Please Increase Your Pledge so Apex Can Have More Toys

Apex with a ToyPictures of puppies like Apex grab attention. So do photos of cute kids and provocatively dressed young people. Marketing professionals use these images to grab your attention so you’ll smile and buy.

Funding organ renovations is sexy. Soliciting donations for snazzy technology or long-overdue bathroom renovations gets people in their hearts and wallets. Fundraisers use these high-profile popular expenses to obtain gifts for non-profits,…  including churches.

Unfortunately, what the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco needs now is increased money for its annual operating expenses. Our needs are not photogenic nor terribly emotionally appealing.

Let me tell you two unexciting, retro needs which a successful pledge drive could solve.

  • When I first came to this community in 1982, we had a Minister’s Secretary who kept the minister’s calendar, did his correspondence, and typed the weekly hard copy newsletter. When computers came and ministers did their own typing and email, the secretary position was dropped to save money.
    But, Vanessa and our other ministers are now inundated by electronic communications which include meeting requests and demands on their time.  They are stressed out trying to be responsive while also doing their main work. I would like to be able to  consider a part-time ministers’ secretary to support our professionals.
  • When I first came to this community in 1982, we had a part-time bookkeeper who tracked funds and prepared checks for approval by the Office Manager/Finance Director. That position existed until about 4 years ago when the person acting as Director of Finance and Administration decided that it would be more efficient and less costly if she kept the books herself.
    This consolidation caused two problems. First, the person preparing checks should not be the one authorizing them – we can work around that problem by involving more volunteers, but that work-around is not an optimal solution. Second, we have been more prone to typo-type errors in our finances having one person be responsible for error-checking her own work.
    I would like to have enough pledge income so Saira and Vanessa could determine if a part-time bookkeeper/bookkeeping service would improve our day-to-day financial management.

No, I don’t want to return to 1982 to make UUSF Great Again. But, I also don’t want us to continue to think we can get more “productivity” from our ministers and staff by asking them to take on jobs we used to assign to separate staff people.

We need your increased pledge to the operating budget for these and other unexciting improvements to our community.

Thank you to the many members and friends who have already pledged.  If you haven’t already made your commitment, please pledge now to the Annual Operating Fund. Just go to the Society’s home page ( and click on the big green Pledge button!

Apex says: Anyone who increases their pledge by $1,000 or doubles it from last year will received a personally signed photograph from her thanking them for their generosity. Remember, Apex needs the new toys.

Late breaking news:

Howard Oringer, Chair of the Investment Committee, reviewed the Society’s holdings after last Saturday’s March for Our Lives and the call of speakers to avoid investing in companies who make assault weapons. Howard reports that we own no stocks or bonds of the makers of arms.  He noted that we have had a long-standing policy to avoid such investments, and he confirmed that our investment advisors have followed our instructions.

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Give me Hell

We need a Unitarian Universalist Hell. With fire and brimstone, pain, fear, and eternal suffering.

I feel this way every year when we do the annual pledge drive.

Our canvassers are armed with tables, charts, and logical arguments. They remind us the importance of this community, and try to convince us that giving to First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco is the most powerful way to resist evil and strengthen our own spirits.

Pledge captains talk of growth aspirations such as having more professionals to nurture membership or the ability to provide more pastoral care. They talk of boring – but urgent – needs for things such as financial staffing help or stopping deferring maintenance. First-hand stories of the value of membership inspire the congregation on Sundays, in newsletters, and at coffee hour.

The work of persuasion is heartfelt, measurably effective, and also reasonable an measured. Unfortunately, some of the pledging is too measured.

It would be so much easier if we had a hell to threaten ourselves with.

Devil in Hell

Unitarian Universalism Needs Hell

“Give! Or, God our Father will see your stinginess, cast you from His sight into the Depths of Everlasting Fire! And, you! He knows you’re cheating and not really tithing. Cough up the full 10%! And, I mean 10% of your income without any of this liberal Adjusted Gross Income” nonsense!”

Personally, I’d like you to hear the last statement in your head whenever Marty or another leader talks this year about how much your pledge is really needed.

Why? Because we religious liberals are often too cool and unemotional about things we value highly. We are good at keeping our distance and not committing, especially financially. We are much better at ranting and raving at the injustices and stupidity in the world than we are at applauding and raving for institutions and communities that sustain us. And, these organizations, THIS Society, needs your financial support to be effective and healthy.

Conservative denominations like the Mormons give more of their income to their churches than Unitarian Universalists do. They commit, dig into their budgets, and give10%. They also have lots of other causes that are asking them for money, just as we have ACLU, KQED, Planned Parenthood, etc. But, they give first to their church.

Are they giving because of fear? Do they they’ll be shut of Everlasting Life because they’re $500 short? Probably not. They give because they know their church furthers their values and deepens their lives.

But, I don’t know. We intelligent, free thinking Unitarian Universalists know that UUSF speaks our values and our faith saves lives. And, many of us give very generously. But, in general we give less than our brothers and sisters in more dogmatic faiths. Maybe Hell helps.

So if you are not already giving like you thought our community is uniquely inspiring, listen to the carefully reasoned arguments for increasing your pledge. Then, give what feels right. If anyone asks why you increased your pledge so much, tell them that the Devil made you do it.

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Dumb Economics or Fulfilling Our Mission?

How do we see ourselves in the world? Why do we gather as First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco? How do we engage each other and with our groups in the city? What actions do we take to fulfil our purpose for existing?

Vision, mission, covenant, and strategic planning. They are critical to every meaningful organization. They essential to making a difference in our own lives, to making a difference in the world.

Our vision and mission let us know if spending $100,000 more a year serving renters than we charge them is dumb economics? Or,  is providing space to non-profit groups part of how we fulfill our mission? Is doing Social Justice a critical component to our religious life? How about music, or calling on our members when they are ill? Are they core to our being?

As I mentioned last fall, it is time for the Congregation to reassess, confirm, and modify the answers to these key questions we last answered together 30 years ago when we talked about our Roots and Wings.

Talking seriously to ourselves, asking deep questions, and developing a plan for our community will take 18 months or so. The first steps have started!

In January, the Board brainstormed during an all-day training facilitated by the Rev. Jonipher Kwong of the Pacific Western Region. The focus was on exploring the current Best Practices for strategic planning – including the precursors of visioning, mission statement writing, and covenanting. At the end of the day Trustees expressed unanimous agreement on the outline of the process for the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco.

Here’s what we all agree are the steps to follow (click on slide for a larger version):

Strategic Planning Steps

Although the Board is fully supportive of the steps, the actual work of gathering information from the community, wordsmithing, checking in with the Congregation, planning, checking in with the Congregation, and devising implementation steps will be led by a Visioning and Planning Commission to be formed this spring. This group will build on the work of the Task Force for Future Ministry and team with the Membership to articulate a vision for the community, our mission, our covenant, and then plans for the future.

On April 7th a training for 40 or so leaders of our Society will explore in more depth the planning process. In May or June the Task Force will be selected. And, then the real work will begin!

I believe wholeheartedly that this is the right time for our community to renew its vision, update its mission, and determine the best actions to take together. We will be asking committee chairs and other key leaders to come. If you would like to come to the April 7th meeting, please let me know, especially if you’re newer or haven’t been in leadership recently.  Our space is limited, but we want to accommodate as many people are we can!

Questions and comments are appreciated. Please contact any Trustee or me at

Facilitator Rev. Jonipher Kwong with the Trustees, Director of Finance and Administration Saira Malik, and the Rev. Vanessa Rush Southern at the Visioning and Planning Training in January.

Facilitator Rev. Jonipher Kwong with the Trustees, Director of Finance and Administration Saira Malik, and the Rev. Vanessa Rush Southern at the Visioning and Planning Training in January.

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Shari Halliday-Quan will be our Intern Minister starting in September

Shari Halliday-Quan

Shari Halliday-Quan as pictured in the Brooklyn Society’s staff page

At its December meeting the Board was delighted to greet informally Shari Halliday-Quan, the seminarian who will serve this congregation as an Intern Minister starting in September.  Shari was in town visiting friends before going to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with her family, something she said she won’t be able to do again for the next 40 years if her ministry unfolds as she currently plans!

The Board will be charging an Intern Committee soon to identify housing and work with her throughout her time with us. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping with the intern ministry committee. And, for a biographical sketch of Shari check out the staff page of the First Congregation of Brooklyn where she is Youth Ministry Coordinator.

The Committee on Ministry (CoM) met jointly with Trustees in December. Chair Jonah Berquist lead a discussion of the CoM’s report to the Board which highlighted the group’s focus on the evaluating the health of the overall ministry of the Society and monitoring our community’s progress toward the goals of the Developmental Ministry. The CoM and the Board agreed to have a dialog at least quarterly to confer on status of the Developmental Ministry goals and, if appropriate, update and modify goals to match the needs of the congregation.

The Board generally is focused on planning. We have a Saturday workshop conducted by the Unitarian Universalist Association Pacific Western Regional staff in January to begin the process of helping the Congregation update its vision, mission, and strategic planning. Then in March the Board will attend a Board development workshop, also facilitated by the UUA-PWR, to improve our own operations.

We are helping the Senior Minister explore disaster preparedness (and invite you to contact Rev. Southern or me if you have disaster preparedness skills or experience). We are also monitoring pledges and over all finances.

I appreciate being told by the UUA that we are again an Honor Congregation, recognizing that we have contributed our fair share to the operations of the denomination and regional staffs. The UUA has been very helpful to our community by matching us up with Rev. Southern as our Minister and by providing ongoing support and training for our leaders. I am gratified that UUSF has been able to contribute appropriately for the denomination’s ongoing work.

We are able to contribute to the denomination and the support liberal religion because you and other members and friends pledge and give generously to our community. So, I close with Thank You! And Happy New Year!

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