Multisite Task Force

The Multi-Site Task Force (MSTF) is a task force of the Board of Trustees, and includes Rev. Mike Walker as an ex officio member. The MSTF was established in order to explore options for utilizing or consolidating our church campuses.  The Task Force studied current models of multi-site worship; examined the costs of operating our two campuses, explored the possibility of selling one or the other property, and developed a plan for moving forward.  The Multi-Site Task Force recommends that the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg develop a "CHALICE CENTER," an interfaith community center at its Market Street Location.  The Market Street building would serve as a hub for a variety of efforts that serve the Allison Hill community either through worship or through the provision of services.  While the Unitarian Church would continue to have a presence, we would bring other partners to the table.  Space would be rented out to other churches and non-profit organizations in the area.  This would not only help us share costs, but provide common ground for a variety of groups working to make downtown Harrisburg a safer, happier place. The task force has researched the possibilities for rentals, and we are satisfied that our Market Street site has potential to rent to various community and religious groups.  Congregants have offered further ideas in recent meetings.  No possibility can be developed until the Congregation gives permission to develop a business plan for the Chalice Center.  We believe that the Chalice Center would be financially feasible, spiritually fulfilling, and would strengthen community both within UCH and between UCH and the Harrisburg faith community….IF OUR CONGREGATION HAS THE WILL. 

Obviously, the acquisition of the Market Street building in 2009 has led to deep divisions in our church.  The MSTF has taken the stance that no matter what the past has been, we now have to deal with the realities of our holdings.  The MSTF believes that even while healing in our congregation must continue, we now have the opportunity to come together in united purpose by intentionally creating an institution we can be proud of.  We hope that the congregation will unite around a mission that gives us a rationale for our two campuses, but is beyond the provision of worship services.

The MSTF will present a proposal to the congregation in the coming weeks. The proposal will NOT be a completely worked-out plan that addresses all details.  Rather it will ask the congregation for the PERMISSION for the Board of Trustees to develop and enact such a plan.  While the MSTF has laid groundwork in its consideration of options and exploration of the feasibility of the Chalice Center, much more work needs to be done in order to plan for all the details that inevitably must be addressed.  This will require efforts that would be unfair to ask of a group of people to embark upon without the agreement of the congregation that this is the direction in which we want to put our energies.  Until further study is made, for example, we intend to honor the worship traditions of members who currently enjoy services at Market Street, but we have no firm idea about service time, form, frequency or RGL.  We have no absolute answer to detail questions.  The answer is in the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg membership: we can do what our members are willing to do.  To make the Chalice Center work, for it to become a thriving center of interfaith community and compassionate practice, we need to rely on each other in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.  We cannot depend on paid staff to make the Chalice Center a success.

The Process
  • The MSTF, with the help and cooperation of the Healthy Congregations Task Force, gave a power-point presentation on the factors that led us to propose the Chalice Center, and the reasoning behind it, on April 3, April 10, and April 11.  The power-point was followed by small group meetings in which congregants could react and respond to the proposed Chalice Center.  
  • The MSTF will develop the DRAFT of a formal proposal that will be voted on at the Congregational meeting in May. [You can trace the evolution of this proposal with the information provided on these pages.]  The process for that vote will follow the new rules for a high-stakes proposal, IF the current proposed process for high-stakes decisions is approved by the Board and congregation.
  • This part of our website has been developed in order to fill in members who missed these meetings, allow us to answer some frequently asked questions, and to provide some more detailed information congregants might want to have available when making their decisions.  (See below for a description of the topics provided.)  
  • Town Hall style meetings will be held: At Market Street on May 14 @ 12 pm;  After the Clover Lane Service on May 15. These meetings will allow congregants to voice their concerns or enthusiasm for the proposal and to hear the ideas of others.  
  • The proposal will be refined and put to a vote by May 22.
Proposal

For approval by the congregation of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg

Prelude
We, the congregation of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, affirm that we are unified in our desire and commitment to be one church with two locations.  We commit to working together to support each location in providing programs and services that demonstrate our principles and values.  For the purpose of generating funds and to specifically move forward in our service to the Allison Hill community, we approve the following proposal. 

Proposal
The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg is authorized to organize the establishment of a Chalice Center at the UCH Market Street Campus.  The Chalice Center will expand programs conducted at the Market Street campus by seeking partnership with other community and faith organizations in Allison Hill.  The Board will be responsible for gathering the appropriate committee(s) to study and offer recommendations on 1) a long-term vision and mission for the center and   2) a complete business plan that shall include the conditions and processes to rent or otherwise share space at the Market Street Campus with other community and faith organizations that serve the Allison Hill community, including a plan to immediately pursue rental opportunities.  The business plan will set clear benchmarks for success.  During the next three years, the Board of Trustees will report every six months to the congregation on the progress of the Chalice Center.

This is a vote to approve this proposal as a part of the mission and vision of the congregation. A majority of "Yes" empowers the Board and staff to proceed.

WHAT WE HEARD

The following is an attempt to summarize a vast amount of input from the small group meetings held on April 3, April 10, and April 11.  If you would like to look at the actual comments, you can view our notes for each meeting.  (Note that some meetings have more than one set of notes).  Many of the concerns we hope will be addressed through other parts of this website, including the ANSWERS to frequently asked questions, STATISTICS AND DATA, WHAT IS GTS, and other information available here.  

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APRIL 3
The desirability of UCH’s management of two campuses was questioned by some, and affirmed by others.  Opinions ranged from “Selling MS, even at a loss, would save having to pay for maintenance and upkeep” to “We MUST keep our MS location.”  Some questioned the need for two buildings given our reduced membership, and asked whether UCH should consolidate at Clover Lane, or questioned whether the congregation has the will to maintain two locations.  Others asserted the spiritual value of the Market Street location, both to the neighborhood that is served by GTS, and to UCH members for whom our Market Street site provides a way to live our values.  A few members also wondered whether UCH had not already in practice become two separate congregations, one located at each site.  

The split in opinion was also reflected in a number of comments that called for further healing in the congregation.  Congregants articulated both the need to “investigate feelings about past conflicts” and to proactively guard against conflict so that “This cannot happen again.”

Reactions varied widely to the proposal of the Multi-Site Task Force (to create a “Chalice Center” at our Market Street location that would invite the partnership of other organizations in developing a center for service and worship in the Allison Hill neighborhood). Creating an approximate scale from “It won’t work” (strong skepticism about the proposal) to “This is a good start” and “Will need re-assessment” (neutral) to “The idea is promising” and “The Chalice Center is brilliant!” (favorable), we tried to gauge the sentiment of those directly responding to the proposal in this sample of congregants.  Favorable comments outpaced directly skeptical ones by a factor of about two to three times.  There were about a third more favorable comments than neutral ones.  (This does NOT count the many questions about the workability of the plan, but ONLY comments which concerned the idea as a whole.) There were also questions about the process we will follow in order to make a decision about this proposal (see ‘process’ section of front matter).  Some people wondered how we would achieve broad buy-in by the congregation as a whole.  Some would like to see the mission of the Chalice Center articulated.  Others made a number of concrete suggestions, including names of people who would be useful resources.

Some congregants were unsure of what Gather the Spirit (GTS) is, and what its relation to UCH is (see WHAT IS GTS?).

A number of questions concerned the viability of maintaining two properties in general, and the Chalice Center in particular.  Several people pointed to the maintenance issues we face at Market Street, including parking, accessibility, and heating.  Regarding the Chalice Center plan, several questions arose as to whether the establishment of a worship and community center would duplicate other services available in Allison Hill.  Some questioned who, whether, and how renters would be found to partner with us, and what vetting procedures would be in place.  

Major concerns about financing were raised, and more information was requested.  (See STATISTICS AND DATA). Some congregants wanted to know what the costs of maintaining the two buildings would be, and worried that our pared-down staff would be spread too thin if UCH maintained operations in both buildings.  Some congregants worried that the financial burden of supporting two locations would “sink” the entire church.  

The question of worship at Market Street was repeatedly raised, along with the attendant issues of staffing, service times, service style (whether services could be alternative to those held at Clover Lane), and the provision of RGL.  

Some congregants tried to figure out whether the Chalice Center would be good for growth of the congregation.  Some expressed frustration that without a settled minister and with so much disruption in our ability to make plans, the congregation was not growing; some congregants felt personally that their spiritual needs were not being met.  

Many comments were aimed toward the future—particularly the details of a business plan should UCH begin to organize the Chalice Center.  Congregants wanted to know exactly how space rental would work between UCH and other organizations including: storage spaces; scheduling; and necessary administrative actions (such as insurance, property management, etc).  A number of people suggested that benchmarks be set up, that periodic re-assessment will need to be made, and that some sort of limit be set up in order to know whether the project should be considered to have failed.  
Some people wanted to know what would happen if the proposal fails.

APRIL 10
Many participants were concerned about the preservation of a spiritual home at Market Street, as well as the relationship of the Church with the Allison Hill neighborhood.

Anxiety about the relationship between the two campuses of the Church was a prominent theme.  Participants mentioned the possibility of splitting the Church or consolidating at Market Street by selling the Clover Lane campus. Another opinion was that neither campus could survive on its own. One congregant personally felt more connected and loyal to the Allison Hill neighborhood than to UCH. Another participant worried that establishing Market Street as a center for “outreach” would further marginalize Market Street, and believes that this campus has not been a priority for UCH. Others spoke about a need for community among congregants across campuses.  Some suggested that “Second Sunday in the City” be re-established as a way to bring the entire congregation together.  Another congregant noted that Church-wide meetings had not generally taken place at Market Street, but are held at Clover Lane. 

Another thought we needed occasions to gather all together that would promote joy. 

Some participants liked the plan to develop a Chalice Center, and saw it as a way to build interfaith alliances and “communities across communities.”  Others cautioned that while the plan was good, it would depend on the will of members to support it.  An idea to make the Center a place where more systematic approach to social justice could be pursued—organization of advocacy with a progressive religious voice—was floated. Another member thought that the advantage of the Chalice Center would be to share, rather than increase, efforts in social justice work.  There were also a variety of concerns related to the workability of the Chalice Center, including: parking; maintenance and capital improvement; ADA compliance; who might rent space from UCH and what vetting and scheduling procedures would be required; and the need for administrative personnel.  Some suggestions to address these concerns were also offered. Participants pointed to the need for a business plan.

Others felt that worship should be the central issue.  Many congregants felt that service time at 9:30 is too early, and this is a turn-off for families, neighbors, and themselves.   Many suggestions on scheduling were offered, including the idea to offer one morning and one afternoon service.  Others addressed the problem of establishing RGL at Market Street.  Some participants emphasized the need for a worship style that would be more inviting to neighbors, one that should be less intellectual, and more heart-centered.  More ministerial presence at Market Street was called for.  Some congregants also discussed growth—whether a membership drive should be done, whether people feel comfortable joining the Church when it is in a time of uncertain direction; whether growth should be pursued before retention is normalized, and how volunteer effort to promote membership was being exhausted.  

Some people wondered what happens if the proposal fails.

APRIL 11, 2016

Many participants saw a lot of advantages and possibilities for a Chalice Center.  A worship and community center would exploit the success and contacts that UCH has already developed in the Allison Hill community.  Sharing expenses and social justice work is attractive, and the development of intentional mission and planning on the part of UCH may offer a road to unifying the congregation.  A number of suggestions were offered on other connections that UCH might make to market or organize the center: the Non-profit Association of Camp Hill; CONTACT Harrisburg; VISTA; the use of the center as an ‘outstation’ for groups like the YWCA.  Closer ties with other organizations would offer opportunities to market the Center and perhaps share fundraising efforts.  The Chalice Center could develop into a “one stop shop” that would help neighbors tap into a range of services.  Also, the development of a lively center at Market Street may increase neighborhood safety.  One person pointed out that whether they were officially members or not, many people in the Allison Hill neighborhood who come to our programs think of the Market Street Church as ‘theirs.’

Many participants also emphasized the hard work and dedication it would take to make the Chalice Center a success.  While “the idea is good,” the difficulty of supplying enough volunteer time and money will be “daunting”.  One participant thought that “the work will get done” when we make a definite decision, and continue to work toward reconciliation.  

Some participants are concerned that the proposal does not sufficiently address the relationship between Clover Lane and Market Street.  One person said that although it at first looked like the campuses should split, the financial realities indicate that this is not practicable.  Others wondered whether the involvement of UCH members should be stronger in GTS, or how GTS figures into the proposal.  A suggestion to increase the intentionality of the relationship by travelling between locations was proposed.  A few people wanted more details on how UCH would develop more shared community.  
Members discussed the need for a business plan, and the details of making the proposal workable.  Who would likely renters be, and how would they be vetted?  Would this raise further security concerns?  Have the appropriate inspections (of the electrical system, etc) been performed?  When will the building be handicapped accessible?  We would need a business manager; one useful model of getting renters is to offer commissions to a rental agent.  Some people questioned whether “Chalice Center” was an appropriate name.  The business plan, once developed, would require periodic re-assessment.  We should not begin with too high expectations, but bite off what we can chew a piece at a time.  
Some people wondered what would happen if the proposal fails.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there other viable alternatives to the Chalice Center?
The Multisite Task Force reviewed four options: (i) Continue as we are; (ii) Split into two separate congregations; (iii) Sell one or both facilities; (iv) Make better use of our Market Street facility.

(i) In our current configuration, we have been drawing on our reserves and to continue down this path is not sustainable. We have been postponing all but essential maintenance on both buildings, which means that we will have substantial expenses in the near future. In order to reduce expenses to avoid drawing on reserves, we have reduced staff. We are now unable to adequately staff both facilities for the long term in a way that would enable us to keep members, attract new members, and realize our potential. There is ongoing discontent amongst members. The Healthy Congregations Task Force has been working in a variety of ways to address this, but we cannot expect that members will be satisfied if we simply continue as we are now. 

(ii) The second option, splitting into two congregations, would increase the financial hardship for both. Members would be split between the two congregations, with resulting reduction in income for each congregation. In addition, we would expect there to be an overall loss of members, as the upheaval caused by the split would affect members’ willingness to continue to be a part of either congregation. It is not clear that both congregations could survive, given the necessary costs of sustaining a congregation, or that there would be enough members at each site to build a congregation. The negotiation of the terms of settlement between the two congregations would likely be protracted and difficult, with the responsibility for the mortgage being a major stumbling block.

(iii) The third option, selling one or both campuses, would result in the loss of a spiritual home for some or all of our members. We would lose our mission, our identity and many members. The proceeds of selling Market Street, if it were even possible to sell it, would not be enough to pay off the mortgage on Clover Lane. The sale of Clover Lane or both campuses would not cover the costs of finding and purchasing a new location. 

(iv) The fourth option, developing a plan to make better use of our Market Street facility, provides the best chance for us to meet our expenses and to continue as one church, with two thriving locations. If the congregation votes not to proceed with the Chalice Center proposal, the Board will next consider what will be the best course of action in order to maintain financial solvency and retain as many members as possible.

2. What process will we use to vote? 
At the Annual Meeting on May 22, the congregation will first vote to amend our current bylaws to permit the designation by the Board and the congregation of certain matters as “high stakes”. An amendment to the bylaws requires a quorum at the meeting (20% of the membership) and two-thirds vote in favor is necessary for the adoption of an amendment. 

The congregation will then proceed to vote on whether the Chalice Center proposal is a “high stakes” matter. If the congregation decides that it is, then a majority of the entire membership of the church must approve the motion to authorize the Board to proceed with the concept of a Chalice Center. Voting will occur by anonymous ballot, either while present at the annual meeting, or by absentee ballot. Two weeks will be provided for the return of ballots. Procedures will be in place to assure the integrity of the vote.

If the congregation fails to adopt the bylaw amendment, or votes that the Chalice Center matter is not “high stakes”, then the motion for the Board to proceed with the Chalice Center proposal will pass if approved by a simple majority of those present at the annual meeting. In that event, a quorum (20% of the congregation) must be present at the meeting in order for a vote to be taken. 

3. Financial concerns:

a. What is the breakdown for the costs of each building? 

Estimated building expenses for 2015-16:

Clover Lane

Supplies: $2,500
Maintenance: $5,500
Grounds care: $7,300
Utilities $15,000
(electricity, refuse, sewer, water, telephone and Internet) 

Market Street

Supplies: $1,600
Maintenance: $8,800
Grounds care: $350
Taxes (parking lot): $360
Utilities: $16,000
(electricity, gas, water, sewer, security, phone, Internet)

b. How much is the mortgage and is the mortgage on Clover Lane?

Mortgage payments – principal and interest – were $19,940 this year. The money that we borrowed to purchase Market Street and make capital improvements, was secured by a mortgage on the Clover Lane facility. There is approximately $250,000 left on the Clover Lane mortgage.

c. Would we take on additional debt load, such as a second mortgage on Clover Lane, if we need additional funds to cover our operating deficits?

No. Even if this were possible (i.e., a bank would agree to loan us additional funds), this would be an unacceptable risk to the congregation’s financial resources. 

d. Clarify what is meant by a $30,000 deficit. 

UCH drew upon its reserves this year, in the amount of $30,000, in order to meet its operating expenses. In other words, our expenses exceeded our income.

e. What has been done to reduce costs? Why can’t we just do more cuts? 

In the past few years, we have steadily reduced our expenses in order to meet reduced income. In spite of our efforts, we had a significant deficit this year that could only be addressed by drawing upon our reserves. In order to produce a budget for next year that does not include a deficit, a variety of additional cost-saving measures have been implemented, primarily the lay-off of staff. We now have just one staff to meet the needs of both locations. To achieve further reductions, we would need to further reduce ministerial services, the RGL program, and/or the music program. 

f. Does UCH have sufficient resources to cover expected operating deficits for 2016-17 and 2017-18 if there is not rental income from the new proposal in 2016-17?

Our proposed budget for 2016-17 is not dependent on new rental income. We currently have rental income from GTS at Market Street, as well as other one-time event rentals at Clover Lane. We will not project additional rental income, until we have agreements in place. The 4/2/2016 handout (the slide presentation) refers to 2015-16 rental income, not next year’s.

g. Are we prepared for the possibility that we will not realize substantial rental income from the Market Street campus in 2016-17? 

Yes. Although we believe that UCH cannot continue much longer on its current track, we are prepared to reduce expenses as necessary for the next two years to avoid drawing upon our reserves. We are not in imminent danger of failing, but we have watched our revenues decrease each year since 2012, and so we are now acting prudently to address the situation. Reverend Walker, at the Board’s direction, has adjusted our expenses, primarily by reducing staff, so that we can minimize our annual deficit while we develop and implement a plan that we can all agree to and support. 

As we discussed during the presentation at the group sessions, the congregation will need to be prepared to support two campuses, financially and with volunteer efforts, as we develop and implement our plan. If members and friends of the congregation continue to pledge at current rates and continue to fundraise as they have done in the past two years, UCH will have sufficient funds to support both campuses for the next two years, relying upon our reserves, if necessary. It is true that we are in a difficult situation, but we have taken action to reduce the risk to the congregation. Having said that, it is vital that the congregation understand the seriousness of our situation and the necessity for prompt action.

h. Won’t liability insurance increase if we rent to tenants? 

It is standard in lease agreements, including our current agreement with GTS, for each party to agree to carry liability insurance that covers the cost of harm caused by that party. This is one of the matters that we would research if the congregation authorizes the Board to further explore the Chalice Center option.

4. Could I have more details about the proposal?

a. Is there a need for rental space in Allison Hill? 

Yes. Other organizations have indicated that they could use additional space from which to conduct their activities in Allison Hill.

b. Aren’t adequate services already provided for Allison Hill by other organizations? Joshua Group, GTS, other churches? 

Many organizations provide services in Allison Hill. Our facility would enable them to expand their outreach.

c. What do you mean by self-sustaining? 

Self-sustaining means that the income from the Market Street site will contribute, if not fully, then substantially, to the costs of maintaining the site. 

d. Is the site suitable for rentals?

i. Handicap accessibility – has anyone checked on accessibility requirements, in particular for potential government agencies or recipients of government funding? The building itself is exempt from accessibility regulations because it is owned by a church. However, further research into this issue will be conducted, if the congregation decides is to proceed to develop the Chalice Center proposal. In general, accessibility rules usually require only what is “readily achievable”, defined as “easily accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” 

ii. Lack of parking – The need for and the development of additional parking options would be further researched, if the congregation authorizes the Board to move forward with the Chalice Center option.

iii. How much could we charge for rent, and will those rents be affordable for the entities providing services in Allison Hill? This would be researched if the congregation authorizes the Board to proceed.

iv. Is the building in good enough repair? Does it comply with fire codes or other requirements? The Market Street facility is compliant with fire codes and we are not aware of any other deficiencies with respect to government codes. Although some repairs and other maintenance has been postponed, nothing has been postponed at either facility that relates to safety or legal requirements. Some repairs and a facelift (e.g., painting) may be advisable to enhance the attractiveness of the site.

5. How will we know if plan is succeeding? 

We will implement the plan one step at a time, without prejudging the outcome. As long as we are making progress and finding viable tenants, we will consider the plan to be working. We will monitor our progress and report to the congregation at regular intervals. 

6. Will milestones be established? 

Establishing milestones will be part of the business plan that we will develop if the congregation decides to authorize the Board to proceed with the proposal.

7. How do we assure that our tenants are aligned with our values/principles? 

The Board will develop guidelines to assure compatibility. Our current arrangement with GTS outlines the congruence of our mutual goals and values.

8. This isn’t a new idea – it’s been proposed before – how is this proposal different? 

This proposal is different because, if the congregation decides to authorize the Board to proceed, it will be an intentional commitment to devote the time and energy necessary to make it work.

9. Who will develop the business plan? 

The Board will bear the responsibility for assuring the development of a business plan.

10. Who will find rentals and manage the building? 

The Board in conjunction with staff will bear the responsibility for determining by whom and how the building and rentals will be managed.

11. What will happen to worship at Market Street? 

Worship as provided at Market Street is the spiritual center of UCH’s commitment to the Allison Hill neighborhood. It is a need and a desire of a significant number of members of UCH. Options for the times of worship, the content of the worship services, and other matters relating to worship that would make it more relevant to the needs of the members and residents who attend Market Street, would be considered, developed and implemented through our worship team. 

12. How are we dealing with healing past conflicts? 

The charge of the Healthy Congregations Task Force is to address the conflicts present in the church today, and to work to develop better ways of handling conflict in the future. The HCTF has worked in a variety of ways, conducting listening sessions, offering workshops and programs, and offering conflict resolution for individual members who desire that service. They will continue to do this important work for the congregation. The Multisite Task Force has relied upon the HCTF for assistance, as it has pursued its charge to look at ways we can better use our two locations.

Proposed Bylaws Changes

IX Congregational Meetings

G. Any decision by the congregation shall be discussed ( shall take place ) prior to a vote at a meeting which is open to all members. A majority vote at any congregational meeting shall decide any question, except for a call or dismissal of the minister, an amendment to the Articles of Association and the Bylaws, or a high stakes decision as described in section H below.

H. Any topic or decision designated as high stakes, by action of both the Board and the membership at a congregational meeting, shall require approval by a majority of the entire voting membership before any action can be taken. Balloting shall include voting in person, by mail and/or electronically, or by some combination of the three, to assure fair process and to facilitate greater participation.

Process at the Annual Meeting

  1. This Board recommended wording will be placed on the floor for discussion after being sent out in the call to the meeting.
  2. It is possible to offer changes or amendments, “ so long as the change or the amendment is within the scope of the initial proposal.”
  3. An amendment to the bylaws requires an approval of “a two-thirds vote” for the adoption of the amendment.
  4. The quorum for a congregational meeting is “twenty percent of the voting membership.”
  5. If the amendment is approved, it takes effect immediately.
  6. The Board will have declared the proposal from the Multi-Site Task Force to be a high stakes decision at its April 20, 2016 meeting.
  7. Those attending the congregational meeting will have the opportunity to agree or disagree that the recommendation of the Board and the Multi-Site Task Force is a high stakes decision.
  8. If a majority of those in attendance agree on high stakes, then balloting will be done in writing at the conclusion of the meeting, as well as ballots send out by mail and by email.
  9. Ballots will need to be received by a ten day deadline, noon on June 1. Results will be announced by email.

Background

The UCH Board has been working since October to produce this Board recommended change to the bylaws. One of the key recommendations of our UUA consultants was that UCH needs to make some changes in governance in its planning for the future. In particular there has been continuing comment about how we made past decisions and the hopes we have for improving the process. However, when we tried to define an important decision succinctly, we were unsatisfied. First we tried monetary terms of property, then added assets, and then attempted to capture possible changes in terms of mission or vision. Finally, we realized that a high stakes decision is a condition that a Board can recognize and a congregation vote to declare. It is an opportunity to combine leadership from the Board and our grassroots democratic process.

Next, we worked with the concept of quorum and percentages. How many people do we need to agree to make significant changes? The answer that satisfied us is a majority. For example, if there are 100 members, then 51-the majority- need to vote in favor for there to be a good chance of success.

But in the past, not everyone could come to a meeting where important decisions are being made. Clearly, it is time to join the 21st century and use absentee balloting to extend the franchise. The expertise exists to do it by means of a fair process that allows for the most members to participate.

To summarize, the Board has discussed the topic at length at five different meetings. Two after church discussion meetings open to all were held in February. We listened to many thoughtful comments from those discussions as well as emails to create this tenth version. We believe that some decisions are more important and more far- reaching than others. We agree that both Board and voting members need to share the same sense of importance on what is high stakes. And we affirm that it is time to reach out to encourage greater participation of our voting members by allowing absentee ballots.

Nan Cavenaugh
for the UCH Board
April 16, 2016