Minutes of the Annual Meeting of Red Cedar Zen Center

April 23, 2020 - Letter from the Board in Lieu of an Annual Meeting due to Coronavirus shelter-in-place regulations

  • April 23, 2020

    Dear Red Cedar Zen Community member,

    Greetings and bows, with appropriate social distancing, from the RCZC Board of Directors.

    We write regarding our Annual Meeting, which usually takes place after the closing of winter practice period. We had chosen Saturday, April 18 for this year’s meeting, but viral events around the world have forced us to change plans. We look forward to gathering again in the zendo in a circle of fellowship and compassion and speaking from our hearts. For this year, though, a letter will serve as the Board’s report on RCZC’s situation and prospects.

    The Board of Directors meets once a month to ensure RCZC’s organizational and financial stability. Until social distancing restrictions are lifted, we are meeting by Zoom, and we welcome your input or your virtual presence.  

    Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, May 6, at 5:30 PM. If you have any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns about the administration of the sangha and its resources, or if you would like to join the meeting, please reach out to one of the Board members (listed at the end of this letter).  As with other RCZC events, you can join us by clicking https://zoom.us/j/5601791305.  The required password is the same as the door code for our physical building. If you do not have that code, please send a note to info@redcedarzen.org to request it. 

    Also, if you’re interested in serving on the Board, starting in August of this year, do let us know. It’s a wonderful way to support stable and joyous practice in the sangha and the broader community.  

    This past year, the Board focused on four major tasks:

  • ·      clarifying and simplifying budget and accounting processes, with the aid of a newly hired bookkeeper; 
  • ·      streamlining the RCZC website to facilitate membership renewals, general donations, and dana to teachers;
  • ·      conducting lease negotiations with our landlord to continue our tenancy at Red Cedar Dharma Hall; and
  • ·      supporting our Guiding Teacher and Practice Committee as they embark on a once-a-month trial of Sunday morning services.

These investments in our long-term organizational health required a budget using some of our cash reserves. However, with the sangha’s generous support, by year’s end we finished 2019 with a nearly balanced budget and our reserves substantially intact.

For many years, RCZC’s financial records were in the attentive and capable hands of Talus Latona, with our bookkeeping done by a local service. Early last year, however, as both of these critical players stepped out of their roles, the Board contracted with bookkeeper Ed Wayt (Skillful Services), who has done a fantastic job upgrading our financial procedures and reporting. Working with Ed over the past year, Bernadette Prinster, our Treasurer, and John Wiley, on the Finance Committee, have reviewed, evaluated, and much improved our budgeting process and organization. 

The results of this process are evident in the simplicity and clarity of our balanced 2020 budget, which the Board adopted in March. The multiple bookkeeping systems and accounts we had been working with are now aggregated and simplified. We have also shifted membership contributions to an automated system, a change that has already shown benefits: membership donations are more consistent, and the workload is far lighter for our hard-working volunteers. A special thanks goes out to Terrill Thompson and Desiree Webster for their diligence and persistence! 

Ed also brought his web design and management skills to bear, upgrading our website’s accessibility and presentation. It is now easier for sangha members to access sangha documents, to make a donation in support of a specific project, or to arrange a planned gift that will support our sangha’s work in the future. Big thanks to Bernadette Prinster for researching the online presence of other Zen organizations and for developing our website’s new presentation.

Since 2007, Red Cedar Zen Community, in conjunction with Bellingham Insight Meditation Society (BIMS), has leased our current facility from the Monjazeb family.  During that time, volunteer labor and sangha resources have dramatically improved the interior condition (e.g., new floors, heating, trim) and created a private meditation garden on what was once a paved parking lot. Thank you to Reizan Bob Penny and Lou Hinckley for their skilled workmanship and to the small army of volunteers who dedicated many weekend hours to these renovations.

In preparation for lease negotiations (our renewal is in September), we have worked to document comparable rents with the aid of a local realtor, and created a record of the many improvements we have made to the building and grounds. We also obtained a building inspection to foresee what maintenance and repairs might be required during our next lease term. We have had initial discussions with the Monjazeb family and are optimistic about negotiating a fair lease renewal.

Finally, the Board has also supported a “pilot” program, developed by our Guiding Teacher and the Practice Committee, that offers Sunday services one morning a month. Prior to our covid-related closure, turnout was robust. The last in-person event featured an inspiring teisho by Shinmon Michael Newton (Mountain Rain Zen Community) on the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo. For upcoming months, our Guiding Teacher, Nomon Tim Burnett, has arranged a series of guest presentations by other regional teachers, to be conducted online until the Dharma Hall opens again. 

These Sunday gatherings allow sangha members who can’t come on Wednesday evenings or Saturday mornings to attend RCZC services. Other sanghas have reported increased member engagement with a Sunday service offering, and that has been our experience to date as well. We hope to expand this program next year to a weekly opportunity to sit together Sunday mornings together in the dharma rain.

The Board of Directors thanks you for your dedication and your compassionate support. We look forward to continuing this boundless practice together in both virtual and physical space and time.  

With gratitude, three bows –

Bob Rose, President

Tuli Candela, Vice President

Hannah Sullivan, Secretary

Bernadette Prinster, Treasurer

Christopher Patton, Member-at-Large

Nomon Tim Burnett, ex officio

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