Note from the webmaster – be sure to scroll down to see what Carolyn’s proposals are. They deserve consideration by everyone in EUU.
As I near the end of my term as your President, I take pride in what EUU has accomplished over the past two years. We now have an attractive website, which regularly updates us on news and activities through our monthly electronic Unifier newsletter. We have fostered a new R.E. approach which promotes closer work between R.E. at the Fellowship and Retreat level. We have restructured Social Action so that it supports the projects of individual members as well as Fellowships. We have established a working relationship with our UUA Ambassador, Diane Rollert, that provides professional services for our Fellowship congregations and support for our leadership. We have changed our by-laws so that our elections, budget and pledge calendars align. And we have enjoyed soul refreshing retreats in Spa, Dijon and Cologne and laid the groundwork for our upcoming EUT Event in Berlin and the next EUU retreats in Bad Homburg and Prague.
A list of accomplishments like this often ends with a “but” or “however,” and I am afraid that this one is no exception. All of these achievements have been carried out by a very small number of our members. We give the impression of being a vibrant and successful organization, but, in truth, we have an unsustainable structure. When so few people are doing so much of the work, it becomes almost impossible to recruit new individuals to take on any position of responsibility.
There are myriad reasons for the lack of volunteers, and the phenomenon is hardly unusual. Many of us have experienced it at the Fellowship level and at our other volunteer commitments. The same problem exists in the Scouting Community and at my local church in England. And while it is a comfort to know that EUU is not, per se, doing anything wrong and that the decreasing volunteerism is a part of a much larger trend, that knowledge doesn’t solve our current problem.
Perhaps if we truly created a void in EUU someone would step into it. Rather than asking “What happens if we plan a Retreat and no one comes?”, we should be asking “What if we all want to attend a Retreat, but no one is willing to plan it?”. This approach, where the old guard simply refuses to take on more work or even to shoulder the same burdens it has been and announces that the organization will cease to exist on September 1st if no one steps forward to become President and Vice-President (the by-laws explicitly prohibit me from carrying on as president after August 31st) has been suggested and might work. I, however, do not support it. First of all, it does not address our structural problems and just kicks that can down the road. Secondly, one never knows what exactly will step into a void.
For this reason, I am advancing what some members might see as a slate of radical proposals – especially if they are not aware of the current leadership crisis EUU finds itself in. These proposals are to form the basis of a civil discussion about the future of our organization and can be revised or rejected as our members see fit.
- I propose the formation of an eight-member Retreat Committee. Members would serve two years, but the terms would be staggered so that four members would leave and four new members join each year.
- The Retreat Committee would rapidly develop a high level of expertise and experience. The organization of Retreats would become far less time consuming and far more efficient because the individuals doing the planning would already know the ropes.
- Continuity would be maintained within the group. There would be no more need to reinvent the wheel every six months. The committee would invite members they wanted to work with to fill vacancies.
- Fellowships would no longer be compelled to host Retreats and could focus on their own programs. The EUU President would be freed from having to field Fellowship questions about Retreat planning.
- Being on the Retreat Committee would be fun. Members would be able to build closer relationships over time and dedicate time to EUU and Retreats because they wanted to – not because they had to.
- Retreat Committee members could develop passion projects. Retreats that focus on music, on the environment, on aging, on families, etc., would be possible because the nuts and bolts of the retreat planning process would be handled so efficiently that the busy work would no longer rob time from the creative aspects of conceptualizing a Retreat.
- The Retreat Committee would be able to put long-range plans into effect. They could make sure that the geographical locations of Retreats, the speakers invited, and the themes alternated and complimented each other in sensible ways.
- The Retreat Committee would be exempt from Retreat fees. EUU members who previously could not attend Retreats for financial reasons would now be able to do so if they were on the Retreat Committee.
- I propose that Coordinating Council (CC) Meetings be held only at Retreats (total of two a year) to cut down on costs and time commitment for the Officers and Fellowship Representatives.
- The planning of the CC Meetings held between Retreats is one of the most time-consuming jobs of the President and requires finding locations for the meeting itself as well as housing for the attendees.
- While I have tried to make these meetings as enjoyable as possible, many CC Members feel that they are a burden.
- Not being able to attend the meetings is often given as a reason by members for not wanting to join the CC.
- Hosting CC Meetings at the Retreat makes it more likely that we will have Fellowship representation.
- I propose that the post of Social Action Coordinator be eliminated (the post is currently vacant, and we have no volunteers to replace the members who have stepped down). Social Action should be integrated into Retreat Planning. The money collected at the Sunday service would be donated to a charitable organization of the Retreat Committee’s choice (hopefully in keeping with the theme of the Retreat).
- I propose that the Transylvania Student Exchange be taken on as a separate responsibility by one of our members (it is currently the responsibility of the Social Action Coordinator). If we cannot find a member willing to run the Exchange, then the Exchange will have to be discontinued.
- I propose that a member take on the role of Fellowship Coordinator and in that role facilitate the visits of our UUA Ambassador.
- I propose that the role of the officers be more clearly defined and simplified.
- The President should represent EUU to the larger world, participate in the Communications Committee and provide articles to the Unifier, and run the CC meetings and AGM at the Retreats. The President should be relieved of the planning of CC meetings outside of the Retreat (see above). The President should not be involved in the running of Retreats (see above). The President should not be the Fellowship Coordinator (see above).
- The posts of Vice-President and Secretary should be combined, and the responsibilities of the Secretary reduced.
- The Treasurer should be one of the eight members of the Retreat Committee.
- I propose that Pledging be integrated into the Retreat Registration process, eliminating the need for a Pledge Coordinator.
- I propose that we continue to investigate ways to create fellowship using technology such as Zoom and Facebook.
Having reread these proposals, I realize that they represent a seismic shift in how EUU has conducted business up to now. Certainly, it is not appropriate for a departing president to try and force these changes onto an organization before departing stage left. But we don’t have anyone entering stage right. If you believe that EUU should continue using the structures that have served it so well in the past, then now is the time to step forward. I still think the Retreat Committee is an excellent idea, and my hope is that by making the other positions more manageable, we will be able to find volunteers willing to step up to fill our vacancies – before they become a void.