Annual Meeting Invocation
From the power of our memory and history,
With high hopes for the days that lie ahead,
We gather to craft the destiny we share with one another.
We gather with faith in the practice of democracy.
We gather with hearts and minds open
To the wisdom in every voice among us.
In our gathering,
May we dream and design a bold future.
May we bring our best selves to this service,
And may we dream these dreams
And do this work
EUU’s Annual General Meeting of 2022 took place virtually on Saturday, November 5, from 2:30 to 4:00 pm. This was our third consecutive online AGM, and although it could have been done in person at the retreat, we had decided to keep it online and on the weekend after the retreat, as we thought this would increase opportunities for participation and lighten the retreat weekend schedule.
A brief review of the year was presented by the president, Karen Kyker, mentioning challenges of some of our fellowships reestablishing themselves as we move through the end of the pandemic; and progress made this year in getting ourselves administratively up-to-date (big thanks to exiting VP Roland Siebeke!).
Officers for 2023 were elected: President Karen Kyker (UUFP), Vice-president Emily Searle-White (UU Rhein-Mein), Treasurer Jutta Hamm-Ullmann (At-Large), and Secretary Bonnie Friedmann (At-Large).
Our treasurer, Jutta, presented a brief overview of the financial situation of the past year and a budget for the year 2023, a replica of the budget that was approved for 2022. The budget was proposed as such because of unfortunate banking challenges that arose with our bank in the Netherlands, ABN-AMRO, over the past several months. Without access to our account, our treasurer was unable to do necessary transactions and record-keeping through the Fall retreat and up to the date of the AGM. Once we have the necessary information from the bank, a clear picture of the financial situation will be reported to the CC (at our meeting in January 2023). Our intention is to revisit the budget as needed and after the banking information has been obtained. Thanks were given to Peter Jarrett and Eva Kortekaas, along with Jutta Hamm-Ullmann and Karen Kyker, for their many and continuing efforts to resolve the problems with the bank. Peter Jarrett reported about the 2022 Pledge drive, stating that because of the banking issues he is unable to follow-up with people as he typically would during and after the retreat; however, he is making contact with people, and he expects we will still get close to our budgeted amount of pledges for this year.
(Note – The bank account with ABN-AMRO was closed in early December, and a new banking relationship established with Credit Mutuel in France in mid-November. We are reassured by the ease of communications with the new bank as well as the fact that our EUU association is registered in France, so that all of the administrative paperwork that we must do when we change officers is obvious and familiar for the bank. We anticipate much smoother financial operations in the future.)
Hearty thanks were given to Tom Klingl, Pascal Blondel and Katherine Blondel, as well as Alinda Helleman and Shulamit, for all of their time, efforts and equipment that made the recent hybrid retreat experience possible. Shulamit Levine-Helleman presented a report of strengths and weaknesses experienced by online participants at our recent retreat in Mittelwihr, France Oct 28-30), emphasizing that we should focus on facilitating the participation of online participants in the whole retreat experience, and not be content with simply live-streaming our events. It was our first ever ‘hybrid’ retreat (with 20 online registered participants and 81 in-person participants). Although there are a number of important challenges and problems to be addressed and fixed for future retreats, this first experience was a good and positive start.
During the final thirty minutes, we discussed the future of retreat planning within EUU’s organization. This began with a review of the past several years of how our retreat planning teams have been organized, given the context of EUU’s change from fellowship-centered planning teams to fully volunteer teams, PLUS the impact of the pandemic.
Our next retreat will be in Bad Homburg in the Spring, April 14-16. The planning committee is headed by Bonnie Friedmann and Jutta Hamm-Ullmann, and there are quite a few others working with them. Going forward after next spring, however, we do not have our usual “two years ahead” plan as in the past.
The conversation about retreats was invigorating and creative, centered on different visions of a retreat (varying formats, varying numbers of days), the importance of retreat organizers following their own “passion”, the pros and cons of having just one retreat per year (strongly hearing that once a year is problematic in terms of continuity of our organization), the possibility of planning some retreats without a theme speaker but with more community leadership and sharing, etc. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see a fuller report of the discussion.)
Peter Jarrett, Carolyn Burlingame-Goff and Shellie Holubeck volunteered to form a provisional core team for planning a retreat in the spring of 2024. The officers and CC will continue to look at how we can come together in Fall of 2023 with an alternative type of event that will address both the needs of local fellowship development and staying connected as a wider organization.
Volunteer Appreciation awards, and heartfelt thanks were announced for Derek Suchard, Donna Hensen-Boyers, Chet Boyers, Les Andrews, and Roland Siebeke, for all of their contributions to the EUU community.
Only one thing required of us
There is, finally, only one thing required of us:
that is, to take life whole, the sunlight and shadows together;
to live the life that is given us with courage and humor and truth.
We have such a little moment out of the vastness of time for all our wondering and loving.
Therefore let there be no half-heartedness;
rather, let the soul be ardent in its pain, in its yearning, in its praise.
Then shall peace enfold our days, and glory shall not fade from our lives.
General Meeting Report by Karen Kyker
The AGM Discussion about the Future of EUU Retreats
After taking stock of the successful Mittelwihr hybrid retreat held the previous weekend, the EUU’ s Annual General Meeting on Saturday, November 5, lost no time in moving on to discuss what comes next.
EUU President Karen Kyker was blunt about it: retreats are, she told the meeting, a “core part of our existence.” But the fellowship-centered planning under which retreats were scheduled three years in advance is a thing of the past, and no new system has replaced it. And the people who have been steadfastly keeping the retreats going time after time like Matthew Gilsenan and Shulamit Levine-Helleman now need well-deserved time off. Unless a new generation of leaders steps up, future retreats are in danger and will certainly not be possible on a twice-a-year basis.
The organization of future retreats is “not sustainable at this pace,” she said.
During the subsequent brainstorming session, John Eichrodt suggested that the EUU follow the US example of week-long retreats once a year. Or construct retreats based on the wealth of workshops, doing without a speaker.
Former EUU president Carolyn Burlingame-Goff pointed to the central German experience of low-cost “pizza retreats”, where everyone booked their own rooms and ate in youth hostels and did without a speaker. But she warned that retreats have become such an essential part of EUU’s functioning that reducing them to once a year would spell the “death of the organization”.
Gevene Hertz said that previous attempts to stage longer retreats had resulted in little interest from EUU members and pointed to the difficulty of organizing such events around school holidays, which vary from country to country. Shulamit Levine-Helleman pointed to the logistical problem of filling the time over such a long period.
After the soul-searching, the meeting concluded on a positive note: Peter Jarrett, Carolyn Burlingame-Goff and Shellie Holubek volunteered to form the crucial core team which will allow the organization of a retreat in the spring of 2024.
This is a discussion that will no doubt continue.