Updated: Apr 9, 2020
The monthly theme, forgiveness, is once again exactly where this church needs to be. The first day of March there will be a congregational meeting, called by people who felt left out of the democratic systems of decision making. What is needed for forgiveness in this case? Perhaps explanation, open minded and open heartedness, admission of what each could have done differently, with the goal of having a new way of being, learn a new way of doing ‘church,’ that is truly shared ministry between the professional minister, the leadership, and the congregation.
Last month I talked about the different kinds of ministry. I want to give you a (very) brief overview of what it takes to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. After hearing and responding to a personal call to ministry, one enrolls in an accredited seminary, has an interview with a group of UU leaders who determine whether you have potential to be a UU minister, requests a congregation to sponsor you, and receives ‘Aspirant’ Status. Then you begin meeting and documenting the competencies in 16 areas; you buy books, attend classes and seminars, have a two-day career assessment/psychological evaluation, complete one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (usually as a Chaplain in a hospital), graduate from seminary, and receive ‘Candidate’ status. Then you can apply to have an internship with a supervising minister where you are paid @ $17,000 for ten months, during which you request an interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC), where the wait is usually 18 months to 2 years. The ‘interview’ includes a 15-minute homily before 5-8 people and answering well all of their 45 minutes of questions about anything in your preparation of competencies. With a rating of 1, you are cleared to get a mentor and go into search to become a minister, which I explained last month. A rating of 5 ends your process. Ratings 2, 3 or 4 indicate work has to be done. You are now in ‘Preliminary Fellowship’ status, and are required to meet with your mentor monthly, and submit yearly evaluations by your supervisor (the Board of the congregation), your Committee on Ministry, and yourself to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. You need three positive recommendations in a certain order to be granted ‘Full Fellowship’, which means you no longer have to submit to any more required evaluations or undergo additional required professional education.
As you can imagine, the journey is long and has its trials and tribulations, along with its successes and joys. As a minister in her potentially last year of Preliminary Fellowship, I was disappointed in the Board’s decision not to continue my ministry here. When I came here I expressed my desire to make a difference in the life of the church, its inward and outward community, for more than two years of interim ministry. I have done interim ministry successfully, have taken all the training, and have applied for and been accepted into the Accredited Interim Ministry process which should be completed by mid-April.
Many of you have expressed the need for transparency. In that spirit, I will share with you that I was disappointed in the Board’s evaluation of my ministry. There has been a breakdown in communication between the minister and the Board; the Committee on Ministry is working with the Board to find a facilitator to restore the relationship. The Board has stated “it’s a personnel issue” to support their decision to search for an accredited interim minister and not to renew my contract, to not change my status to interim minister, or to not recommend to the congregation that you call me as your settled minister, all of which were options. I am open to sharing the completed evaluations (my self-evaluation, the Board’s, and the CoM’s) and my monthly reports to the Board. I am ready to answer any questions you might have regarding the evaluation process and the content. I recommend that the Board and I make these documents available to the congregation for easy access.
However long I am with UUCBV, I truly believe the most important next thing for this church to do is to take a hard look at what needs to be done around mission, vision, and covenant renewal. Best practices are to reflect on and revise these every 5-7 years so that all the members of the congregation, long-time and newer, have a say in what matters to them for what the church is and does. The most important thing is to get leaders and congregants talking, get on the same page. The process is what’s important, especially for this church at this time in its history. You have the unique opportunity to launch yourself in a new way, with both inner and outward focus. Maybe even create a new name that says who you are and/or aspire to be. Something like “Beacon Community Center/ A UU Church”. You break ground on your new building this summer and will be in your new home next summer. I urge you to use this time well, to set the stage for a relaunch of your mission and vision, then plan strategically to make it happen. The Brazos Valley community needs our UU values. Let your light shine!
Keeping the Faith,