From the Minister
In Jay's column in the current issue of Voices,
he talks about our need for a second minister and how we plan to approach the process. An archive of these and other columns by the Ministers is maintained and is accessible on the left:
October 8, 2014
Several years ago, we began a conversation about our congregation’s need for a second minister. I don’t recall anyone who was actively involved in the life of the UUCC questioning that need. What we did question, at some length, was how we might best engage a second minister on our professional staff.
At that time we were woefully under-programmed for adults. While our staffing choices had long allowed for extensive programming for children and youth, we struggled to create ongoing educational, social, and care-giving activities for adult members and regular visitors. So, we created a job description for a second minister that primarily focused on expanding our capacity to create meaningful programming for adults.
Regrettably, the minister we hired to fill that role proved unable to understand or meet our expectations and, after a very brief tenure, we came to a mutual agreement that he was ill-suited for the position. Out of this disappointing experience came the fortuitous opportunity to add Martha Kniseley to our professional staff in the role of Adult Programming Coordinator. We’re all aware of what a tremendously positive impact Martha is making and how what we offer adults has expanded exponentially.
The fact remains: we need a second minister. We continue to be the largest congregation in the UUA with only one professional minister. I have finally admitted that this arrangement is simply not tenable. I am unable to continue to function as the sole minister of a congregation approaching 700 members.
I recently presented a proposal to our Board of Trustees addressing this critical need based on conversations among our professional staff. I propose that we add a second professional minister to our staff who can share completely in the role and responsibilities I am currently trying to fill. This second minister would lead services, respond to pastoral needs among our members, teach, lead other kinds of programming, help us have a voice and presence in the larger community, and enable us to continue expanding what we are able to offer for children, youth and adults. We would work together on a division of responsibilities that would enable a move toward a relatively equitable sharing of the role and responsibility of minister at the UUCC.
I suggested to the Board certain qualifications for our second minister. First, and foremost, I am absolutely convinced that it is well past time for us to have a minister on our professional staff who is a woman.
In addition, there are certain traits and abilities that are strong preferences. We’d benefit from someone:
- with a clear passion for parish ministry and an energetic commitment to particular areas of parish ministry;
- with direct experience in a larger congregation and a specific, focused interest in ministering within a large congregation;
- with broad experience within Unitarian Universalism in different areas and ways of engaging who can then bring ideas from many different places to the UUCC;
- comfortable being a minister in a congregation with many different theological perspectives and approaches, who has an open, creative approach to the language and engagement of religion;
- with demonstrated expertise and commitment in leading creative Sunday services;
- with an interest in a ministerial partnership in which the many opportunities and demands that come from a large congregation could be shared.
What’s more, I think the ideal candidate would be someone younger than I am who can engage and communicate from a different generational perspective.
Aware that we must prioritize our preferences and that personnel choices often involve compromises, these all seem important as we look toward a more engaged, vibrant future.
The Board reflected on this proposal, asked helpful questions, offered guidance, and, in the end affirmed this proposal. They are clear that we absolutely must add a professional minister to our staff and affirmed the approach presented to how that minister would function within our congregation. They also generally concurred on the preferred traits and qualifications.
We were strongly advised by our past Second Minister Selection Team not to engage in the tedious requirements of a typical UUA ministerial search again. I’ve been advised more recently by the UUA’s consultant to large congregations that the UUA process is not the best approach to our needs. So, we’re now beginning to use less formal channels to communicate this opening broadly to those we think might have both an interest in and the capacity to fill our opening. We’ll be engaging a group of committed members to help guide this decision on behalf of our members.
What are your thoughts? As we look to fill this critical need, what traits and qualifications seem most important to you? What are your hopes relative to an added minister on our professional staff?
I’m anxious for us to fill this position and more than ready for help in fulfilling the demands of ministry here. I also know this is a critically important decision in the life of our congregation and one that may impact our life together for years to come.