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2023 Annual Minister and Director of Religious Education, Membership, and Outreach Report.

This year, we focused on building our virtual church into a thriving, democratic, healthy church community that is diverse, welcoming, and socially active while waiting for our new building to be completed.

Our worship services feature a wide variety of sermon topics and musical participation. We sponsor multiple activities to reconnect our members to each other and our congregation.

Our activities included events like our Halloween Party (The Boo at the UU) and our Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony. We also worked hard to send gifts to our homebound folks, including painted pumpkins for Halloween and Winter holiday cookies. We held UUCBV's membership class and added to the membership totals of the congregation. We are up to 91 members. With over forty pledging members, we are on track to move into our new church and keep growing.

Our worship services have continued at the Neal Recreation Center till the church is finished. We are averaging over forty attendees every Sunday, with an average of four weekly guests.

We believe that multigenerational connections, opportunities for family ministry, and young adult community development are vital areas of development at UUCBV.

Next year, having a building to schedule more fellowship time with our members will help make these goals real. More opportunities for fellowship between elders and long-time members and our newer members would be ideal. Soul Matters Small Groups are an essential connection point to nurture. UUCBV made great strides in Outreach this year despite our need for a physical location. Some highlights include the Lunch and Learn series, which invites speakers from various backgrounds and local non-profits to give lunchtime talks to our members and the wider congregation on Thursdays.

Several UUCBV members helped at the Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil hosted by Pride Community Center and Friends Congregational Church. We have had a strong presence at every Brazos Mobile Food Pantry each month and helped develop fundraising and social media campaigns. You can reach out to Allison Faber or me to chat more about what UUCBV has accomplished this year regarding Outreach!

Some lessons learned this year: Building relationships takes a lot of time and requires "boots on the ground" at other organizations' events.

Many people have spoken to us about the desire to have our church become better known in the community. We have found that many progressive/liberal individuals and organizations already know about us. We need to keep showing up consistently. As far as Outreach to the broader community, our new building offers exciting opportunities! One example would be our beautiful gardens or offering free storytime for toddlers. Our little free pantries will also help people associate UUCBV with the kind of radical hospitality we know can transform our community and world.

This year, we were in a temporary location, and our weeknight meetings were held in public parks. Many committee meetings and activities were held at the minister's small house.

While it is good to have a place to meet for no rental costs or to be outside, it is a difficult practice to keep up for a long time. Despite these obstacles, our RE program is strong. We have a group of regulars who attend Sunday RE. Sunday RE's curriculum has changed to Soul Matters, which matches our small groups and worship services. It has been a great resource, and the kids enjoy the lessons.

Allison's goal is to have a Sunday youth class in addition to our RE classes. Many teens visit and the Soul Matters curriculum is designed for children up to 5th or 6th grade. Developing our offerings for teens/young adults is a goal for the coming year. The younger UUs have become a close-knit group, which will only continue. We want to emphasize that some attendees do not necessarily come to Sunday service.

Opportunities for the community outside of Sunday morning are essential to community building. Our Wednesday night elementary class has a lower attendance rate than last year. However, we think this offering will grow when we are in our church building. Our Friday night Youth group is a tight-knit group that has maintained its attendance for two years now. We want to grow this program in the new building.

For adult programming, we have continued book read groups that switch between structured book reads, including the UU Common Read, and looser discussions over the books we are reading. We will continue our Banned Book Club over the summer.

One new offering this year is our (Un)Common Threads fiber arts and maker group. This fiber arts group has been significant for our young adults, although the group is open to all ages. We are currently planning our church banner for General Assembly.

Perhaps our Soul Matters Small Group ministry is the most crucial new offering this year. Our three small groups are tight-knit, but we look forward to even more participation from our adults in the coming year.

One lesson from Religious Education this year is the knowledge that the program can and will grow. Our young families are so precious to us, and seeing babies in our worship space warms our hearts. However, for more age-differentiated programming to occur, we will need volunteer teachers. The format of Religious Education may shift when we move into our new building, but for sustained growth, various multigenerational classes may solve this problem.

Finally, one of the goals for the RE program is to install a new Our Whole Lives or OWL program. Please let Allison know if you are OWL certified, and we don't know! If you are interested in getting trained in this sex education program, please let Allison know! She works closely with Friends Church staff and the Pride Community Center to hold a training in town for the fall.

This program is excellent for our kids, but it could also transform the lives of children in our community, especially in a political climate targeting our LGBTQIA2S+ children and youth.

Overall, this has been a very successful year for RE and our church ministry. We look forward to thriving in the future.

In Faith, Rev. Kiya Heartwood She/Her/They

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