The Board met in July for the first time in the new fiscal year, which started July 1st, and 7th time this calendar year. This year has been quite an interesting year as I begin my fourth year on the board and second year as Board President. This calendar year has been different for many reasons but the most significant one has been the physical absence of Rev. Kim as we started the calendar year with her on sabbatical.
The Board had lots of excitement about Rev. Kim going on sabbatical, as it would allow her to have time to replenish herself and re-imagine how we could be in community together. It would allow the participants in the congregation to experience each other in a different way and revamp some of the existing systems that help sustain us. Rev. Kim did a wonderful job of preparing the congregation for her sabbatical and we carried on with lots of lay leadership, staff, the Board, and a part-time assistant minister.
Things were going relatively smooth and then COVID-19 happened and we made a quick transition to virtual services and closing the building. Rev. Kim returned with excitement and ideas about how to re-imagine a virtual church community and within two weeks Malcolm died. UUCWC got support from local ministers and the UUA Trauma Response team, as well as instituting Rev. Kim’s plan in case she was unexpectedly absent. We grieved together and as individuals took a step back to allow Rev. Kim and Tara to lead and let us know what kind of support they needed. It’s heartening to hear that even in their deep pain they feel held, loved, and supported.
One of the qualities I think about when it comes to good leadership is how well does a place run when its leader is absent for significant periods of time. We pine for her Rev. Kim’s return because she is brilliant and insightful and warm, a systems thinker, and inspires us to deepen our spirituality and reconnect to UU principles and values. We also know that our governance model and financial security gives the congregation a lot of stability. All the work we have done over the years to have the Board and Minister work in collaboration has prepared us for this year. We have shared goals and leadership which have been tested this year, and yet I am confident that we emerge wiser and more committed to each other than ever. Our annual meeting this year was a testament to the love and care that happens throughout the year by hundreds of individuals.
What has been a common thread to me throughout this year is that I carry the spirit of Rev. Kim with me as well as our UU principles. I also think about us being a program-sized church. Once upon a time we were a family-sized church where everyone knew everyone and ministry was centered on the minister. In a program-sized church we are too big for the minister to be the focus of ministry. The minister may have a vision that she implements through various ministries that is supported by the committees that report to the Board, but the focus is to have people engaged and known in small groups. I feel seen and known in my small group ministries. My recent participation in General Assembly also connects me to all the work and ministries happening in our larger denomination and the many resources available for spiritual deepening.
What have you learned about yourself and UUCWC this year? How can we be tender with Rev. Kim as she transitions back into her role? She never left us. She has always been there. She is teaching us how to grieve with her, how to tolerate uncertainty and not always being able to “fix” things. She is teaching us how love can help heal and the importance of patience. I love her recently saying that instead of asking her “how are you” say something like “good to see you” which communicates our love and care for her without asking too much.