The Interim Minister Search Team recently communicated to the congregation that it was unable to identify an interim minister to begin at First Unitarian in January 2019 but is confident it can secure an interim to begin in August or September 2019. Absent an immediate interim minister, the Board of Trustees began working on an alternative ministry arrangement to cover the intervening time period.
The Board considered two options: (1) have the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) identify a temporary contract minister to serve our church, and (2) assemble a plan for lay leadership of our church’s ministry. The Board discussed these options with advisors in the Transitions Office of the UUA, who informed us that the UUA could indeed supply a contract minister but that churches often opt for a lay-led ministry for short periods of time while interim ministers are identified.
After much consideration, the Board has voted unanimously to move forward with option two:a lay-led ministry from January through August 2019.
Why a Lay-Led Ministry?
There are a number of reasons why the Board decided that a lay-led ministry is right for our congregation at this time:
- The Board is confident that there is adequate leadership within our church, as well as a sufficient pool of external resources readily available to us, to execute a lay-led ministry for the relatively short period of time in question.
- The Board has complete confidence in the ability of the staff to provide high quality service to our congregation with minimal supervision or oversight.
- The Board feels that a lay-led ministry offers members of our church the unique opportunity to craft and influence the kind of ministry they might like to see at First Unitarian Church, and that doing so might further strengthen bonds between church members.
- A lay-led ministry, followed by the hiring of an interim minister to begin in August or September, best fits the current economic realities of our church and better positions us for our budget obligations in 2020.
What Will a Lay-Led Ministry Look Like?
While some details are still being worked out, our lay-led ministry will basically work like this:
- The planning of Sunday church services will be handled by the Inspire Council (Sunday Celebrations Team, the Music & Arts Team, the Director of Instrumental Music, and the Director of Vocal Music) along with the Lifespan Religious Education Director.
- The pulpit will be filled on Sunday mornings by a combination of guest ministers, other guest speakers, and First Unitarian Church members (including our Commissioned Lay Minister, the speakers trained in the Shared Pulpit Class, and other church members and groups).
- A qualified UU minister will be contracted to provide pastoral care as needed, complement the work of the Pastoral Care Team, and provide limited ministerial services and consultation as needed.
- Weddings and memorial services will be conducted by local Unitarian Universalist ministers or by our Commissioned Lay Minister.
- Church staff who normally report to the minister will report to the Board of Trustees during this transitional period.
- The Connections Team will provide leadership for new member orientations.
- Church members will provide leadership in other areas of ministry, such as Social Justice Ministry, as needed.
While the Board cannot guarantee that this process always will be smooth, we believe that a lay-led ministry is the best path forward for our congregation, especially given the advantages and opportunities it offers. We invite your participation in this unique challenge and ask for your support as we move together into the next phase of our religious life as a congregation.
If you have questions, feel free to contact any member of the Board of Trustees: Martin Schmidt (President), Alison Schwartz (Vice-President), Claus Makowka (Treasurer), Eleanor Mayfield (Secretary), Sarah Benson, Audrey Masalehdan, Lynne Porterfield, Cathy Rohrer, and Scott Smith.