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Bylaws Information Meeting, Monday May 2

Bylaws Changes Proposed
One of the things that makes Unitarian Universalist congregations different from those in other religious dominations is our system of self governance. Each UU congregation is autonomous -each congregation selects its leaders, sets its own priorities and chooses its own ministers and staff. How those choices are made and under what rules and structures are laid out in its policy governance documents, primarily its bylaws. Bylaws provide the organizational basis for pursuing our faith objectives within a faith community of our own design. Bylaws also satisfy the legal requirements needed for establishing any organization. At First U we choose to govern through bylaws that are supported and voted on by the congregation.

Apart from the overarching structure they provide, bylaws also authorize, guide and direct policymaking on behalf of the congregation through an elected Board of Trustees. In the case of First U, our bylaws are written to allow the Board to operate under the system of Policy Governance. In other words, the Board doesn’t manage the Church on a day-to-day basis. That task falls to the Executive Team, led by our Minister. The Board establishes policies that define the outer limits of what the Executive Team can do. Within those limits, the Executive Team has considerable discretion to do their jobs and make decisions for the Church.

The Board also fulfills its governance functions through the Governance Committee. Part of the committee’s responsibility is to periodically review our bylaws to see whether they need to be changed or updated. The last time we did this was 2016 and the changes were approved by the Congregation at our annual meeting that year. Without knowing it, the changes made then to allow remote meetings and voting provided us with the tools we’ve used so effectively in managing our activities during the pandemic.

During the past year, the Committee reviewed the Church’s bylaws and is recommending changes for the Congregation’s consideration. While the proposed changes are not as extensive as in the past, and primarily provide clarifications and updates to align with current procedures, there are three more substantive changes.
One clarifies existing confusing language that might have allowed a Board member to serve for nine years instead of the six year limit.
The two other key changes spell out procedures for hiring and dismissing a minister not called by the Congregation. Our ministerial changes last year revealed procedural weaknesses that needed strengthening.

A summary of the key changes is provided at this link. A more detailed rendition of changes made to the original bylaws can be viewed in the tracking document here.

Please review the document and direct any questions to Governance Committee Chair Mike McCabe,

Also, on Monday, May 2, from 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., we will be holding an informational Zoom meeting to discuss changes and answer questions. Registration is required. If you’re interested, email Mike at and you will be sent a Zoom invitation.