Supplemental Pledge Campaign - Fall 2020
Treasurer's Update on Church Finances (emailed 9/6/2020)
Our spring stewardship campaign was rudely interrupted by a pandemic.
After many phone calls and other efforts to obtain pledges during the lock down,
we ended up with about $217,000 from 126 pledges, well short of the $280,000
required to balance our church budget. We have had fewer expenses during
the pandemic, but we still have to maintain the building. It continues to support
our staff’s work, and we all want our beautiful building to be ready for us when
we can resume gathering in person.
We are maintaining our programs as well. Zoom services have been successful and have allowed us to reconnect with members and friends who had been unable to come to regular services. Most of our church groups have sustained vital connections by shifting online, too. We were even able to call a new settled minister! We all look forward to the time when the pandemic will be over and we can get back together and meet Shari Woodbury in person.
At the time that we made pledge phone calls in the spring, some people were concerned about their jobs or their investment income. Hopefully there is less uncertainty now. Other people told me last spring that they were doing fine and had just received an additional $1,200 from the government.
We adopted a revised budget at the Zoom congregational meeting in May that assumed $250,000 in pledge income and used money from the federal PPP program to make up the difference. We will not have income from renting the church for weddings and will still need to use some of our reserves, but we can make it work – if we receive an additional $33,000 in pledges to get to $250,000.
We are launching a supplemental stewardship campaign via email, to ask those who have not been financially impacted by the pandemic to pledge or to increase their existing pledge. Every pledge counts, and whatever you can do, we appreciate your response.
In the coming week, you will receive additional messages about the campaign from Sharon Piehler, our Board President, and Rev. Shari Woodbury along with a simple pledge form that you can return via email. Phone calls will then be made to members and friends we have still not heard from. Please give some thought to what you can contribute to sustain our First Unitarian community, and stay safe.
~Walt Jesteadt, Treasurer, email@example.com
Beyond 2020: A Message from the Board President (emailed 9/9/2020)
2020. Many of us are eager for this year to be in the rear-view mirror. We have been forced to learn so much this year. We learned new words such as COVID-19 and novel coronavirus. We learned how to make a mask, social distance, use Zoom, and grocery shop in the early hours when the stores are empty.
We have had friends and family members become sick or pass without the ability to touch or hold each other close. A generation of eager teens lost their chance to celebrate an important milestone as they graduated from high school. Careers were lost or put on hold. We have been assaulted by a pandemic and now endless political ads as we try to sort fact from fiction, truth from lies.
Through all these trials we have done our best. We learned to bake bread, hiked in the beauty of nature, enjoyed blooming flowers, and figured out how to be there for each other. Overall, we have done a great job of caring for each other in these trying times. We shared food and transportation, found time to make phone calls and mailed cards and letters. I can attest that, in a state of grief and panic, receiving cards with loving messages and phone calls from church members just asking, “are you ok?” is a gift like no other. I could never assign a value to what our church community has given to us.
We are now tasked with mapping out what our future looks like.
How do we navigate this election season and stay solid and grounded? One of the ways is centered in the work our UUTheVote team is doing. We CAN make a difference.
We can continue our amazing RE classes, enabling our children to stay in touch and keep learning the valuable lessons we can gift them with. Our kids are the future and are our finest resource. They must be nurtured and protected.
Our two-year wait is over, and we have our settled minister! Rev. Shari Woodbury will be with us for years to come. It is time to plan and set goals. Your board will be spending several weekends in planning sessions with Rev. Shari and Phil Lund, a great UUA resource, kicking off our short and long-term planning to assure our success and sustainability.
One of the keys to a successful future is financial stability.
In reading Walt’s email you know now that we came up very short on our pledge campaign. We have over 230 members and received pledges from only 126 pledge units (some of these are family units). We are $33,000 short to balance a budget that already includes us drawing against our reserves. Our reserves need to be protected to assure that when we are ready, we have startup funds for future
needs and growth. We need funds now to pay the bills to maintain our building, pay employees, and honor our obligations to the community. We will not be able to honor these financial obligations through the remainder of the church year without further drawing down our reserves unless we close the gap.
Our ask is that you think deeply about what our church means to you and your loved ones. We can all protect and nourish our church through donations, large and small. Any pledge amount helps. Five dollars per week is as important as large endowment bequests.
We are hoping you will recognize the value of what we have: our historic building, friendly faces ready
to help each other, a bright future with our new minister, and a community of education and faith grounded in our values and principles.
Please help us sustain this amazing gift by clicking here to record your updated pledge.
If we don't hear from church members regarding your pledge (whether you can increase your pledge or not), board members and finance team members will be reaching out by phone to make sure we touch base with all church members.
President, Board of Trustees
The Tree of Life and Our Fire Burning Bright: A Message from Rev. Shari Woodbury
A few days ago I stepped out of my church office for a breath of fresh air between meetings. As I wandered over the church grounds, a flash of bright green caught my eye. An acorn, tender and new, attested to the drive for life and growth inherent in each one of us. This embryonic seed is much like my relationship with you, in the early stage of developing. I held the shiny fruit of the oak in my hand, pondering the possibilities of this next phase for the church. What good things, in time, will grow?
Of course, even the mightiest tree is vulnerable to the forces of nature. Last month, when the derecho blew through our area, several large limbs of a towering tree in my backyard broke off. Sad as this was, I felt lucky that the silver maple had not fallen into our home, but merely to the ground. Before the debris was carted away, I grabbed a piece of wood. This timber, remnant of a larger tree that survived, evokes the resilience of life. While I mourn what was lost, I am also watching for the new growth that will come to this tree, and waiting to find a new use for the downed piece that I set aside.
The pandemic was a derecho through all our lives over this last half a year. Precious limbs are lost from our tree of life, and the landscape of our society is forever changed. The church began immediately to adapt to these new conditions. The caring networks of this congregation were activated, worship and many small groups continue apace online, and soon we’ll even be bringing church to the doorsteps of many families with at-home religious education kits. Natural history teaches us that those who survive divergence and disaster are those who evolve. And so we are.
Outside the church, it was the gleaming young acorn that drew my attention. Inside, I often find myself pausing on the chancel steps to gaze at the beautiful banner that hangs in the sanctuary. It displays a flaming chalice and was part of the congregation’s pledge campaign last spring. Lovingly painted by hand, the flames represent all that members are grateful for in the work of the church. More flames were to be added as the congregation grew closer and closer to reaching the pledge campaign goal. Alas, as our Treasurer, Walt Jesteadt, described last Sunday, the campaign was cut short by the pandemic – and the congregation remains $33,000 short of the funds we need to raise through pledges to sustain our work.
While the banner has been static since the pandemic began, this church is not frozen in its mission.
As Board President Sharon Piehler described earlier this week, this community rallied to support each other, and continues to reach up and out with an eye toward the future. With each small group gathering and worship service, we rekindle relationships, spark new insights, and break through the isolation of these times. With each food delivery or card or phone call to a member or friend in need, we add another flame to the fire of caring community. With each neighborhood care package handed out at the church door… with each donation to our sister church’s food pantry… and with each call to mobilize voters at this unprecedented moment, we add another flame to the fire of commitment that warms and transforms all that is cold and stuck in the world around us.
Whether you have remained engaged with the church community, or are plugging back in now – or are simply glad that we are still here as a beacon of liberal religious values in greater Omaha – we need your support to keep these flames burning brightly. We are asking every person or family that was unable to pledge last spring to reassess what you can do now, and let us know. If you already pledged, I invite you to consider whether you are able to increase your pledge by 10 or 20 percent to ensure that we continue to thrive and to evolve in our mission. Simply click here to record your updated or new pledge for the 2020-2021 church year. Leaders will be reaching out individually to those we do not hear from, so that we know where we stand and can plan responsibly.
I am here and eager to connect with you, as we grow and evolve together. Thank you for doing what you can to tend the flames of our mission, and help plant seeds for the future.
With love and gratitude,
Rev. Shari Woodbury