Since publishing this article, we received word from the Ministerial Fellowship Committee that our Ministerial Resident, Hannah Gallo, will not be able to serve as our Assistant Minister. Rev. Kim and the Personnel Committee continue to consider next steps and our financial capabilities. Updates will be shared with the congregation as they are available.
Since February’s start to our Stewardship Campaign, in which I preached on our need to bring on an Assistant Minister, there have been many conversations. Some have been affirming and encouraging, others have brought to light new concerns or questions. As we near a decision on whether we can financially sustain a second minister and who that might be, I hope to address some of the questions and concerns I’ve heard informally and at the five Listening Circles offered.
First, it feels important to underscore that we would be seeking to hire someone for two years and two years only. This would be a contract position to help us move through the learning stages of having a second minister – for the staff as well as for the congregation. And, because this minister will be charged with creating new initiatives, systems, and some culture changes, two years will also allow such changes to take shape before we solidify the portfolio of an Assistant.
If in the spring of the second year (Stewardship season of 2021) we see we are able to financially sustain this position, without the UUA grant and without other assists, and as a congregation we believe this position has proven to serve us well, we will seek to hire a new Assistant Minister whose contract would be without a time limit attached. This person would still be hired and not called.
There are some important distinctions between a hired and called additional minister. Hired keeps the title at “Assistant” and this minister works as an assistant to the vision set forth by the called or Lead minister. They are hired by the called minister, who is Head of Staff, and in collaboration and consultation with the Personnel Committee and Board of Trustees. Called second (or however many!) ministers are “Associates”. These ministers share the visioning work of the Lead minister and are hired by way of congregational vote and approval. There is of course a lot more details – including financial impact – that you can explore on the UUA website if of interest.
Many of you have inquired about the impact and practice of potentially hiring our Ministerial Resident, Hannah Gallo. To the point of process: any minister who has served a congregation in any significant capacity (Intern, Interim, Pulpit Supply or Sabbatical Ministers) cannot serve, by rules set forth by the UU Ministers Association, for a minimum of three years following. This rule was written originally so that women would have a better chance of being hired to serve in institutions in which only men were being hired. As of late it has assured People of Color a fairer chance to serve congregations, too. There is a waiver to this rule and, with my support, and the Personnel Committee’s, Hannah did apply for the waiver.
We encouraged and supported a waiver for many reasons, one being that I will be going on sabbatical as early as next fall somewhere between four and six months (if four, the remaining two will be taken in the year following). It takes around 20% of staff time, and more of mine, to bring on a new staff person of any level or position. I have deep concerns about my ability to bring on a new person to the system in a way that will be healthy for this person, for me, and therefore the congregation. While Hannah is not balancing my own demographics with a “straight black male” (as I’ve heard more than a few of you request) hiring Hannah will allow for continuity, strength of an established relationship, and trust of shared vision. Her presence will allow us to hit the ground running, filling in the gaps in our system that exist right now, and allow a trusting hand off when I go on leave.
Of course the reality is, Hannah may not receive the waiver. She may also choose to serve another congregation. The above stated concerns will still exist and, as such, I may need to push my sabbatical to the year following in hopes that we can all feel like congregational life – Sunday mornings, Capital Campaign, pastoral care, and the like – will thrive in the time of the minister’s sabbatical.
Lastly on Hannah: she is a strong competent minister who does balance many of my gaps in style and learning. As the search process came to a close for Unitarian Universalist ministers last month, I pray we do not underestimate the gift we have in this interested candidate.
And what about hiring a Person of Color? UUA data suggests that POC Minsters will not serve where it has not been proven to be a safe place for them to do so. I believe we must use these two years to excitedly prepare ourselves and the system to hire a Person of Color for the next, long term, Assistant Minister position. From the benefits of representation to simply affirming our 8th Principle, it is the obvious next step for UUCWC. That said, highlighting some of the above, without the ability to fully support any minister in this position in a way I feel completely confident about, it feels especially risky to encourage or seek out a POC minister for the pilot position. If such a person applied, we would of course welcome their candidacy and simply have a frank conversation about said concerns. In the meantime, I hope we can envision celebrating such a minister by not having them share an office in the nursery, for example.
For more on the proposed Assistant Minister portfolio and expected duties, please see the job description below. And, as always, keep the conversation going. None of this is being done in isolation, without collaboration, or thoughtful heartfelt discernment.
Minister of Congregational Life
Description of minister’s role in relation to other paid staff
The Assistant Minister, or Minister of Congregational Life (MCL), will report to the Lead Minister (along with the DLRE, Congregational Administrator, and Director of Music Ministry). The minister will be included in the bi-weekly All Staff meeting, bi-weekly one-on-one supervision meeting, and a once monthly Worship meeting. Attendance at evening meetings to help support lay leaders will be required but not to surpass two evening meetings per week.
Primary Areas of Focus
The minister will be responsible for supporting four primary functions in congregational life:
- Membership Development and Engagement;
- Leadership Development and Support;
- Social Justice; and
- Pastoral Care.
The Assistant Minister is also a member of the Worship Team and actively participates in worship leadership and preaching. Preaching opportunities per month or year is determined based on applicants’ strengths and interests.
Membership Development and Engagement
Within a three-year period UUCWC experienced growth of close to 30%. Our retention is strong but we still teeter on that precipice of 300 formal members. Somewhere between 60 and 100 adults participate on an on-going basis in the life of UUCWC without any formal title or ties. As growth continues, long term members wonder about their place in the system; new members struggle to find their way into a vibrant and relational congregation.
The Assistant Minister for Congregational Life will oversee the Membership Ministry, including the path to membership (in collaboration with the Lead Minister), and strategic connection opportunities for long term and new members (in collaboration with the Director of Lifespan Religious Education). This includes current systems like our Neighborhood Potlucks, Faith Forward, and Welcome Table Wednesdays; connecting existing ministries that currently act in silos (like Membership, Community Building, Adult Religious Education, and Nominating), but will also require new initiatives and marketing strategies. Comfort with database and excel usage is required.
Leadership Development and Support
UUCWC is a hardworking congregation that prides itself on a long history of doing more or making more possible than might be expected. As such, for a generation or more, every member was a leader or had the opportunity to be. Today, we live in the tension of long term leaders shifting their energy and focus, the culture of volunteerism changing, and need.
The Assistant Minister will create a path to leadership that values all levels of participation, from Sunday morning attendance to serving on the Board. We hope to see leadership development that includes a clear and supportive path into leadership, support while in leadership, and a clear and supportive path out of leadership that celebrates and honors service to the congregation and Unitarian Universalism. Though this will be the charge of the Assistant Minister to create, instituting such changes will be a collaborative all-staff responsibility that the MCL will oversee.
Though we pride ourselves as early adopters of the 8th Principle and one of the first Welcoming Congregations, much of our justice work tends to be siloed and reactionary rather than strategic and wholistic.
The MCL will work collaboratively with our justice ministry leaders to sustain and deepen the good work currently being done. Some of this work will be to move the various justice leaders and groups into a collaborative ministry. They would also be responsible for articulating an invitational and faithful vision for justice work as an imperative to Unitarian Universalism for all. Participation in local and regional community activities is encouraged.
Pastoral Care at UUCWC is shared among staff, the lay Pastoral Care Team, and lay members throughout the congregation in formal and informal ways. Our cultural expectations, however, mimic ministry of a family size system in which the Minister is responsible for everything from acute pastoral needs to relational coffee dates.
We seek someone who is comfortable ministering to multiple generations and generational needs, as well as someone who can navigate the congregation learning to trust and lean on a second minister for the first time.
The MCL will lead the Pastoral Care Team in a collaborative nature with the lay co-chairs, primarily overseeing for accountability, best practices, fluid communication among staff and lay leaders, and inspiration.