EUU Coordinating Council Meeting 17 May 2023

Summary of CC Meeting Minutes – May 17, 2023

By Karen Kyker – for the Unifier, May 21

We began the meeting with two brief rounds of quiet and typed sharing of Joys and Concerns, providing a rapid and very enriching view of what people in our fellowships are thinking about and doing (in addition to reports provided in our pre-meeting notes). Summaries of the Joys and Concerns are listed after the business items that follow.

A brief review of the recent Bad Homburg retreat highlighted very positive feedback and experiences; raised the reality that a commitment to hybrid retreats entails a significantly greater workload for retreat organizers, particularly as we do not have consistently available technical equipment and expertise; reported that the budget overrun was as expected and approved at our previous CC meeting given the contract that we had with the center and our attendance rate, and that future retreats should be budgeted with an expectation of lower numbers of attendees; confirmed that accessibility issues (i.e. no elevator) means that we cannot envision returning to the Bad Homburg retreat center, even though other aspects of the site are positive.

General discussion about retreats focused primarily on retreat sites and costs, including travel costs and travel time, with a suggestion that the costs of retreats take into account the “travel”  factor. Much was said about the rapidly changing pricing structures of hostels, and a query of whether our fairly recent statements that some sites (e.g. Spa) are “too expensive” are outdated, now that many hostels are more costly; the cost of retreat sites is generally higher. Suggestion that EUU do a updated review of current costs and amenities at sites (old and new) to have a realistic view of what is available. Requests to look north for sites to make access easier for Netherlands, northern Germany and Belgium; sites in the Netherlands are still much more expensive than elsewhere.

As for ensuring we continue with hybrid retreats: organizational “apprentices” are needed to learn the jobs and a serious budget line item for professional sound equipment (rental and operations) is needed, as we cannot expect to always have experienced volunteers lending their own equipment; the cost of the equipment is a reason that registration costs for attending “online” cannot be free.

Spring Retreat 2024 in Saarbrücken – The site is expected to be quite a bit less expensive than the recent retreat; it has 5 meeting rooms (workshops + RE) plus a large room that seats 80-90 people. We will not have exclusive use of the site during the retreat. The committee is looking at setting fees for young adults and children very low so as to support our goal to be accessible to younger people and younger families. There will be vegan and vegetarian food options, and rooms accessible for people with reduced mobility. Train service to the city is pretty good, and the distance to the hostel from the station is about 20 minutes walking (relatively near, as in Bad Homburg).

For subsequent retreats – Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 – there is as yet nothing organized. The officers have contact with a potential volunteer to organize one, and an idea of who else to “tap” for the other. We need to get these two retreat plans underway including finding locations if they are to happen. A reminder: the fact that we no longer require fellowships to organize retreats does not mean that fellowships can’t do so! Doing so can be a good community-building experience if there is sufficient energy and people-power to get it started.

The Retreat Grants Task Force has met twice since March to explore, brainstorm, discuss and organize the set of ideas that have been in circulation around retreat grants over the past several retreats. Brief discussion to not make this an issue if it isn’t an issue but those on the grant committee find that this is an issue, as there are people continuing to say that retreats are too expensive and that is why they cannot attend. Focus of discussions have kernalized around reviewing our “policy,” exploring issues of “stigma” around requesting grants, and communications all to help remove barriers to participation in retreats when financial need is an issue. The task force intends to organize a community-wide discussion meeting (online) on these issues in the fall to allow input from anyone who is interested, before creating a set of proposals for consideration by the October CC meeting, as well as at the Fall 2023 AGM.

The UUA Ambassador Described the current remuneration situation for the annual visits from the UUA Ambassador: The UUA pays for transportation to and from Europe. The EUU has a budget line item to support this annual visit: the Ambassador submits receipts for travel within Europe, between sites visited. The fellowships that are visited contribute a sum (according to their means) to the EUU, to contribute to the line item, and they provide housing for the Ambassador. It was proposed, discussed, and approved, that the EUU give a sum of 500 EUR to the UUA Ambassador for the visit this spring 2023.

Communications – There was not time at the end of the CC meeting for the Social Action Committee to briefly report, and this highlights a challenge at our CC meetings: a tension between information items that need communicating and discussion items which require time, plus the reality of limited time and energy. We do not want to spend so much time online (1.5 hours on an evening after work is a lot) and the end-time needs to be respected. We are all challenged in this to be succinct and to avoid repetition. There are also concerns that information is not flowing well between local fellowships and the EUU CC. A brief discussion about having a 3-hour meeting (zoom) on a weekend, to allow lengthier discussions, showed some degree of support by most, but a few very clear objections. Some people missed having an in-person CC meeting at the recent retreat, and others appreciated the lightened load of not having the CC meeting then. The officers will spend some time focused on these concerns with a view to helping improve organization of meetings and communications.

Future meetings: 1) Next CC mtg (evening, business) late summer, early fall (to be determined via a poll for all CC members before the summer); 2) a “Grants for Retreats” TOWN HALL for the wider EUU community in early-mid October; 3) CC mtg (evening, business) preceding the AGM in late October; 4) EUU AGM (online) in November; 5) new year CC mtg (evening, business) January 2024.

Quiet & typed sharing of Joys and Concerns

1) “To what degree is there any conflict between volunteering at local fellowships and with EUU?” The first topic elicited numerous reports of the challenges of finding enough people to take leadership roles in local fellowships. A query do we think that many people in fellowships don’t feel a need for any more activity like retreats? I think it was different before the internet when UUs in Europe felt more isolated.” A lack of awareness about EUU in some local fellowships. A new inter-fellowship Social Action project that is a first of its kind (see the article in the current Unifier (Apr-May) and volunteer!). Hope that maybe some of the inertia that many local fellowships are experiencing is post-pandemic inertia that will shift. A comment that EUU retreat attendance provides new people and energy for EUU leadership, as well as supporting and reanimating individuals who come to retreats.

2) “Other fellowship Joys and Concerns” – The At-Large Fellowship has grown larger, thanks in big part to the many virtual fellowship gatherings that Shulamit has created and often leads; the number of queries about At-Large are much greater than the number of people who begin participating. We are looking forward to the upcoming visit by Diane Rollert at the end of May in Brussels, and early June in Frankfurt with UURM with hopes that the big event at UURM will help to energize and rebegin some growth there after significant changes in the membership (a lot of moving away), and with concerns about the small size of the Brussels Fellowship. (Encouragements to remember that we intentionally want to make sure that fellowships feeling a need for support from Diane will all have access to her presence, regardless of the size of the fellowship.) There is new energy and stability at NUUF; several new officers with diverse backgrounds in Paris at UUFP; potential benefit of using chalice circles as a way to be visible and welcoming in the wider community, along with the challenge of who can host these, and where to host these “live” in a virtual-burnout time. Citations of successful, ongoing virtual events Book Club, Happy Hour that continue to attract participation from a variety of people across fellowships. There are some struggles with social dynamics that are problematic in the operations and experiences of events and processes; the EUU officers, other EUU leaders, and our UUA Ambassador are all people to reach out to for support and help.