March Congregational Conversation

About 20 people participated in the conversation. There were two main purposes of the conversation: to share the results of the pledge drive and provide a summary of the notes taken at the pledge socials

Results of the Pledge Drive
(These figures have been updated for this report to reflect the pledges that have been received since March 16.) As of March 28, there have been 95 pledges received, (88 members, 7 friends) for a total pledged amount of $157,227.  This does not meet the amount pledged last year ($175,000) and falls far short of the $195,000 we had hoped to raise. Those present were concerned and disappointed to learn these results.

Some of those present shared these Reflections on this news:

  • We’re an aging congregation–for some of us, our income is shrinking
  • There is an uncertainty factor for people that is greater than in the past. The recession has made people more cautious, they don’t want to commit to a pledge if they’re not sure they can fulfill it.
  • We are too dependent on a few large pledges.
  • There is no way we can start a capital campaign if we are on a deficit budget
  • The congregation needs to know the pledge results soon and be informed of the implications for our budget

The following Concerns were expressed:

  • How can we keep producing fundraisers to fill holes in our budget?
  • We will not be able to support a minister if pledging continues to go down
  • How do we hope to retain an administrative staff if we don’t give them periodic raises?
  • How will we keep our programs running?
  • During the pledge campaign it might have been helpful for us to see how the money would be spent. Perhaps the committees could have articulated “This is what we do now. This is what we would like to do, given a bigger budget.
  • Crafting a budget from this pledge amount will be extremely difficult.

Pledge Social Summary

The Board read through all of the notes from the pledge socials and pulled out some “recurring themes.”  Below are the themes and what participants of the Congregational Conversation had to say about them:

 What people like about Tree Of Life

1. Community was #1 thing that people valued about our church; “a sense of family” “a place I belong”

2. There were many positive comments about Sean’s ministry, the RE program and the Choir.

3. Our liberal/welcoming message

What people want for Tree Of Life

1. To get our message out, to “be known”  or “to be a presence” in McHenry

  • We seem to be still trying to determine our “identity” Perhaps we need to revisit our mission/vision to help us define ourselves
  • Promote our Second Sunday efforts—get that news out to papers, on Facebook and our website

2. More gatherings, events, potlucks, etc

  • Our location keeps some people from participating outside of Sunday morning.
  • Map where people live and figure out other places/ways to get together.
  • At one of his previous churches, Sean said they had once-a-month potluck followed by committee meetings. Only downside is if you were on more than one committee.
  • Set up a few small tables in the sanctuary right after church for those who’d like to sit down and visit, or even discuss the service
  • Small groups are powerful. It’s not so important for ALL of us to be together at once, as long as everyone’s needs are being met
  • Provide more family friendly activities (and get a couple of high chairs and booster seats for church meals!)

3. More Adult RE opportunities:

  • M.E. Tanabe tried for 2 years, offered classes before and after church, during the day and evenings, with very little participation.
  • Adult education more than just a chance to get together. It creates a different way of being together.
  • There seems to be a desire among newer members to have this kind of connection. We want to create a spiritual environment that people can reach into and learn from

4. For the church to concentrate on 1 or 2 projects and do them really well.

  • We are trying to do too many things and people feel overwhelmed by the frequent requests for help

After this the discussion shifted to membership. These remarks were shared:

  • It’s not so much fundraising as member-raising. If we take care of our current members better so they feel connected and find ways to attract new members we will grow.
  • Membership Development has been talking about a “buddy” system of all members so everyone gets a call if we haven’t seen them for a while.
  • Get Acquainted dinners
  • Have reserved parking spaces near the building for visitors
  • Member Development would like to make more follow up calls with those who visit for a few weeks then don’t come back

 Please join us for our next Congregational Conversation on Sunday, April 13.


Rummage Sale

Hello All Members and Friends of Tree of Life,

We all had a great time with the Auction in the fall and now we are looking to more fun in the spring with a big church rummage sale. While rummage sales can be a lot of work, they can be very profitable, a service to members and the community, and great fun for the whole family. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to make this event one we will want to do every year. Here is how you can help:

  • We need everybody to donate good, clean, working condition items. This is a great opportunity to de-clutter and know it is going to a great cause. 10% of the proceeds are going to be donated to a local charity. The rest will be used to support our congregation.
  • We need you to sign up to help sort, price, and sell all the great items. There is something for the whole family to do here. Everybody who puts in 4 or more hours before the sale begins can pick out an item of their choice to purchase before anybody else can.
  • We need folks with trucks, pickups, or vans to help pick up items from people who cannot bring it to the church themselves.

So when is all this going to happen, you ask? Here is the time line:

Sunday April 27, 2014 Noon to 5pm: Drop off Rummage, Set up tables and racks, sort items, and pick up large items as needed. Lunch will be served to all staying to work. We need lots of help on this day.

Monday April 28, 2014 9am-7pm: Rummage sorting and pricing. The more the merrier.

Tuesday April 29, 2014 9am-7pm: Rummage sorting and pricing. The more the merrier.

Wednesday April 30, 2014 9am-5pm: Rummage pricing.

7pm-9pm: Members and Friends only Night with Ice Cream Social

All items will be available for double price (kids pay regular price)

Thursday May 1, 2014 10am-5pm: Open to the public at regular price.

Friday May 2, 2014 10am-1pm: Open to the public at regular price.

4pm-8pm: ½ price sale.

Saturday May 3, 2014 10am-12pm: Large items ½ price or $2 a bag

12pm-1:30pm: Large items ½ price or best offer, $1 a bag.

1:30pm-finish: clean up and get ready for Sunday. Lots of help needed.

To sign up to help, see Judy Stettner (Rummage Queen 2014) at church or call Judy at (815)893-0232 or email

Beware! Judy has some rules about your donations so open up the attached documents.

Donating Items to Tree of Life Rummage Sale

Rummage Sale Size Tags

March 23–Service Sunday

We kick off a new kind of Sunday morning together this week. First we will gather for a brief worship service, then participate in service opportunities both at Tree of Life and in the community. We will gather afterwards for a potluck lunch and celebration.

March 9–Love/ability

To kick off our participation in a new program dealing with disability justice, Rev. Sean and the “OPEN” committee will call us to celebrate and welcome people of all abilities to journey in community together.

March 2–Radical Hospitality

A prophetic challenge is to be welcoming of ‘the other’ – the idea, belief or person who is a stranger to us – even when, or especially when, we do not wish to do so.  We will be powerful in expressing our unity when individuals can embrace the person who differs from them. Are we ready for the challenge?

From the Board

Congregational Conversation Part 2

Our Congregational Conversation on January 26 covered a lot of ground. In my previous article, I reported on the discussions around financial news and worship arts. Other topics of discussion concerned our ministers.

Intern Minister

As chair of the intern minister committee that supports Ja, Kaz stated they are using UUA guidelines to evaluate her.  Kaz reminded us while it’s important we let the committee know how we feel about Ja’s performance, it is also important we express our likes or concerns with Ja directly.

Healthy Ministry Team

Those present were also advised that members of the Board (specifically Carol Alfus, Gale Harris and Whit Sears) are available to facilitate discussions with Sean if a member has a question or concern to discuss with him. It was stressed that anonymous complaints/concerns will not be relayed to Sean or Ja.


When asked about the number of services Sean leads, it was explained that his contractual agreement is for 3 Sundays on, 1 Sunday off, typical for UUA ministers. Some of those weeks off Sean is attending conferences or classes.


A member stated she would like to see Sean “Take some risks” and include more of his own story in his sermons. Kaz said when the ministerial search team was tasked with finding a minister they were told we needed a Minister who was a strong preacher, and “That is exactly what we have.”

Pastoral Care

Sean works with the Community Care Committee and visits members at hospitals, nursing homes etc.  He will always ask the person if they would like a visit, and if someone tells him not to come, then he honors that request.  Members were reminded that the only way Sean and the Community Care Committee can be aware that a member is in need of pastoral care is if the church office or the Community Care Committee is notified.

Personal/Professional Relationships

One person questioned why Sean cannot “be a personal friend.” It was explained that UUA minister training discourages friendships between minister and member, as it could lead to the impression of certain people “having the minister’s ear.” Ministers are taught to maintain a friendly yet professional distance; “If I’m your friend I can’t be your minister.”

The next Congregational Conversation will be Sunday, March 23, following the service. Please join us!

Carol Alfus, President

Intern Insights: UU Common Read

Each year the Unitarian Universalist Association chooses a book for congregations to read together. The annual Common Read is selected to fit with a specific Unitarian Universalist ideal.  This year’s theme is Economic Justice and the Common Read is Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman.

Our Green Sanctuary and Social Justice Committees will be working together to coordinate the reading of Behind the Kitchen Door in our congregation followed by either one 90 minute discussion group or two 45 minute groups. There are multiple options for obtaining the book and Patrick Murfin has been detailing those in the Church Happenings every week.

I have ordered several copies of the book from the UUA Bookstore which I will have available on Sunday March 9th. Hopefully you will take a look at the book and sign up to be a part of the Tree of Life Common Read. Once we have an idea of how many people are interested in ordering the book from the UUA we will be able to determine what type of discount we can get.

This book will help us to understand what goes on in our favorite restaurant or fast food place. It will also give us insight as to what raising the minimum wage would mean for people who are barely getting by on their current incomes.

How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? And how do poor working conditions—discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens—affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Saru Jayaraman, who launched the national restaurant workers’ organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, sets out to answer these questions by following the lives of restaurant workers in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Detroit, and New Orleans.