Friday, March 27, 2009

Annual Report to the PSWD

This is an advance copy of my report for the Annual meeting on May 2nd.

Annual Report of The UUA Trustee – Tom Loughrey

This will be quite a year for change at the UUA. In June at GA we will elect a new president of the Association. Rev. Bill Sinkford steps down after eight years of service. I know his many friends in the PSWD join me in congratulating him and wishing him well. Bill will be staying in Boston and serve as a senior consulting minister to the UU Urban Ministry. We have two very fine candidates for the position in Rev. Laurel Hallman of Dallas, TX and Rev. Peter Morales of Golden, CO. At this point I am still undecided in whom I will vote for. I have been encouraging congregations to review the candidates’ positions and then exercise their votes. Each congregation has the same number of ballots as they do representatives at GA. Each ballot can be cast by a delegate at GA or can be cast absentee prior to GA.

This is not the only election; we have uncontested elections for moderator with Gini Courter continuing and for the financial advisor with Dan Brody continuing. Both have served us well and faithfully and I have every belief that they will continue to do so.

At GA we will also be considering a change to our Purposes and Principles. Our by-laws require a periodic review and that job fell to the independently elected Commission on Appraisal. This by-law is one that is not subject to amendment at this GA. If we vote for it, then it comes back one year later for a final vote. If it fails then we continue with our existing Purposes and Principles. It is a very affirming process for me. My UU faith is grounded in these and I like the fact that we make it difficult to change something so fundamental; if we do not change them we are positively re-affirming the continued use of these guiding statements.

The UUA Board of Trustees will soon be transitioning its governance model to “Policy Governance”. This form of governance puts the Board in a position of setting broad policies and having staff carry out the policies in its programs. Success is measured against very broad ends statements – things we want to achieve, and the President is responsible to see these ends are met and policies are complied with. I have been supportive of this change because I believe it clarifies an accountability of the staff to a much greater extent than we have had in the past.

Policy Governance, or “PG” for short, has been used in the PSWD for a number of years now. It relies very heavily on our very small staff to take care of a large number of tasks ranging from finance to leadership education to organizing cluster and district wide events. For me, I think this is where PG does not work so well. We used to have a large number of committees, maybe too many, but they provided both a fertile ground for developing new district leaders and for maintaining a large connection between the congregations and the happenings in the district. I think we have lost some of that. My personal feeling is that PG works best with a sufficient staff size, an engaged board and some advisory committees in key areas such as finance and leadership development. I intend in the coming year to encourage our PSWD Board and staff to explore ways in which we can expand how we use PG in this district to both do our jobs better and improve our linkage ( a very PG term!) with the congregations and individual members.

There is a great deal of information available on the UUA Board’s change to Policy Governance and if you want to know more about it there is a much information on the UUA website at You can also get more from the UU World at

While the elections and the governance change has dominated much of what we do it certainly has not been the only work we are doing. Last year at this time we had a significant change in how the Association provided services to youth. A commitment was made to have a more fully engaged dialogue with youth and that work continues. I expect this year we will have new support structures in place for youth programs and resources. There is much more to read about on this at .

A good deal of time has been spent by the staff, our financial advisor and the Finance Committee to deal with the economic impact of declining market values, unemployment and general financial uncertainty. The budgets have had several revisions and the reality is that we will be facing financial pressures this year and for several years to come. The UUA departments have mandated budget cuts that affect hiring, wages and program activities. Staff participation at GA has been reduced by a third this year and that is likely not to change incoming years. We receive a significant portion of our operating income from investments that have taken a large hit in the last year. Because of the formula used to distribute the funds the hit is not as hard as it might otherwise be but it will last well into the time when the market adjusts and begins to turn around. It is a multi-year problem. I am confident in our financial leadership and I believe we will weather this setback but it will take good management and creative leadership combined with generous individuals and congregations. We all need to work to keep our contributions up to the Annual Program Fund and we can each do something on our own with a contribution to the Friends of the UUA and Friends of the PSWD.

I will shortly complete my first term as your trustee and I have asked you to continue to have me as your trustee for one more term and am pleased that I will be able to do this. Please take a look at my blog for continuing information at I look forward to working with and for you in the coming years. As always, I am available to visit your congregation and provide pulpit services at your invitation. Please feel free to write me at or simply call me at 714 997-1973 with concerns or questions.

In faith and trust,

Tom Loughrey

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