On December 10, the Unitarian Church of Lincoln will hold a congregational meeting to vote on nominees for our nominations committee, consider changes to our bylaws, and pass a congregational budget for 2024. The supporting documentation for this meeting can be found at unitarianlincoln.org/governance. We (senior minister and board president) are writing to highlight some significant parts of that congregational meeting agenda.
Bylaws: Over the past year, members of the congregation have been working to revise our congregation’s bylaws. The task force has put together a document outlining the major changes proposed, but we want to highlight two:
A focus on readability and plain language, cutting the bylaws from over fifteen pages to eight.
Removing the pledge requirement from membership, instead requiring that members “support the vision and mission of the Unitarian Church of Lincoln.” (This change was prompted, in part, but a change in how our denomination handles their Annual Program Fund: our payments to the UUA are now based on a percentage of our budget rather than the number of members we report).
Budget: We have a significant change in our 2024 budget. While our pledge drive was successful, with generous support from members and friends of the congregation, our overall income is projected to be down in 2024. Over the last three budget cycles, we have depended on unusual sources of funding (Federal COVID relief funds, gifts from major donors, transfers from reserves) to meet our budget. We felt it was important to present a sustainable budget to the congregation. Unfortunately, in a year when our income is down, many of our fixed costs (ie. Insurance premiums, software subscriptions) have increased. Overall, this resulted in a twenty percent (approximately $100,000) gap between our projected income for 2024 and requested expenses. Because the Board has a fiduciary duty to the long-term financial viability of this congregation, and is required to submit a balanced budget, this year’s budget required some painful cuts.
In the 2024 budget presented to the congregation, the following positions will be eliminated on January 1.
Additionally, several positions will have their hours (and corresponding job functions) cut, as of January 1:
There are significant programmatic cuts in the 2024 budget as well, including RGL curricula and supplies, advertising, guest music, and guest speakers. The full line item budget is available on the governance page of the website.
These are significant cuts to our staff team, and will be painful for many of us. It is important to say that these cuts were budgetary, not evaluative: they are reflections of the financial challenges facing the church, not job performance. We have a fantastic staff, and remain proud of the work that we do every week at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln (UCL).
It is also important to say that these cuts are the result of systemic factors beyond any staff team, Board, pledge base, or other set of decisions we have made as a congregation. Congregational engagement, from Sunday attendance to Religious Education enrollment, has dropped precipitously across the country over the last several years. We are not immune to these dynamics in Lincoln, though we have weathered them better than many congregations.
Over the next few weeks, please attend the second of two congregational town halls on December 3 to hear more and ask any questions you have, as well as the congregational meeting on December 10 to vote on the bylaws changes and proposed budget. Both of these meetings will follow the church service on Sunday morning, and will be livestreamed at www.youtube.com/unitarianchurchoflincoln.
Last month Oscar preached on the heritages of Unitarian Universalism built on a foundation of love. One of the bricks that has sat in our sanctuary over the last month represents the heritage of courage in our faith. Courage, because we have done hard things before. Courage, because we know we are better together. Courage, because what we build together matters. May it always be so.
Kim Ziemann and Oscar Sinclair
Rev. Oscar Sinclair serves as the Settled Minister for The Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska.