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Transition Team Plan to Engage Our Congregational Heritage

Back in December, after a series of meetings with the congregation, the Ministerial Transition Taskforce and the Board concluded that the church has transition work to do. This includes changes in governance and organization, identifying future program emphases, and making efforts to address cultural issues that may be holding us back from realizing our best form of community.

In the past, this kind of transition work was typically guided by an interim minister, a specialist in helping congregations to get ready for a new settled minister, who then moves on.

But given our constraints and opportunities, we are not following that path. We were constrained by available candidates and perhaps by our past experiences with interim ministers. More importantly, we had the opportunity to craft our own version of a ministry, a shared ministry that includes Reverend Tovis and Reverend Terri as well as each member of our congregation who can be engaged in building our community. We hope that this means every member.

So we now plan to do the transition work ourselves, guided by our shared professional and lay ministry. To this end, we budgeted for some transition work in our contracts with Reverend Terri and Reverend Tovis and the Board appointed a transition team to work with them. So far, that team includes Joan Cassman, Diana Candee, Tricia Dell, and John Farrow.

Transition work tends to focus on five areas.

  • Heritage work reviews how our community was formed and has been shaped.

  • Leadership work considers how to organize and develop leadership to be effective.

  • Mission work considers, reconsiders, and clarifies our values and identity.

  • Connections work looks at our links to our community, denomination, and partners in action.

  • Planning our future involves identifying or programs and commitments and ensuring we have the necessary ministries.

Some of this work is sequential and some of it is simultaneous. While congregations often start transition work with an inquiry into their heritage, a month into her job, Reverend Terri is already working with our current leadership to think through our governance, operations, and future leadership needs.

And we are now beginning a series of events to invite the congregation to think about our history. Our plan and our goal in looking at our history is to ask and answer questions that will help us decide what we want for our future. To decide where we want to direct energy and attention, what we may need to heal, what we may want to change, and what we want to keep building on and growing.

So what are these questions? We need to ask ourselves what we are good at, what we care about, and when we have really come together to live out a common mission. We also need to ask ourselves where we have stumbled, what hurts, and whether there are patterns of behavior we want to change. We need to ask where we have fruitfully partnered with our community, our denomination, and local organizations. We need to ask what has inspired us and gotten us through tough times.

This month, we will begin a series of events to address these questions. We have located the scroll of UUSM history created by Herodotus in 2012 in an ark in Reverend Tovis’ office, and we will be posting it on November 12 for a month so that each of us can revisit, correct, and update his work. We will be hosting a watch party on November 19 for the candid videos made during our 40th and 50th anniversaries so you can revisit the odd clothing and hairdos of the past and eat popcorn in the sanctuary. Jac will be interviewing our church elders and podcasting their stories of our past. And we will be hosting some smaller meetings to collect stories, issues, aspirations, and, inevitably, some gossip about our ancestors. Stay tuned. And be sure to attend the Congregational meeting this Sunday November 5, at which we will be available to hear your suggestions and address questions.

We hope that every member of the congregation will participate. Working together to discern our heritage through narrative, criticism, and appreciation will provide us with the collective foundation we need for our future.


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