Co-Presidents State of the Congregation
Helen Tinsley-Jones and Pier Sun Ho
May 21, 2023

Of the state of the congregation—well, we might just say that it is excellent.  An invigorating sense of optimism that we are moving into our vibrant future fills the air.   Now, we did not arrive here easily.  This optimism comes from struggles, hard work, and also deep love, and emerged after months, and in some cases, after years of worry, stress, Covid harm and anxiety, financial concerns, and difficult emotions and discussions.  Joined together in love and dogged determination, the congregation, minister and staff moved through the struggles together, always in covenant, always in Beloved Community.  So we have come to this point—that we can say that the state of the congregation is excellent.

The years of Covid have changed us forever, calling us to rethink what “normal” really means.  Throughout these difficult times marked by sad losses, Pastoral Care has been present to support us, our minister and Worship Associates to nurture us,  and Family Ministry to be present for all ages.  In our steadfast efforts to stay connected, we’ve learned to be quite nimble.  Our virtual footprint has expanded—the technical skills of staff and members now allow for smooth Zooming and live-streaming of services and events.  Who would have thought, 4 years ago, that the badges we now hang around our necks would be suspended by differently colored lanyards and have bar codes on their back sides?  More new visitors are coming to services.  The Membership Team predicts that the number of newcomers to service this year will exceed the count for all of 2022.  Last year’s count was  169.  For the first 4-1/2 months of this year, the count is 126.

Our commitment to Social Justice remains strong, as is reflected in the actions and activities of the Widening the Circle of Concern Committee of the Board and the Social Justice Council, which houses a number of groups dedicated to confronting racism and oppression, advocating for climate justice and engaged in community projects and events.  The church annually pays Shuumi Land Tax to the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, a local Indigenous women-led land trust.  In November, 2022, after our Black Lives Matter sign near the Arlington was defaced, this congregation joined with our neighbors to dedicate a new sign, signifying that while polarizing and damaging divisions persist in our immediate community and in the country and world at large, this congregation stands on the side of equity and love.

And there’s more good news—

We’ve emerged from the financial pickle of previous years.  Our financial situation is strong and the budget is balanced.  We’re now paying our fair share as members of UUA.  And this February, member Jane Lundin generously gifted UUCB with the extraordinary donation of a house in El Cerrito, to be used as a parsonage or rental property.

In March, guided by Rev. Michelle’s thoughtful, well-crafted and inclusive Freestone process, the congregation came together to discuss our differences in a restorative way, leading to the approval of Resolution 22-1, which is creating a path for Freestone’s future.

On May 7th, this congregation, by unanimous  vote, called Rev. Marcus Liefert to be our next called minister.   Thunderous applause greeted Rev. Marcus as he entered the Social Hall after the vote count.  We all said a resounding, “YES!”

UUCB’s optimism is buoyed by the phenomenal accomplishments of two UUCB groups, each formed for specific, time-limited tasks.  Their tasks, which required huge expenditures of time, energy, meticulous research, and loving attention to details and deadlines, are rapidly coming to completion, and the groups are in the process of disbanding. The fruits of their work, however, will endure far into the future.  We hold up, appreciate and heartily thank the Ministerial Search Committee (Ariel Smith-Iyer, Deborah Schmidt, Don Klose, Greg Lemieux, Ladie Malek, Lorraine Schnurr, Sandy Portillo-Robins and Suzette Anderson-Duggan)  and the  Opening Task Force (Rev. Michelle Collins, Patrick Cullinane, Sheldon Jones, Lisa Maynard, and Tess O’Riva.

Our optimism is also buoyed by work of many UUCB members and groups—the groups, by the way, number somewhere between 50 and 80, depending on how you aggregate or disaggregate them—and you’ll be hearing from a few of these groups shortly.

In the spirit of UUCB’s moving into its vibrant future, the Board, at its May meeting, approved goals and priorities for 2023-2024, which are represented in this flower.

The flower is nested in and encircled by the overarching themes of caring for ourselves and others, having impact in the world (how do we want to matter?) and growth, as we widen our circle and adapt to and meet challenges and needed changes.  The flower petals display the Board’s missions—spiritual care and growth, championing for love and justice, courageous leadership, stewardship and sustainability, and connection and community.  The goals are listed in the box to the right of the flower.  The missions on the petals are aspirational and will guide us in our work over this next church year.  The flower is a symbol of what the Board feels called to do.  And at the center of it all is our grounding goal—beloved community.

While our optimism is strong, we sit with it in a balanced way, knowing that we do live in a world of severe harshness and extreme hardships for many, and we are called to discern how to move from aspiration to action.  We also sit with our optimism in a balanced way because challenges, sometimes gnarly and unexpected, will continue to come our way.  Some are expected, though—our future work will include supporting and strengthening Family Ministry in its growth, as families are returning to church, also continuing the development of Freestone, launching committees to make needed changes to the Governance Manual and Bylaws, and remaining in solidarity and partnership with our larger communities on working for equity and equality, as we take actions against white supremacy and all forms of oppression.  This is in alignment with the direction in which UUA is also moving.

Ultimately, we’re optimistic because this congregation is bound together and guided by love, covenant, and deep commitment to our values and to one another.  So while we’re likely to slip and stumble, and gripe and grumble as we move into our future, we’ll always get to where we need to be.  And we’ll do it together, always siding with love.

Thank you, beloved members of this congregation.  We’re honored to serve as UUCB’s Co-Presidents of the Board of Trustees and to bring you this state of the congregation, 2023.

Helen Tinsley-Jones and Pier Sun Ho,

Co-Presidents, UUCB Board of Trustees