March Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

Our annual appeal begins in March. For those of you who are new to Unitarian Universalist Society: East, the Annual Appeal is our opportunity to reflect on the value of UUS:E in our lives and to make a corresponding financial pledge for the coming fiscal year. Because the vast majority of our operating funds come from the financial gifts of members and friends, this is the most significant fundraiser in the life of our congregation. I urge all of you to begin thinking about the role UUS:E plays in your life. Then, if you haven’t done so already, please sign up for one of the Annual Appeal potluck dinners. (Sign-up sheets will be available following Sunday services in March.) And as always, if a steward contacts you to meet about your pledge, please respond to them as soon as possible. They are volunteers and we deeply appreciate their work on behalf of our congregation’s financial health.

As in every new year, there are many factors that drive increases in our proposed budget—changes in insurance, cost-of-living adjustments for our staff, and expansion of our programs, to name just a few. This year the UUS:E Growth Team, the Policy Board, and I are all in agreement that it’s time for UUS:E to hire a part-time Membership Coordinator (MC). MCs are staff members who are responsible for tracking visitors to UUS:E and helping them discern whether membership is right for them. MCs also help foster engagement of members and friends in congregational activities such as small group ministries, circle groups, adult religious education, social justice work, etc. Many UU congregations around the country who have hired MCs report not only increases in membership and financial giving, but increases in spiritual growth among members. Of course, there is a cost associated with such a hire. It’s always risky to try to increase the size of a church staff. But I feel strongly this is a risk worth taking—a spirit-filled risk!

I’m not the only one who feels this way. This year, a group of members who also feel very committed to reaching this goal have established a challenge fund. For any member or friend who increases their annual pledge from anywhere between 5% and 10%, the fund will match an amount equal to your increase. I deeply appreciate the generosity of these members, and I hope you’ll take them up on their offer!

Here’s my challenge: The tenth person who sends me a note at revpawelek@gmail.com, or leaves me a message at 860-652-8961 and tells me 1) three things they love about UUS:E, and 2) that they are increasing their pledge by at least 5%—that person will get a breakfast, lunch or dinner on me!

There are so many good things happening at UUS:E. We’re actively exploring what it means to become a Sanctuary Congregation. We’re actively exploring joining a new Greater Hartford interfaith coalition. We’re taking very intentional steps to improve our emergency management procedures and make our building safe. We’re formally establishing a UUS:E concert series. We’re crafting a new vision statement. Please take seriously the question: “What does UUS:E mean to you?” And please make as generous a pledge as possible for the coming year.

With love,

–Rev. Josh