.  Their review indicates that providing a housing allowance to the Senior Pastor appears to be a better alternative for UUMC rather than providing a parsonage.

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Further Thoughts on the Parsonage

Further thoughts have come in regarding our parsonage question. Attached are the responses we received Sunday about the Parsonage/Housing Allowance decision. We had two people ask about how many other Methodist churches in the area are currently using a housing allowance as opposed to providing a parsonage. The District Office does not have those figures, but did inform us that well over half of the churches in the area now provide a housing allowance. The big churches in our District--Manchester, Living Word, The Gathering, and Salem in Ladue have all gone to housing allowances.

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