Many of you have asked questions about my departure from First Unitarian Church at the end of 2018. Here are some responses:
Do you know what you will be doing once you leave First Unitarian Church? For now, my focus is on making the most of the time I have remaining as the minister of this congregation. But I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life.
Will you be staying in the area? Yes. Cindy will continue working for the Veterans Hospital in Oakland. And I will continue to help care for my parents, who moved to Pittsburgh in 2015.
Will you participate in the life of our church? The Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry makes it clear that departing ministers should basically stay away from their former congregation. This practice makes it easier for the congregation to move forward rather than dwell in the past. This practice also makes it easier for the new minister to establish a relationship with the congregation without interference from the previous minister.
Will our church have a new minister starting in January 2019? Unitarian Universalist congregations generally work with an interim minister after one settled minister leaves and before a new settled minister arrives. Most interim ministers start in August or September, at the beginning of the church year. However, sometimes interim ministers are available to start in January. I would expect that First Unitarian Church will have an interim minister starting in January 2019.
What happens while the interim minister is present? A ministerial transition is a major event in the life of a congregation. The experience and skill that an interim minister brings can help a congregation navigate this transition successfully. An interim minister helps a congregation work through its feelings and thoughts about the ministry that has concluded. An interim minister helps a congregation identify, acknowledge, and address its systemic weaknesses. And an interim minister helps a congregation turn its attention toward the future in preparation for the arrival of a new settled minister and a new chapter in the life of the congregation.
Do interim ministers have special training? Yes. Training is provided by the Unitarian Universalist Association. Many interim
ministers are specialists in this unique kind of ministry, and they move from one church to another every couple of years. And some have enough training and experience to become Accredited Interim Ministers.
How long does an interim minister work with a congregation? Two years is typical. If your interim minister arrives in January 2019, that person may have an opportunity to work with you for two and a half years.
How will we find a new settled minister? Plenty of resources are available through the Unitarian Universalist Association, including the Transitions Office, the Ministerial Settlement Representative for our area, and the Primary Contact for our church, who serves on the staff of the Central East Region. The search process used within the Unitarian Universalist Association reflects the experience of many congregations over many years. You all will choose a Search Committee of perhaps six or seven people that are broadly representative of the congregation. After gathering information about our church and making that information available online, the Search Committee will wait for prospective ministers to apply for the position and share information about themselves. Search Committees typically invite three applicants to visit for a weekend of interviews and worship. These confidential weekend visits take place out of sight of the congregation. Eventually, the Search Committee chooses one applicant and arranges for that minister to spend an entire week with the congregation, including the presentation of two sermons on two successive Sundays. On the second Sunday, members of the congregation vote Yes or No. Ministers are advised not to accept a call with an affirmative vote of less than ninety percent. The weekend visits typically take place during January, February, March, and April. The candidating week typically takes place in April, May, or June. Most settled ministers begin their service with a congregation in August.
I hope this is helpful! No doubt much of this information about interim ministers and settled ministers will be explained again in more detail further down the road.
See you in Church!
Rev. David Herndon