Interim Minister Search

Please see the November 30 Board of Trustees announcement about the interim minister search here.

The practice of hiring an interim minister following a ministerial departure is almost universal among UU congregations. First Unitarian is no exception. Interim ministers are specifically trained to help congregations in making the transition to a new settled minister.

When radical change is forced upon a congregation, often by the departure of a minister, the task is simple to name: it is to accept the change and move on to embrace the opportunities that change allows.” – John Weston, former transitions director for the Unitarian Universalist Association

What is an interim minister?

Interim ministers are recognized for their ability to assist congregations in coming to terms with their past and claiming their new identity as they ready themselves for a stimulating relationship with a new settled minister. Some ministers see this as their life’s work, and the Unitarian Universalist Association has developed an Accredited Interim Ministry program for ministers who make interim work their calling. In an average year, some ninety North American congregations are served by interim ministers – more than 10% of all congregations served by full-time ministry.

Why do we need an interim minister?

The process of calling a settled minister typically takes a year or more. But even if we had more time to call a new minister, we would likely still hire an interim minister. There’s typically a lot of stress surrounding a congregation’s transition to a new minister. Congregations who don’t intentionally hire an interim minister during a ministerial transition often find themselves having called an “unintentional interim minister” instead. At best, the next minister will have heavy going. At worst, the minister will not last. Among UU congregations, the practice of hiring an interim minister following a ministerial departure is almost universal.

How will the congregation benefit from having an interim period?

The interim period following the end of one ministerial relationship and preceding the beginning of another offers an opportunity for the congregation to review its goals, assess its programs, consider the quality of its life in common, and “tune up” for a new era. The two-year period it usually takes for a congregation to grow into and own its identity, independent of both positive and negative feelings about the ministry that has come to an end, can be exciting, even transformative, when devoted to self-examination and institutional renewal.

What if an accredited interim minster (AIM) isn’t available?

The number of congregations requesting interim ministers always exceeds the number of AIMs and AIMs-in-training available. The gap is filled by ministers in various circumstances: new seminary graduates, transfers into our ministry from other denominations, returnees to the parish from other work, recent retirees seeking only temporary posts, and ministers growing restive or discontented in their current settlement and believing a year’s temporary position preferable to continuation in place. The UUA provides a three-day Transitional Ministry Orientation for ministers about to do interim ministry for the first time.

How long will the interim minister serve at First Unitarian?

Ideally, First Unitarian’s interim minister will serve from January 2019 until August 2021 – a period of approximately two and a half years.

Can the interim minister become our settled minister?

To guarantee their ability to speak the truth “without fear or favor,” interim ministers generally agree not to serve beyond two years in any congregation, though ours may be an exception. They also agree not to be a candidate for the called position until they have been absent from the congregation for at least three years.

How specifically will the interim minister help us with finding a settled or called minster?

To enable congregations to heal and to enrich their sense of religious community during this transitional period, the specially trained interim minister seeks to assist the congregation by:

Interim ministers are specially trained to shed light on hidden issues, evaluate the needs of a congregation, work with lay leaders to promote healing, and help the congregation identify and move toward their dreams for the future.

Who is conducting the search for an interim minister?

First Unitarian has formed an Interim Minister Search Committee to:

Periodically, the Search Committee will keep the congregation updated on its progress. The Search Committee will invite the congregation to at least one formal informational session, to be held this fall.

The members of the Search Committee are: Alison Schwartz (chair), Azi Block, John Hooper, Maria Lauro, Betsy Mullaugh and Scott Smith.

By when will the decision on an interim minister be made?

The Interim Minster Search Committee hopes to identify a favored candidate and gain Board of Trustees approval by November 3, 2018. This is the earliest date on which the Transitions Office of the UUA allows congregations to make formal offers to interim minister candidates. However, since the Search Committee may not receive the names of all interested interim ministers until the UUA deadline of October 23, the process could be somewhat delayed.

Search Committee Members
Alison Schwartz (chair)
Azi Block
John Hooper
Maria Lauro
Betsy Mullaugh
Scott Smith

Decision Date
November 3, 2018
This is the earliest date on which the Transitions Office of the UUA allows congregations to make formal offers to interim minister candidates.

Interim Minister Term
January 2019 - August 2021
(2 years and 8 months)

Send an email to, or feel free to reach out to any member of the Search Committee.

Come to be moved and held in mutual embrace. Come and be made whole.
First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
605 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 621-8008     Map and directions
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10:30 AM
Office Hours
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Tuesday - Friday
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