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How Our Church Works

(view our Constitution & Bylaws as a word document)

Constitution & Bylaws ~ Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst
As adopted by the Congregation at a meeting held on February 20, 1958 (adjourned to February 27, 1958) and as amended on February 10, 1961, February 2, 1962, October 17, 1965, January 14, 1970, February 5, 1971, March 9, 1975 (adjourned to March 23, 1975), February 17, 1980, February 3, 1989, and February 7, 1999.


Preamble
Article 1.
Name
Article II.
Allegiances
Article III.
Purpose
Article IV.
Membership
Article V.
Meetings
Article VI.
Board of Trustees
Article VII.
Nominations and Elections
Article VIII.
Officers
Article IX.
Ministry
Article X.
Social Project & Public Positions
Article XI.
Amendments

PREAMBLE
The UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF AMHERST is a religious corporation organized under the statutes of the State of New York by virtue of an Order of the Supreme Court thereof granted and entered March 7, 1958, which Order was based upon a petition setting forth the circumstances of the Church and asking approval of a certificate of its Incorporation.

ARTICLE 1.
NAME
As provided in its certificate of incorporation, the name of the organization is UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF AMHERST, hereinafter called the corporation.

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ARTICLE II.
ALLEGIANCES
Section A. This corporation recognizes and is in general accord with the liberal religious philosophy promulgated by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America.
Section B. Affiliation of this corporation with any religious body, other than the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America, shall require a two-thirds vote of members present and voting at a corporate meeting.
Section C. This corporation shall be congregational in polity and, within the limits imposed by this Constitution and Bylaws as adopted or subsequently amended, shall be autonomous in fiscal matters, ecclesiastical polity, and internal organization.
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ARTICLE III.
PURPOSE
It is the purpose of this corporation to uphold the principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations of North America which are:

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America, covenant to affirm and promote:
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of democratic process within our congregations and society at large;
  • The goals of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The living tradition we share draws from many sources:
  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which can call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and enables our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.

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ARTICLE IV.
MEMBERSHIP

Section A. No person shall be excluded from membership because of any creedal requirement.
Section B. A person wishing to join this church must attend a Prospective Members Conference before he/she signs the Membership Book in the presence of an officer or the Minister signifying his/her intention to accept the privileges and responsibilities of membership.

Section C. Any person age 16 or over who has signed the Membership Book shall become a voting member after a 60 day waiting period. An ongoing member will be qualified to vote provided he or she has made a recorded financial contribution of any amount to the church for the preceding fiscal year and has either made a recorded financial contribution to the church or pledged to make a financial contribution of any amount to the church for the current fiscal year. New members and inactive members returning from out of town will be qualified to vote in the fiscal year during which they joined or returned if they have made a recorded financial contribution to the church or pledged to make a financial contribution of any amount to the church for the current fiscal year.
Section D. The Board of Trustees shall review the membership roll once a year. They shall designate those who have not participated in any programs of the church or whose address has been unknown for a year or more. The secretary of the Board of Trustees shall communicate in writing, where possible, with those so designated to ascertain their wishes relative to resignation, continuance or transferal to the inactive list without right to vote. Membership shall be restored upon request from any person on the inactive list or by vote of the Board of Trustees.

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ARTICLE V.
MEETINGS
Section A. The corporation shall hold its annual meeting on or about the first Friday in February in each year at such time and place as may be decided by the Board of Trustees and stated in the notice of the meeting. The annual meeting shall:

1) Elect three (3) trustees for three (3) year terms;
2) Elect three (3) members of the nominating committee;
3) Elect one (1) trustee to fill each vacancy for its unexpired term on the Board of Trustees;
4) Elect one (1) trustee for each new term or vacancy on the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst Endowment Trust.
5) Transact such other businesses as may be properly brought before it.

Section B. Special meetings may be called by the Board of Trustees at any time on its own motion, and shall be called within one month on the written request of thirty(30) or more voting members. The purpose and scope of special meetings shall be fully stated in the notice thereof, and no other matters may be acted upon at such meetings.
Section C. The Trustees shall call notice of time and place of the annual meeting and of any special meeting, and of the purpose and scope thereof, to be read publicly from the pulpit of the church at the service on two consecutive Sundays preceding the date of the meeting, and identical notice in writing shall be sent to all persons eligible to vote at least ten (10) days in advance of the meeting.
Section D. At each annual meeting, the Board of Trustees shall submit for congregational approval its budget for the current calendar year. The budget shall contain an item of financial support for the Unitarian Universalist Association which shall be separately considered and voted upon by the congregation.
Section E. At all congregational meetings of the corporation, at least fifty (50) voting members shall be necessary to constitute a quorum.
Section F. Only in the case of an emergency declared by the Board of Trustees during July and August, the Board of Trustees may call a congregational meeting by mailing notice of such a meeting to every member of the congregation ten (10) days in advance of such meeting. The purpose and scope of an emergency meeting shall be fully stated in this notice thereof and no other matters may be acted upon at such meeting. At such meetings, thirty (30) voting members shall constitute a quorum.
Section G. Where not inconsistent with this Constitution and Bylaws, Robert's Rules of Order shall govern.

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ARTICLE VI.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Section A. Under the laws of the State of New York, the Board of Trustees i
s given the responsibility the duty of safeguarding and promoting the well-being and progress of the corporate body, and all its decisions and actions shall be directed to that end. It shall have the authority to interpret and construe this Constitution and Bylaws.
Section B. The Board of Trustees shall consist of nine (9) members. At each annual meeting three (3) trustees shall be elected for three (3) year terms, and trustees shall be elected to fill vacancies for any unexpired terms.
No trustee shall be eligible to serve on the Board for one year after the expiration of his or her full three (3) year term. Any trustee after completion of a partial term of two (2) years or less may be re-elected for a full three (3) year term.
Section C. Except in the matter of salaries, the Board of Trustees shall have no power without consent of a congregational meeting to contract any obligation in excess of $4000, or to transfer or encumber real estate.
Section D. Responsibility for establishing salaries, employment, promotion, and release of employees other than the minister shall rest with the Board of Trustees.
Section E. The Board of Trustees may select from the congregation such committees or chairpersons as it shall see fit, except as otherwise provided herein, and is empowered to authorize the chairperson of committees to select the members thereof, and shall promulgate a manual prescribing the duties of the respective communities.
Section F. Any new group formed on is own initiative shall advise the Board of Trustees of its objectives, and the Board may recognize a new group as a church committee.
Section G. The Board of Trustees shall meet regularly at least once in each month except July & August. In so far as possible, such meetings shall be held on church property. Notice of such meetings shall be given to each trustee. A report of all conclusive action taken by the Board shall be published and distributed among members of the congregation.
Section H. Any trustee who shall have been absent from three consecutive regular meetings of the Board of Trustees without a valid reason acceptable to six members of the Board is automatically retired from the Board of Trustees.
Section I. If any trustees ceases to be a qualified voter of this corporation, his/her office shall be declared vacant and written notice of such declaration shall be sent to him/her.
Section J. If any trustee is removed as hereinbefore prescribed, or resigns or dies, the vacancy shall be filled by appointment by the remaining trustees until the next annual meeting.
Section K. Six voting members of the Board shall constitute a quorum, except during July and August when five shall suffice.

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ARTICLE VII.
NOMINATIONS AND ELECTIONS
Section A. There shall be a nominating committee of five (5) members, three (3) of whom shall be elected at the annual meeting. The chairperson of the retiring nominating committee shall be the fourth member. The Board of Trustees shall appoint the additional member at its first regular meeting following the annual meeting. The nominee of the Board of Trustees shall not be eligible to become chairperson of the nominating committee.
Section B. No later than March 15th of each year, the Board of Trustees shall charge the nominating committee to meet for the purpose of selecting its chairperson from the three newly elected members and to review the duties of the committee.
Section C. No later than the first day of November of each year, the nominating committee shall submit to the Board of trustees a slate consisting of:
1) At least three (3) candidates for the three (3) year terms on the Board of trustees;
2) At least three (3) candidates for the succeeding nominating committee;
3) At least one (1) candidate for each vacancy for its unexpired term occurring on the Board of Trustees.
4) At least one (1) candidate for each new term or vacancy on the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst Endowment Trust.
Section D. On request of the board of Trustees, the nominating committee shall submit its suggestions for the filling of the interim vacancies on the Board of Trustees and the nominating committee itself.

Section E. Any voting members of the corporation may send suggestions for nominations to the nominating committee. Notice of this provision shall be published during the month of October.
Section F. The report of the nominating committee shall be published during the first week of November, Members of the congregation may make further nominations for trustee or member of the nominating committee by securing a petition signed by at least ten (10) voting members, providing that the consent of the nominee has been obtained. Such additional nominations must be received by the Board of Trustees no later than the 15th day of December, and shall be incorporated alphabetically into the slate which shall be again published at least two (2) weeks before the annual meeting.
Section G. To be eligible for nomination to the Board of Trustees, a person must be a voting member of this corporation for at least one year.
Section H. There shall be no bar to eligibility to nomination to the Board of Trustees or the nominating committee by reason of age, so long as membership requirements are met, and to assure an opportunity for consideration among young members under 21 years of age, the nominating committee annually shall formally consult with the youth of the church, and consider the names of young members eligible and interested.
Section I. Any vacancy occurring in the nominating committee shall be filled by appointment by the Board of Trustees of a voting member of the corporation.
Section J. Election shall be by ballot, except when there is but one nominee for each position to be filled, in which case the Secretary may be instructed to cast a single ballot for each nominee.

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ARTICLE VIII. OFFICERS

Section A. The officers of this corporation shall be the Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson, the Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the Treasurer. The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and Secretary shall be members of the Board of Trustees. The Treasurer shall be appointed by the Board from outside its membership, shall be a voting member of the corporation, and at least twenty-one (21) years of age.
Section B. At the first meeting of the Board of Trustees after the annual meeting it shall select the officers for the ensuing year as the first order of business. Each officer shall hold office until the corresponding meeting of the next year, or until his/her successor shall have been duly selected.
Section C. Each officer shall have the powers and perform the duties customarily allocated to his/her office. These duties may be defined and additional duties may be assigned by the Board of Trustees.
Section D. An officer may be recalled by a two-thirds vote of the entire Board of Trustees.

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ARTICLE IX.
MINISTRY
Section A. The minister shall be, or shall become within a year after having been duly elected, affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America.
Section B. The minister shall be elected by secret ballot at a meeting of the corporation
by a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting. He/she shall have indefinite tenure until duly severed by resignation, death or dismissal. Three months notice of resignation or dismissal shall be required. Dismissal of the minister shall require by secret ballot a majority vote of the members present and voting.
Section C. The minister shall use his/her special training to provide religious, ethical, and aesthetic inspiration and guidance to the congregation and to the community. He/she
shall promote growth and understanding of the Unitarian Universalist Church through education of parishioners, the children of the church school, and the interested public in the history, significance, objectives and traditions of its religious heritage.
Section D. The minister shall keep for the corporation an official record of membership, dedications of children, marriages and funerals. He/she shall be charged with the conduct of worship, pastoral care, visitation and counseling, officiating at ceremonies of religious significance, shall be responsible denominational cooperation in the larger work of the church, and for cooperation in such interdenominational and civic causes as he/she wishes.
Section E. The minister shall be an ex officio member of the Board of Trustees and all committees except the nominating committee.
Section F. Any contract between the Board of Trustees and a minister shall include acceptance of the Constitution and Bylaws, and shall note in detail compensation agreed upon and all other prerequisites, emoluments, and any other matter agreed upon by the minister and members of the corporation.
Section G. In keeping with the liberal tradition the minister shall be free at all times to express his/her opinion on any subject, both within and without the pulpit.
Section H. The current Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Guidelines are the standard for the relationship between this congregation and its minister.


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ARTICLE X. SOCIAL PROJECT & PUBLIC POSITIONS
Section A. Social action projects to be undertaken in the name of the church by any group, and involving the resources, responsibility and/or commitment of the church as a whole, must have prior approval of a two-thirds vote of those present and voting in a legally constituted congregational meeting. Public communication of congregational action may be made by the Board of trustees, in which case the report must include numerical vote of the congregation.
Section B. Adoption of a social action position, or authorization for public action to be taken in the name of the church as a whole, is subject to the same conditions stated in Paragraph A as to voting and statement of the vote.

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ARTICLE XI.
AMENDMENTS
Section A. This Constitution and Bylaws may be amended by a three-fourths vote of the members present and voting at the annual meeting of at a special meeting of the congregation provided that notice and explanation of the proposed amendment is included in the notice of the meeting at which such action is to be taken.
Section B. Members of the congregation may propose an amendment to this Constitution and Bylaws by securing a petition signed by at least thirty (30) voting members. Such petition must be presented to the Board of Trustees at least three (3) weeks before the annual meeting or any special meeting called for that purpose.

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