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Dear Members and Friends of the Congregation,

    In this new-year I asked the members of the Board of Trustees to consider with me the nature of the number 40.

    It is a composite number of meaningful significance for me.  It represents the exact number of my years in the parish ministry as a Unitarian Universalist minister, not counting four years of seminary and graduate school.  I began my ministry in January of 1979 in LaSalle County, Illinois, gathering UUs and quasi-UUs from three towns (Ottawa, LaSalle, and Peru) to start a new congregation.  The next year, I helped to reactivate an old Universalist church in Clinton, IA.  Adding to my tent-making ministry, I taught philosophy classes at the local community college and hosted a radio show on a local FM station.  What a peripatetic life I lived in those days during which I learned a lot about myself and this remarkable profession called ministry.

    In September of 1982, I was called to the Baton Rouge congregation but could not start my ministry until January 1, 1983. My father died in October of '82.  With that bereavement, I also had leave-takings with two congregations I had been serving in IL and IA. I remember how intentional all of us were in taking time for a proper transition so that I could be ready for a Louisiana ministry that a friend in Illinois rightly predicted would become a true adventure for me.

    After January 6, 2019, I will no longer be your Senior Minister and Ministry Team Leader.  That date marks 40 years (plus 6 days) in the parish ministry (4 years in IL and IA plus 36 years in Baton Rouge).

    A search for my successor will begin once your church leadership thoughtfully determines what the process should be.  Best practice in our tradition says I must not weigh in on the selection of my successor.  This is the work of the congregation. The Unitarian Universalist Association will naturally be a helpful resource, as it has been in previous searches, giving guidance and support along the way.

    The days ahead will be dynamic for most of us.  I continue on in my ministry here this year, but my role gradually shifts.  The congregation moves forward, thinking anew about its next chapter.  I trust that if we do this leave-taking intentionally, we'll be hearing some amazing stories of what we did and how we did stuff together --the joys, the sorrows, the challenges, the fortuitous surprises. Most certainly you will hear gratitude from me sprinkled throughout, for it has indeed been a privilege to have served you. 

    I typed the first edition of this letter on my Underwood Touch-Master manual typewriter which I purchased in 1974 just before heading off to Meadville-Lombard Theological School, the very typewriter on which I wrote all sermons until 1988.  For nostalgia's sake, I carried that beast of a machine down from the attic.  I reflect upon those paltry words, "it has indeed been a privilege to have served you," and find that words fail me again.  Such is the nature of ministry:  words may fail or words may succeed; therefore, we must rely on being present to one another.  Wisely, James Thurber said, "Love is what you've been through with somebody."

     In summary, what's ahead for us?  We'll say our goodbyes. Our lay leadership will discern the next steps of a ministerial search process.  I will be lifting up some stories about the ministry here.  I'll also be engaging a personal spiritual discipline of letting go of the work to which I've dedicated my life and, at the same time, make an effort not to let my process get in the way of your process.  For example, I am studying the UU Ministers Association Guidelines and Code of Professional Practice which address the need for me, come next January, to suspend my contact and participation in the congregation for the well-being of the congregation and for a satisfying launch of my next chapter of life.

    40 is a good, composite number. Though the leave-taking I've announced here may seem long, it is hardly time enough for me to name the blessings I have received in this ministry to three congregations whose members all had one feature in common:   they all lived, or are living still, in close proximity to a mighty river that floweth to the sea.

Yours, in gratitude, The Reverend Dr. Steve J. Crump