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Transitions by Holley Haymaker

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    When this is due I will be at GA and will certainly have things to report from there. However, I will use this column to tell you what we learned from The Reverend Carlton Elliot Smith during his visit with us on June 10th. Carlton met with members of the congregation interested in the transitions after each service and then met with the Interim Task Force.

    Carlton did not make a formal presentation, but asked for questions and answered them. The questions were plentiful and thought provoking.

    First of all, our congregation is an attractive one for finding both an interim and a senior minister. We are large for the denomination. We have a good reputation. We pay our fair share dues to the UUA. We are known for our social justice outreach. We have a good facility in an urban area and a strong history. And last but not at all least is Steve’s success. His longevity is impressive. Most ministers stay about 8 to10 years.

    In our search for both interim and senior minister it is important to consider all the roles a minister plays. Carlton’s brief list included leadership in business (CEO), stewardship, pulpit, pastor, and relations with children. There are more. It is important for us to be clear about which ones WE consider most important during our search. No one can shine at all of them.

    So how do we determine the congregational priorities? We will hold more town halls and other small group meetings specifically to discuss them. We will discuss them in already existing smaller groups - branches, choir, RE, etc. And we will survey not only the congregation but also our community stakeholders (groups that use the building, social justice partners, etc.). Probably more.

    Carlton noted that with Steve leaving we are not only losing our minister and pastor, but we are also losing our CEO. You may have heard the term MTL (Ministry Team Leader). Steve has been our MTL since we began PG (Policy Governance). PG is the form of governance that we were advised to use once the congregation grew to a size too large for the board to make the day to day management decisions. In this form of governance, the board sets a short list of priorities for the next year (Annual Vision of Ministry or AVOM) and the MTL takes that AVOM and carries it out to the best of the staff’s ability. This requires that the congregation and the board trust the MTL to be a careful steward of our resources. According to the Bylaws, the MTL can spend or commit up to $10,000 without directly consulting the board. We could move to PG because we trusted Steve and his ability to carry out the role of MTL. He has been an excellent steward of our resources.

    An important job of the board and the Interim Task Force is to clearly define the MTL role of the Interim and then to carefully monitor.

    Carlton pointed out during our second session that Steve will be transitioning from Senior Minister and MTL to BFP - Beloved Former Pastor.

What is at risk when we lose our BFP? He’s been our point person for many things, including our social justice presence.

    But, as Bobby Thompson pointed out, our identity is what the congregation has done. We are the church who shows up. If we have put everything on Steve, then that is our problem.

    The first year our BPF is gone may be difficult for us - but it is also difficult for him. He will need some space. This has been far more than a full-time job.

    One role of the interim minister is to help us find our own inner processes and strengths. Live Steve’s legacy. We discussed how to help each other deal with change. First of all, expect different reactions from different people. It is OK to be whoever we are, OK to go away for a while and come back when this is all over (but…please keep pledging!)

    Of course, there will be some changes in how we worship. We may hold a workshop on dealing with change or invite more visiting ministers or even get together and watch different ministers on You Tube.

   The UUA has processes for all this change. After all, the average tenure of a minister is 8 to 10 years. These processes are outlined in two handbooks available to all at the Transitions Office on the UUA.org website. In the handbook for selecting the new Senior Minister it is clear that you will have the opportunity to hear this candidate preach before you vote. The selection of an interim does not involve that. There is simply not time. TIME? Yes - choosing an interim is a short process.  The Interim Task Force submits its application mid-October. Late October we receive the names of interested ministers. First week of November we may make on offer. The Interim Task Force will hold the interviews over the web rather than in person. The Task Force will then make the decision. The process for the new senior or settled minister is much longer - more on that later.

    The UUA web site also has a lively discussion video about Interim Ministers: https://www.uua.org/careers/ministers/interim/opportunity. Take a look and read the PDF. Explore the site. There is a wealth of information there. The video is now posted on our UCBR web site.

    What are the goals and tasks of the Interim Minister? Look at page 3 of the Transitional Ministry Handbook. Basically, the Interim should help us keep our momentum, deal with “termination emotions”, clarify our goals, review our operations, and model different but successful types of ministry. Accredited Interim Ministers have special training in carrying out these tasks. The Interim will be assisted in these tasks by a Transition Team - that would be 5 of you.

    If you are interested in being part of that team, please let one of your Interim Task Force members know (Holley Haymaker, David Hawley, Don Hoppe, Donna Yelverton and Glenda Parks).