A letter to the Board of Trustees, First Unitarian Church, Portland November 3, 2016

Twenty-four years member of First Church. At First Church I am neither a mover or a shaker.

More of an underground trembler. I voiced concerns over moving to policy-based governance at one annual meeting, at café conversations and by letters. I served on a Communications Committee until Marilyn Sewell disbanded the group because she didn’t like what we had to say. I have written many letters about some ministerial actions, directions, and dismissive behaviors that I thought did not advance democratic process in our congregation.

I prepared a timeline on democratic process in Unitarian congregations that Ted Hollingsworth archived. I spoke out when the church decided to suspend annual meetings. I have spoken to the Board at meetings on at least 8 occasions, the most recent to request consideration of a name change to First Unitarian Universalist. I agitated to help secure union protections and pay equity for unhappy staff. I raised my pledge to support that effort.

Ten days ago I requested a copy of the David Keyes’ consultant report on church strategic planning that the Board reviewed in May 2016 in closed session. I am disturbed that the Board of Trustees did not think to share that report except in very general bullet points. I assume congregant pledges paid for the report. I received no response whatsoever to my request. No thank you, Tricia, we got your note. Nothing.

In the last 24 years I have come to know I am a Unitarian Universalist. I believe I can do my best to live that faith without relying on membership to this church. The fifth principle of democratic-process within our faith community is one I hold as dear as holding up the inherent worth and dignity of others and recognizing the interdependent web of life, etc. It was the final compromise between the Unitarians and Universalists that allowed them to join ranks in the 1960s. I do not believe our church is too big to stop pursuing this principle as we have the other principles of Unitarian Universalism. If we are too big to practice democracy, isn’t the world, in fact, doomed?

I once edited talking-points for strategic planning programs for the City. The Board’s goal that says the church should look at mission-based work over program-based endeavors strikes me as ripe corporate doublespeak. In 24 years, I have participated in many programs – too many to list. I cannot recall one that didn’t grow squarely out of the church’s mission and Seven Principles.

This has not always been a happy place for me to be. Policy-based governance has centralized church control in the hands of the Executive Team (ET). The church appears to be moving to top-down management – the person at the top of the mountain draws the lightning while the villagers put out the fires in the trees.

Recently I took a hard look at Yom Kippur’s guidance on atonement, how to make peace before hoping to find your name written in the divine book for the coming year. I examined my sense of right relationship with First Unitarian. I hoped to trust the Executive Team – or Communications committee or Senior Minister or whoever survives – to keep the congregation deeply informed of possibilities for new strategic directions.

I am now asking to have my name unwritten from the First UU membership book. I will not pledge this year. Please note this and put my letter in the minutes of this Board meeting.

This is not about the departure of Kate Lore although she was my go-to minister for a long, long time.

This is about my work to find the right home for my understanding and practice of Unitarian Universalism. I have loved and needed this church deeply and well for 24 years. I acknowledge the tremendous energy of this church, but I need a break from the covenant which to me suggests I should care about the direction of this church’s governance.

Thank you for 24 years of learning and praying beside you. I wish you all the very best. I know how much goodness of the heart you bring to the work you do.

With sadness,

 

Tricia Knoll