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Minutes to the 175th Annual Meeting





January 29, 2012

(These minutes do not become official until approved by a future meeting of the congregation.)


Actions taken are shown in bold print.


The meeting was preceded on January 22rd by an advanced review of the proposed 2012 Operating Budget,  On January 29 it was preceded first by a generously augmented “brown bag” lunch.  Sixty seven people were in attendance at the beginning of the meeting.


The meeting was called to order at 11:55 by the Moderator, Eric Webster.  Pastor Mary Lee-Clark led those assembled in prayer, using an Irish blessing by John Donohue..  The Clerk, David Durfee, then read the Warning of the meeting.


The minutes of the January 30, 2011, 174th Annual Meeting were approved without correction  The Moderator next proposed that reports not requiring action be accepted as a group after all were heard, rather than a separate action after each one.  This was agreed to without objection.


The Pastor called attention to her report and asked if there were any questions or comments.  Lorna Cheriton noted that she had found the written report “inspiring” the way it looked forward to the future with hope.  No questions were asked concerning the Moderator’s report. The Clerk, when called upon, noted that this was his 15th Clerk’s report and asked the groups indulgence to allow him to comment on its implication.  He characterized the statement as “his version of a ‘doom and gloom’ speech.”  He noted slow but continuing declines in many of the numbers, noting that he felt that they would have been much worse, considering such a time of change in societal conditions and attitudes, had it not been for the skills ands quality of the Pastor.  David expressed concern about a growing risk aversion, and cited the fate of Kodak and football’s prevent defense as examples of the likely unhappy effects of such behavior.  He ended by encouraging all to attend the church retreat planned for Saturday, February 25, to begin consideration of transformation.. 


No additions were made to the Pastoral Relations Committee’s report.  With appropriate enthusiasm, Ernie Tetreault, for the All Church Fellowship, remarked the the celebration of the 175th Anniversary was wonderful and that he looked forward to many more good things ahead.  David Haley, co-chair of the Board of Deacons, commented that the written report he had prepared was longer than usual, but that he had wanted members of the congregation to have an understanding of the wide range of activities of the Deacons.  Called on to present the report of the Ministry for Healing, Jane Norrie thanked all for their constant affirmation. She spoke of the meaningful experiences she had had at the Rowe Center and with the Unitarian Universalist Society.  Jan Lerrigo invited questions or comments on the report of the Board of Missions.  David Durfee called attention to the list of Opportunities and Appeals for Giving handed out separately from the yearbook.  He underlined the significance of several of the columns, praised the total generosity, and reminded all that the church neither encouraged nor expeced individuals to give more than they could afford.  Bruce Lee-Clark announced that Heifer Project alternative-gift purchasers exceeded $2,000 and that the youth thanked congregants for their generosity and for “making it fun.”  Bruce also spoke of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services (GBICS) to which church members contribute time, talent, and treasure.  He noted that the group’s Kitchen Cupboard helps one-quarter of the population of Bennington.  Jane Norrie, a volunteer, spoke of seeing lives changed.  Pastor Mary spoke of the church people who helped at he Free Clinic  and of the growth of both the need and resources of the Fuel and Food Fund, both of which are also under the aegis of GBICS.  Trudy Durfee mentioned all of the food items given to the Bennington-Rutland Opportunity Center (BROC) at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.


The Pastor had prepared the written report for the Board of Christian Education.  She noted that there would be a small coordinating Board in 2012.  Rachel Payne and Emily Unphlett were commended for their work with the children in Godly Play.  Michelle Marchetti offered to answer questions about the Jr/Sr High Youth Group report but those present apparently found the written report informative enough.  Eric announced that he would skip over the report of the of the Structure and New Keys Task Force for the moment.  Linda Johnson stated that she had sufficient confidence in the reading ability of those present to feel it necessary to elaborate on the written Adult Choir report.  Cindy Riddle was equally brief about the Report of the Organist, Hand Bell Choir Director/Choir Accompanist.  It was announced that Sue Wiskoski had agreed to take over the Callirgos Loan Fund from Jerry Handspicker.


Ann Barber noted that the Endowment was slowly inching its way back up from its 2008 low point.  The church is taking out as little as it possibly can for operations  She commended the investment adviser, Don McKenna.  In response to a question, Ann noted that the church had received no bequests in 2011 but had received one statement of intention.  NancyJean Steffen reported for the Trustees.  She noted that the Operating Budget did a little better than expected in 2011.  The projected deficit had been about $12,000 but the actual was closer to $6,000.  The Board had managed to keep the building together.  Finally, since she was completing at least six consecutive years on the Trustees, she noted that from this time on notes about light bulbs that were out, repairs that were needed, and other deficiencies noted, should go in Doug Krause’s mailbox, not hers.  Several present offered thanks from the congregation.  Linda Wall, saying that she thought it had been eight years of service, spoke of how the Trustees would miss NancyJean’s presence.


It was then moved, seconded, and voted unanimously that all the preceding reports be accepted.  


The Moderator next called on Barbara Houle to present the proposed budget for 2012.  Barbara directed attention to the appropriate pages in the Annual Report noting the short list of income sources and much longer list of expenditure areas. She talked first about the latter, noting that projected expenses included  2% salary increase for most of the staff.  Barbara commented that program area expenses had been held at minimum levels for a number of years and that most areas had asked for the same amount in 2012.and they could not be cut.  Wherever possible, projected expense amounts are based on facts and past experience.  The Trustees first budget plan called for a balanced budget.  Estimates of giving, however, came in lower than expected and some earlier overlooked items of expense had to be added. The Trustees were concerned about maintaining the endowment and recognized that its figure was likely to include unrealized loss.  (Unrealized loss was explained as resulting from the fact that items in the portfolio were carried on the books at their purchase amount until sold even if their actual value had changed.  Unrealized losses, or gains, did not become actual ones until the items were sold.)  To prevent any greater draw on the endowment, the decision was to cut Basic Support for Our Churches Wider Mission (OCWM) almost in half.


At this point David Durfee offered a motion: Moved, that the amount on the line for OCWM Basic Support in the 2012 budget on page 30 of the 175th Annual Report be changed from $10,000 to $19,750, recognizing that this will increase the projected deficit in the Net Ordinary Income line.  It was seconded. Lengthy discussion followed, usually with for and against speakers alternating.  Arguments for the motion included: (1) OCWM provides the money needed for the Conference and National denomination to exist,  (2) we, and smaller churches especially, are going to need them more and more in the coming years of trial for all churches, (3)  a personal testimony from a former pastor’s wife about the tremendous support received from the Conference when needed by his church, (4) support of OCWM is a covenant responsibility (5) we have to identify this as a real priority, and (6) we need to think in  bigger terms about our mission.  There was also a comment that for several years in a row now we had heard that we were spending down the endowment and that it was in danger, but, in actuality, it is still at the same level that it was six years ago.


Arguments against the amendment included: (1) we are already taking too much from the endowment, (2) we are very generous in mission and could cut OCWM this year and come back to it next year, (3) we must remember unrealized loss, (4) endowment is for the future, (5) a neighboring church was being sued for taking too big a draw from its endowment, and (6) saying God will provide is not enough. Finally, it was noted that other churches have not given their share in the past and in 2011.


A motion to move the previous question and vote immediately on David’s motion was approved by more than the required two thirds vote.  The meeting then voted on the motion and the motion was defeated.  Ernie Lafontaine then moved that if at the end of 2012 total income for the Operating Budget ( not including any amount drawn from the endowment in excess of the allowed formula amount) exceeds total expenses from the Operating Budget, the difference will be sent to OCWM   This was seconded.  A friendly amendment was accepted inserting the words not to exceed $8,750  between “ difference” and “will” in the last line.  The motion was passed. 


The budget, as amended, was then passed.


Eric then called for the report from the Structure and New Keys Task Force report.  Attention was called to the written report.  David Durfee and Ernie Lafontaine expanded on it, noting the concern about the declining numbers that had been raised several times during the meeting.  Many had noted that the need was to expand our membership, but experience has shown that we can’t just hope they will find their way to Hillside Street and come in.  We must become clear about, and confident about, what we have to offer, in God’s name, and how we can bring it to others in a time of social, attitudinal, and technological change.  The retreat on February 25 will be a start.  Ernie and David urged all to attend.


Before the report of the Nominating Committee, the Clerk offered a motion, which was seconded and passed, Moved, that Constitution and Bylaws provisions related to the numbers and terms members of the Boards and Standing Committees of the Church be suspended until the next Annual Meeting.  The Nominating Committee then proposed election of the slate as printed.  This was seconded and the slate to fill position until the 2013 Annual Meeting was elected.


Eric expressed the church’s thanks to all who had served and were now leaving Boards.  He also thanked the All Church Fellowship people who had overseen the lunch and Tom Steffen for setting up the room for it and the meeting.  After a final plea to attend the retreat, the meeting was  adjourned at 1:31.

Respectfully submitted,

David A. Durfee

David A. Durfee, Scribe

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