Each June, it has become a tradition for the incoming and outgoing Presidents of the Board of Trustees to interview each other about their experiences during the previous year and hopes and plans for the next church year. Here is a back-and-forth between Pam Johnson and Molly Hagan-Ward.
Molly: Pam, it's been an amazing year. Thank you for your service! I am always praising your passion and your work as a community organizer. Were you always like this growing up?
Pam: I guess I was because I would volunteer for any community project in school. I have a passion for children; it is so hard to grow up and think you are forgotten if you are not in the correct situation. While in medical school, my husband and I took children from a shelter on outings. When I had children, I always had a project for them to do, such as making yarn dolls for children in the hospital. Being part of the UUCBV helps me hone in on what is important, and I hope to become even more involved in community service.
Pam: Molly, I am so excited that you are the board's president this year! You served on the board multiple times, and you were president not too long ago. What made you volunteer for this position again, and how do you think running this board will be different?
I am here because of Love. Because I love this world, and keeping the church going is one way I can contribute to its well being.
Molly: Honestly, the second year that I served on the Nominating Committee with Allison Faber, Joyce Langenegger, and John Ivy, we had Gaye Webb letting us know she could step back up when needed. Hearing her being willing to do that, I myself let the Committee know that I understood I might be called on sooner rather than later. I wanted them to know that even though it would be a challenge, they could call on me because it was looking like I might be needed.
This Board is so different for me because we have a Settled Minister to work with!!! Reverend Kiya is a Treasure and so great to work with! Because her communication with everyone is so clear, honest, and enthusiastic, I know running the Board is going to be very fulfilling.
Molly: What was it like working with Reverend Kiya and watching her journey this year?
Pam: Reverend Kiya's journey was speedy; she immediately stepped up to the plate. We see eye to eye on that. The church had many things that needed changing, so we spoke pretty often during the year. Rev. Kiya gives excellent advice and is easy to contact and discuss issues. I enjoyed seeing her transition from our part-time minister to our full-time minister, to become ordained, and now to be our settled minister. I was thrilled to be working with a "hand's on" minister; it was such a relief.
Pam: What new ideas, big or small, will you bring to the church this year?
Molly: My campaign slogan was to, "Worry less. Party more!" Haha, obviously I am here to work very hard, which is way easier when it is alongside such a great Board! But I also want to help these volunteer positions not feel burdensome, not daunting or unpleasant. I want to work hard as a team, but remember that we are allowed to have a good time along the way.
I will also do my best to combine the best traditional practices of the past with changes we feel are necessary for where we are at now. It is not necessarily a "new idea", but creating an environment that allows people of all political affiliations to feel welcome is important to me. I joined the church to get away from the "you're either right or you're wrong" mentality when it came to religion. If we are truly inclusive, I would love to see all people seeking a "liberal religion" feel we are here for them, no matter who they vote for.
Molly: What was your year like at the helm? What advice do you have for me as I step into the role of President?
Pam: I learned so much about the church and grew personally as president. I have to admit that I had butterflies in my stomach before most meetings, but this became less and less. Some sound advice you gave me this year is not to do things too fast, which I tend to do. So I would follow that. It is advantageous to have a board to talk to when you do not know what to do about a particular situation. Please take advantage of the board and ask members for their opinions, whether you ask at a board meeting, online, or through phone calls. I find our board members to be very thoughtful, advising for the betterment of the church. When taken together, board members discuss, consider options, and propose the best solutions. Trust and respect are essential qualities for board members to have. Suppose someone goes off on their own, making announcements or speaking out of turn when the board has not made a decision. I would recommend putting a stop to that immediately. To be effective, the board needs to work as one.
Pam: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the board?
Molly: Once we are finally in our permanent home, things are going to change very quickly and there will be a lot of momentum! The board will need to be ready for whatever comes, surges in interest, both excitement and frustration from congregants, and the anxiety that always comes with major changes. We welcome all people! So as they arrive, the Board will need to help the congregation truly accept, love, and benefit from this diverse group.
Molly: As you pass the torch, is there anything you feel is most important for me to continue working on?
Pam: I think continuing ad hoc committees would be a good thing. The knowledge that the ad hoc committee will disband once they complete their charge can be very compelling for church members. Our ad hoc committees allowed us to involve church members who were not on the board, so our fellow members had more input on church decisions. Ad hoc committees allowed people who did not know each other well to work together and become more familiar. I also think we did well as a liaison board. We had better continuity, and board members became more involved. It surprised me when we changed to a liaison board, so who knows what will happen this year!
Pam: Molly, you and others continue working on the Sacred Space Committee - a long-term commitment. I think it is only appropriate for you to be in the president's slot when we open our new church. How do you feel about that?
Molly: It has been incredibly special. A month after I became President in 2016 we got our official offer from TXDoT, and once the property was getting ready to sell, I had congregants and community members alike asking me where the next church was going to be, which was overwhelming at first! I am a patient person, and I would rather wait for the right opportunity than settle for just okay, or ever worse, a money pit! I feel that through it all, I have helped maintain a calm faith that we would find the right spot, and now watching a beautiful structure going up on such a neat piece of property is incredible, a miracle! It will indeed be very cool to complete this cycle back as President!
Molly: What are you looking forward to now? For yourself? For what your focus will shift to?
Pam: I look forward to you taking the reins; it's a big load off my shoulders. I will support you in any way that I can, and since I'm secretary of the board, I will be able to do that. I hope to work on a research project with my husband, continue with CASA, the LWVs, and visit my grandson weekly. I will be the chair for the MSJE and look forward to this group becoming a significant part of the UUCBV.
Pam: Everyone who has been president agrees that it is a hard job, requiring almost daily involvement in the church. As president, I was retired and my children were grown. You will be working, and you have two young children. I know you will be able to do it, but how will you juggle the demands of daily life and church leadership?
Molly: There are a couple of things, reminding myself that many have done it before me, and that I will never be alone. Again, I want to help normalize the position so anyone, even our parents of young children, can feel capable enough to hold the position. I also have to find a rhythm and get into a routine so it becomes a normal part of my life.
Pam: You have been with the UUCBV since your children were very young. What do you enjoy most about the UUCBV?
Molly: Having the church in my life just helps. As the children and I grow up together, UUCBV gives us a chance to verbalize our thoughts and feelings about life. In addition, we are supposed to find peace and happiness in our lives even while people all around us are suffering. Knowing that my contributions help provide a shelter from the storm allows me to find this peace. I may not be able to solve every problem our world faces, but one thing I CAN do is help this beautiful group exist!