Letter from the President, January 2019

Dear Members/Friends of UUCJ,

I’ve started this letter about three times and then events intervened before I could send it to you. Now I’m trying again. Thanks to Board members who helped with this letter. You’ve heard much church news and opinions recently. I want to build on my remarks made at the Special Congregational meeting on January 13 and during the Sunday Service on January 20. The Board drafted agreements with Phillip and Tyler in December to extend their contracts through January 31, and both have been signed. Penny Reid, Laura TaVoularis, Linda Plummer and I are the Personnel Committee.

Phillip. The Board asked Phillip in early January to meet with the Personnel Committee to resume negotiations. He considered our request but resigned on January 18. His resignation letter was sent to you. Connie Goodbread of the UUA told me that Phillip had to be careful in communicating with our church. The Board is considering his request to extend his contract until February 9 when he will perform a memorial service, and will likely approve it this week.

Tyler. Tyler submitted his resignation to the Board on January 11, and it was sent to you. He met with the Personnel Committee and Children and Youth Religious Education Committee (CYREC) chair Helene Kamps-Stewart on January 16. The meeting was very productive as he had planned a transition including recommending who should be responsible for each of his duties. He recommended hiring a Religious Education Coordinator to lead the Children and Youth RE program on an interim basis while a search for a Director of RE is being conducted. The Personnel Committee held an interview on Sunday, January 20 with the candidate he recommended. Thanks to Helen Kamps-Stewart and Nicole Story for participating in the interview. The Personnel Committee met on Saturday, January 26 to develop a recommended employment agreement for the candidate to approve. The approved agreement will be sent to the full Board for finalization.

UUA Southern Region Staff. Connie Goodbread sent us a description of the UUA’s Pathfinder process. It is a 3-5 year process in which UUA staff helps a congregation address its issues and develop its own solutions. The cost is estimated at $9,000. This is a discount because UUCJ is an Honor Congregation based on our annual gift to the UUA. In a lengthy conversation with Ms. Goodbread about our church and the Pathfinder process, I asked about the Pathfinder program and the “pre-work.” She urged us to look at several organizations in addition to the UUA to facilitate discussions with members, including the Alban Institute and Jacksonville consultants. The UUCJ Board will need to learn more about Pathfinder in order to decide how to proceed.

We also discussed the Board retreat planned for March 2. She said that she and another staff member could facilitate the retreat. She suggested building a new covenant, asking why we exist, asking how have each of us been faithful servants or where we have failed, and what stands in the way of serving our call. This approach would be different from the mechanics of serving on the Board, which would be addressed at another meeting(s).

Special Congregational Meeting. Thanks to everyone who participated on January 13. The congregation was updated on current status with Phillip and Tyler, and discussions with UUA staff. Members had the opportunity to speak about recent events, approved minutes of the previous meeting, and elected 4 Board members. Congratulations to newly-elected Board members Bowen Barrs, Elizabeth Dion, Karen Smith-Scott and Jennifer Tucker. Karen had been appointed to fill a vacancy.

Board Organizing Meeting. On January 13, the Board selected officers and Portfolio Leaders. Join me in wishing them much success for the church.

  • President – Tom Larson
  • Vice-President – Penny Reid
  • Treasurer – Elizabeth Dion
  • Secretary – Karen Smith-Scott
  • Inreach Portfolio – Tessie Bond
  • Operations Portfolio – Jennifer Tucker
  • Outreach Portfolio – Laura TaVoularis
  • Stewardship Portfolio – Bowen Barrs

Volunteers. Thank you to all the volunteers and staff who continue to make our church work. Katie Dalbey, Worship Committee chair, and Worship Associate have arranged excellent services for December, January, and February. We appreciate the faithful work of the greeters and ushers. Rob McKennon, Buildings & Grounds chair and Technology Team chair, orchestrates video streaming of our services and leads the response to building maintenance issues. Jeanne Huebner, Anne McKennon, Sharon Scholl and other talented musicians have continued to give us great music. Helene Kamps-Stewart leads CYREC. Several of her team helped present a great no-rehearsal Christmas Pageant. Karen Smith-Scott, Bowen Barrs, and Hospitality Team hosts supply us with coffee and snacks each Sunday. Communications Director Tina Ramey is doing a great job sending you information about church activities and important documents concerning our current turmoil. Administrator Virginia Deroy is handling important administrative tasks such as the copier lease and church insurance very well. Bookkeeper Judy Anderson quietly completes bookkeeping tasks. I’m sorry if I missed anyone or any tasks. We do appreciate the volunteers and staff.


  • Signed agreements with Phillip and Tyler through January 31.
  • Conducted a Special Congregational meeting.
  • Held an organizing meeting on January 13.
  • Personnel Committee met with Tyler.
  • Personnel Committee met with a candidate for interim RE leader and began drafting an employment agreement.
  • Talked to Connie Goodbread about the UUA’s Pathfinder program.


  • Personnel Committee will recommend an interim RE program leader and employment agreement to the Board.
  • Follow up with Connie Goodbread about the Pathfinder program, Board retreat agenda, and holding a conference call with the Board.
  • Plan how to build the event timeline approved by the congregation on January 13.
  • Communicate often and openly with you.

Tom Larson
President, UUCJ

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