Listening Circles

The Board of Trustees would like to sincerely thank everyone who participated in our in-person and online listening circles last fall. We have taken your feedback to heart. Your ideas have already informed our budget priorities and helped us reimagine how the programs and services we offer at FUUSN can better meet the changing needs of our congregation.

Throughout the listening circles, we also heard many “frequently asked questions.” We answer those questions below. As always, if you have a question that is not answered below, please reach out to any member of the Board – we are happy to help!

How can I meet with Erin?

If you would like to meet with our Minister, Erin Splaine, call or email Fran Clancy at office@fusn.org or 617-527-3203. Fran will help you schedule an appointment.

How can I meet with the Board of Trustees?

The Board of Trustees meets on the second Tuesday of the month in the Chapel. You are welcome to visit Board meetings, and you can find minutes from past Board meetings online: http://fusn.org/board-trustees-minutes/. Any member of the Board of Trustees would be happy to speak with you about matters pertaining to FUUSN. Look for their blue name tags at coffee hour on Sundays, or reach out to them directly via email: Chris Krebs chriswallacekrebs@gmail.com, Josie Greene josieg49@gmail.com, Brooke Foucault Welles brooke.foucault@gmail.com, Jon Reuman jreuman@comcast.net, Demie Stathoplos dstathoplos@gmail.com, Christine Lookner cwlookner@gmail.com, Theo Burba theo.burba@gmail.com, Leah Lakomski llakomski14@gmail.com.

How does Unitarian Universalism cultivate spirituality? What do we do at FUUSN to connect with the spiritual?

Please consider attending a “New to UU” class offered periodically for people interested in exploring whether Unitarian Universalism is right for them. Literature is also available at the Membership Table at Coffee Hour and online at UUA.org. Throughout the year, we engage in the spiritual traditions of many religions, including monthly Vespers, a Passover Seder, several Christmas Eve services, and a Solstice celebration. Many people also enjoy attending Chalice Circles, which meet regularly in small groups and are conducive to developing deeper relationships and discussing matters related to one’s spirituality. Check the FUUSN website and/or the Order of Service for information about upcoming events. For more info about joining a Chalice Circle beginning again next Fall, contact Cindy Orrell cindy.orrell@gmail.com or Ann Woodbury ann@sulliwood.org. There is always more we can do to cultivate spirituality. If you are interested in joining Rev. Erin to form a Worship Arts Committee, contact her at minister@fusn.org.

 Can I rent a room at FUUSN for a non-FUUSN event?

Yes! Information about renting various spaces at FUUSN is available on our website: http://fusn.org/about-us/location/rental/. For more information or to reserve a space, please contact Fran Clancy in the FUUSN office: office@fusn.org or 617-527-3203.

I would like to contact someone I met at FUUSN. Where can I find their contact information?

There are lots of ways to get in touch with FUUSN members. Contact our Membership Coordinator, Jaelynn Linares (jaelynn@fusn.org) if you would like access to our online membership directory, Realm. (Stay tuned for more information about Realm, including training sessions, in the coming months!) You can also find many FUUSN members through our Facebook groups (search for First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton and FUUSN Families). If social media is not your thing, contact Fran Clancy in the office to request information from the directory (office@fusn.org or 617-527-3203) or look through a hard copy of the Membership Directory at the Member Services Table at Coffee Hour after Sunday service.

There are so many groups and activities at FUUSN. Is there one place I can go to find out everything FUUSN offers?

There is a lot going on at FUUSN, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of everything! The Member Services Table at Coffee Hour is a good place to start or contact Jaelynn Linares, our Member Services Coordinator at jaelynn@fusn.org. The FUUSN Newsletter, Sunday Order of Service, Facebook Groups, online calendar, and email listserv, which lists all FUUSN activities and events, are also a a great way to keep informed of what’s going on. Last, but not least, you can find a a list of groups and activities at FUUSN and plus instructions for joining our various Facebook groups and email lists on the FUUSN website, under the “Connections” tab.

Where can I find information about the FUUSN budget? How is the money spent throughout the year?

The budget is included in the Annual Report. Everyone (members and friends) is welcome to attend the Annual Meeting and luncheon scheduled this year for Sunday, June 9 after service when the Annual Report is distributed, annual business of the congregation takes place, and the annual budget is discussed. If you are interested in learning more about budget processes and decisions throughout the year, we encourage you to attend Operations Council meetings on the third Tuesday of every month at 7pm in the chapel. You may also be interested in getting involved with the Finance Committee, contact Karen Bottar (krbottar@comcast.net) or Brian Gill (briang.uu@gmail.com) for more information.

 What do my kids learn about in their RE classes? What will they learn in future years?

You can learn about the RE curriculum for children and teens on our website: http://fusn.org/learning/ or contact our Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Amanda Graff (amanda@fusn.org) for information. Amanda also sends a weekly RE newsletter to parents (let her know if you’re not getting it!) Of course, the best way to really get to know the RE curriculum is to volunteer to help teach in one of our classes. Look for sign-ups this spring or contact Amanda if you’d like to volunteer!

What services and activities are there for teenagers at FUUSN?

There are many ways for teenagers to be involved at FUUSN after their Coming of Age year. There is a youth group for teens and opportunities for teenagers to work in the RE classrooms, kitchen, and sanctuary at FUUSN. Teens also run our annual Coffee House and help out on many other Boards and Committees at FUUSN. Contact the Youth Programs Coordinator, Dani Patrick (dani@fusn.org) for more information.

I have difficulty attending services on Sundays. Are there other ways I can stay connected to the FUUSN community?

Many of the Sunday morning sermons are audio-recorded and can be found on the FUUSN website. Chalice Circles and other social groups occur during the week. If you have difficulty leaving home, a member of our care crew can help arrange rides or visits – contact the Lay Ministers at 617-340-9299 if you need help. For more info about all that FUUSN has to offer, visit the FUUSN website or contact Jaelynn Linares, the Member Services Coordinator at jaelynn@fusn.org.

What is going on with the sound system in the sanctuary? Why is it so hard to hear?

Our Sanctuary is a large space and some places are more conducive than others to listening to our Sunday services. We have made a number of improvements to the sound system recently, including upgrading the microphones. But, we are aware that the acoustics are still not ideal for everyone. If you need assistance, we encourage you to sit up in the front of the sanctuary or speak with one of the Ushers who can assist you with a listening aid which you may borrow during the service.

Our building is old and expensive, have we considered an alternate space?

Our beautiful historic building is both an expense and an asset. A sizeable portion of our annual operating expenses are generated through rental income from tenants and events. We also use our space to host important events and meetings for FUUSN and the broader community. That said, FUUSN is more than a building, and we acknowledge the limits of our space. the Board is committed to a long-term visioning process involving the Congregation that will include thoughtful consideration of the best way to ensure that the Congregation’s building and grounds support our growth and vitality. If this is an issue that is important to you, we encourage you to attend Operations Council meetings on the third Tuesday of every month at 7pm in the chapel.

What steps are we taking to handle conflict and negative feedback as a congregation?

Nobody likes conflict and learning to have difficult conversations is a growing edge for everyone! As a community, we have successfully navigated several difficult conversations recently, including our name change, the annual meeting and follow-up meetings to discuss the cuts that balanced our budget, and the recent changes to our bathrooms. This is a work in progress, and several groups at FUUSN have adopted guidelines to promote effective dialog, including an invitation to “try on” and be open minded to others’ ideas, feelings, and ways of doing things; practice “both-and” thinking, which invites us to see that more than one reality or perspective can be true at the same time; “listen with respect,” which asks us to refrain from expressing our disagreement by making the other person wrong; and “it’s OK to disagree,” which assumes that disagreement is not only inevitable but can actually help individuals and groups produce better outcomes. Promoting effective dialog around difficult topics is a Board of Trustees priority this year – stay tuned for more information!

When will we be able to restore cuts to staff, social action, and UUA dues that we had to make to balance the budget?

Last year’s budget drive was extremely successful, and yet we had to make painful cuts to balance our budget. The good news is that FUUSN is currently operating on a balanced and sustainable budget for the first time in many years. As we continue to work as a community to reimagine stewardship, we welcome your feedback on prioritizing any surplus revenue we may have in the future. We have heard from many of you that restoring cuts made last year is a priority, and we aim to do so as future funding allows.

What is the relationship between FUUSN and the local community? Do we get involved in Newton politics?

FUUSN is deeply connected to the local community through our membership, which includes local elected and appointed officials and members of many local civic groups. We aim to be responsive to the changing needs and priorities of the local community, and have co-sponsored a number of events with the Newton Human Rights Commission and other local organizations. That said, many of our staff do not live in Newton, and they do not always hear about issues in the schools and community. If there is an issue you think is relevant for FUUSN, please let Rev. Erin, DLRE Amanda, and/or the Board of Trustees know.

What are we doing to reduce our impact on the environment?

Reducing our environmental impact is a priority and consistent with our UU values. FUUSN is a UUA accredited Green Sanctuary and we have a Green Sanctuary Committee that is dedicated to sustainability at FUUSN and outreach to the broader community. You can learn more about our efforts, including how to help with Green Action, on our website: http://fusn.org/about-us/a-green-sanctuary/

I have a question that’s not listed here. Who can I ask?

You are always welcome to reach out to any member of our Board of Trustees, Fran Clancy in the FUUSN office, or stop by the Member Services table at Coffee Hour with questions.