Summary of EUU Town Hall Meeting, October 9, 2023

(by Karen Kyker)

On Monday evening, Oct. 9, twenty-four people met together for a “Town Hall Meeting” online, to discuss our EUU Retreat Grant Process as well as a Safe Community statement. Members of the two task forces which were formed at our 2022 AGM to study these issues organized the agenda for this discussion within our wider community. The detailed minutes from the Town Hall meeting can be read here. The discussions were moderated by Emilie Jarrett – thank you, Emilie! And thank you to all who were present and contributed to the rich and helpful discussion, finished in under 2 hours!. We look forward to continuing efforts to build upon what was discussed at this Town Hall.

At the beginning of the meeting, Derek Suchard (leading the fall 2024 retreat committee) asked the gathering for quick feedback about two of the sites he has investigated. There was a collective positive thumbs-up for planning to hold that retreat at the hostel in Cologne, where we have held retreats before. We’re happy and appreciative of Derek’s organizing and communication efforts, as well as the willing efforts and contributions of Lawrence Ramsey of NUUF, Matt Gilsenan of UU Basel, and Tony Zamparutti of BUUF.

The first hour’s discussion focused on the Retreat Grants topic. The Retreat Grants Task Force presented some basic changes that they recommend be made to the written policy to bring policy into line with current practice. Then, the survey results (from 36 respondents) were examined, with some useful information that will be used for further proposals for changes in the policy and procedures around retreat grants. The ideas discussed went beyond grants, however, to talk about alternative approaches to financing retreats and to figuring fees for retreats.

There was broad agreement that the expense of retreats is problematic and needs to be addressed, via grants but also by looking at some alternative means of organizing retreats, and with a continued intent to continue financial support of our ongoing Social Action goals, which focus outside of our community.

The task force has received encouragement to bring proposals to November’s AGM for some immediate changes and to continue the work on this topic toward other changes in the future. Thank you Shulamit Levine-Helleman, Sharon Marshall, Tony Zamparutti, and Karen Kyker for the work up to now, and continuing, on Retreat Grant Policy and Procedures.

The second hour’s discussion focused on a Safe Communities statement for EUU. Task force member Eva Kortekas introduced the topic in hopes that creation of an EUU statement and guidelines will be preventative and will help provide EUU tools for caring for, and educating members, in creating a safe community in which we can all share a place. Then, everyone was invited to silently type their vision of what a “safe community” is like (an anonymized chat transcript available here).

Some ideas raised include the greater behavioral expectations of leadership; the importance in guarding against “safety malpractice”; the limited scope of this statement and future policy (just EUU activities) with the possibility of local fellowships adopting or adapting their own such statements and procedures; the need for EUU structures that can provide appropriate support to individuals or groups  involved in conflicts; and the need to be aware of wider societal structural issues that impact behavioral norms and interpersonal conflicts.

After further discussion, Tony Zamparutti and Eva presented a draft Statement of our EUU Safe Community, to be revised later in light of discussions at this meeting. That revision will be reviewed by CC representatives and then presented for a vote of acceptance at the November AGM. Next steps after that will begin in January 2024 with work at the CC level on a policy statement for how EUU should respond when problems arise.

Thank you to Eva Kortekas and Tony Zamparutti for the work up to now, and continuing, on Safe Community. There was collective appreciation of the opportunity to share, reflect and exchange on this important topic.