President’s Statement: The OCC & The OSS

CORRECTION 8/7/2018:
My statement about how the church acquired the home in Oakmont was incorrect. The truth, according to Pastor Brinda, is that the house the church owns was bequeathed to the church in August of 1974 by Bertha Cedarblad. The church has a copy of the will and deed. The church did NOT purchase a house in Oakmont, it simply chose to keep the house and allow its pastor to live in the house as part of his or her salary. I am sorry for publicly stating the misinformation I was provided and want to set the record straight.

President’s Message sent Monday, August 6, 2018:
This President’s Message will be longer than most. It concerns the ongoing situation involving the Oakmont Community Church (OCC) and the Oakmont Sunday Symposium (OSS).

I’m writing this because the situation has been made public and Oakmonters have understandably become interested in knowing the facts about the history of this matter, where things stand currently and where we’ll go from here.

By way of summary, both OCC and OSS have met for years at the same time, 10:30 on Sunday mornings, in different places. Because of the upcoming closure of the East Rec center, where OSS has been meeting, we have a space issue for this Fall. Last week, we believed discussions aimed at allowing both organizations to continue meeting on Sundays appeared to be heading toward a successful compromise. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and now we find ourselves at an impasse. We hope this note and a planned special open OVA Board meeting within the next week or so will help address and resolve the current impasse.

Background

OCC has been meeting in Oakmont facilities, free of charge, for about 50 years. In the late 1960s, Oakmont’s original builder (Mr. Berger) provided a letter to OCC stating (among other things) “While it was planned that there would be a site available at some location for a church facility in Oakmont, it was never planned or represented that we would provide the building. This would naturally be a matter for the denomination or the combined faiths to handle by a Building Fund supported by membership pledges as is customary in starting new churches.“ Later, the letter states “… until the church attendance is much larger than it is at the present time, these facilities, while not primarily designed for religious purposes, should suffice.”

OCC has not built a church, but at some point purchased a home in Oakmont to be used by its pastor. A realtor who recently checked believes this home is now owned free and clear.
*Correction at top of page

OCC is not an officially recognized Oakmont club. However, it is not the only unofficial group that meets free of charge in Oakmont facilities. Other groups in this category include Kiwanis, Lifelong Learning and Council on Aging. Oakmont retains the right to allow non-Oakmont groups to meet free of charge in our facilities if we believe allowing the group to meet in Oakmont benefits our members.

For its services, OCC transforms the Berger Center into something looking and feeling like a real church. Their materials currently occupy a significant portion of Berger Center storage and they need the building for several hours in order to prepare the room properly, allow musicians to practice, conduct their service and hold post-service fellowship gatherings. They also require use of the audio visual sound equipment, including five microphones.

OCC averages under 50 persons for its services and currently occupies the 10:30 Sunday morning time slot in the Berger Center.

OSS, while not as long-tenured as OCC, has a similarly rich history here. OSS has been meeting at 10:30 in the East Rec center for quite some time. Their audience is growing and currently averages over 100 attendees.

OSS is an officially chartered Oakmont club and as such is limited to members and their guests. Its needs include a room large enough to hold its audiences, storage space, an audio visual system for presentations and several microphones for speakers and audience questions.

Because it schedules speakers a long time in advance, it also requires sufficient notice for any enforced changes to its venue or time.

For some time now, OSS has wanted to move to the Berger Center to accommodate its growth. OCC is quite happy in the Berger Center.

The Current Issue

The upcoming East Rec Center renovation, scheduled at this point to begin August 15th, creates a problem for 22 organizations. Standard procedure is for the OVA General Manager (GM) and his staff to move organizations around as necessary to accommodate their and OVA needs. I’m not aware of any official policy for doing so except, of course, an interest in being fair to all parties. The Oakmont Board is not typically involved in these decisions.

The OVA staff was able to successfully make alternate arrangements for 21 of these 22 organizations. When it became apparent that there might be an issue with the 22nd (OSS), I got involved.

OSS has been aware of its potential displacement for some time and on May 15th of this year, sent a letter to the Oakmont Board saying, among other things: 1) the Berger Center is the only venue that will accommodate its consistently large audience, 2) there is a potential conflict with OCC at the 10:30 Sunday timeslot but there are difficulties with OSS changing time slots, 3) there are alternate time slots for OCC during the renovation period and 4) OSS needed to know by no later than the Board’s July meeting whether the 10:30 Sunday time slot could be provided to OSS.

A resolution calling for the Board to discuss and vote on this issue was originally scheduled for the Board’s open meeting in July, but OCC asked for a postponement because its pastor would be out of town and unable to represent OCC’s position. This was granted, with the understanding that current GM Kevin Hubred and I could resolve the issue prior to the August meeting without board involvement.

At their request, Kevin and I met with OCC representatives to more completely understand their needs. OCC let us know they considered a move to the West Rec untenable, for at least the following reasons: 1) the parking lots are too far from the front door, so some of their elderly and less mobile churchgoers would not be able to get up the hills into the building, and 2) there is no storage space for all the materials they use to transform the venue to look like a church. They also considered any change in their time slot to be unworkable. An earlier slot would require preparation to start too early and a later time slot would go through lunch.

As this issue was coming to a head, I felt it would be good to get all parties in the same room to explore possibilities. After some discussion, OSS agreed to come, but OCC deferred based on its claim that its lawyer was unavailable, so the meeting couldn’t happen in a timely manner.

Believing we were forced to decide in a timeframe useful for OSS, the decision was made to have both parties move once and move their scheduled start time one hour. Due to logistical needs on the part of OVA staff, it was determined that OCC would move to 9:30 and OSS would meet at 11:30. After the East Rec renovation completed, OSS would move to 10:30 in the Berger Center and OCC would move to 10:30 in the East Rec.

The decision was made based on the following four criteria.

  1. The first criterion is non-judgment. OVA cannot conclude that one group’s activities are more important than those of any other group. We can’t, for example, say that nourishment of one’s soul is more or less important than nourishment of one’s mind.
    Another aspect of non-judgment is that we shouldn’t question the stated needs of any organization, especially if those needs can be verified by habitual use and current observation. In this case, for example, the criterion would suggest it’s not OVA’s place to question whether the church really needs to transform its venue into something like a real church. If that’s what they do, and that’s what they’ve done for many years, we shouldn’t say “sorry, but you now have to stop doing that,” even for a short period of time. If we do that with one group and not with another, we might be discriminating (if not legally, possibly morally). I’ll return to this point soon, since it is presently a primary “sticky wicket.”
  2. The second criterion is size. Size requirements are pretty straightforward. If a group is too big for a venue, that venue is inappropriate. This doesn’t mean we’re saying one group is more important than another because it’s bigger. We’re simply saying we place groups in locations based in part on the match between the size of the venue and the size of the group.
  3. The third criterion is logistics. Logistics pertains to both the group and the OVA. The group’s logistics include the supplies they need, how far in advance they need to show up, how long after their session time they stay, etc. OVA maintenance staff needs include how long it takes them to setup and teardown for a group’s sessions, who they have available for those activities during the time period needed, etc. This is why the OVA staff has historically fulfilled group needs, including moving groups around, without requiring Board input.
  4. The final criterion is amenities. Does a group need an A/V system? Does a group need lecterns? How many chairs are necessary? Which venues have which of these needed amenities also needs to be factored into any decision.

In the absence of a policy on how this is done, these criteria were/are deemed appropriate for deciding how to rule in this and other similar situations.

Now, back to the sticky wicket. OSS believes OCC should be assigned to the West Rec during the East Rec remodel and told to give up their practice of transforming the venue in which they meet, at least for now. OSS proposes OCC leave all their supplies behind in the Berger for the meantime. Meanwhile, OSS would move to the Berger Center and hold their sessions in the same fashion as always, without compromise. The potential for this solution to discriminate against OCC is worrisome to at least some of us.

In a new and very recent twist, OSS sent a letter to the Board on August 2, 2018 stating they no longer wish to move to the Berger Center. They’re concerned a similar situation will leave them homeless when the Berger eventually gets remodeled. They now wish to return to the East Rec center when that building’s remodel is complete. They still wish to move to the Berger Center during the remodel period and want the 10:30 AM time slot to which they are accustomed.

Despite the fact that they’ve announced cancellation of their Fall season, OSS President Mark Randol told me a couple days ago they have not yet actually begun the work required to cancel the season. If they had, this fact (in addition to their new letter letting OVA know they want to stay in the East Rec after renovation) would have meant the issue had resolved itself. Instead, Mark said OSS still hopes to get what they want in order to keep from cancelling their season.

What Comes Next

Because this issue has burst into public view, and because time is of the essence, we believe it now needs examination in an open “special” meeting by the Board. We plan to hold such a meeting within the next week or so (stay tuned for time and day). Mark has told me this will be sufficient time for OSS.

Prior to this meeting, the Board will receive input from its legal team on some of the issues included here. At this meeting, the board will decide the fate of this issue. We encourage public comment at this meeting from those who are interested.