February 2014 Newsletter

UUCA Connections, our monthly newsletter, includes service descriptions, columns from the Minister, Board of Trustees President, the Director of Lifespan Religious Education and the Assistant Minister. It also includes upcoming events, timely articles, and one page that is devoted to our Earth & Social Justice Ministry discussions and program offerings. Read Rev. Mark Ward’s column below, or click here to read the entire newsletter, and get a better feel for our congregation and how you would fit in!

Minister’s Musings

We’ve discovered in the last several months that there are many issues for a congregation to weigh in deciding whether to call a minister. And in many ways the decision on whether to call a second minister is even more complicated. The Second Minister committee has done a great job of sorting through these issues, but as we near the end of this process I thought it might be worthwhile addressing one concern that, while a bit arcane, is still important.

For some years, this congregation has been shifting how we work to a form of decision-making called Policy Governance. It’s a system where the elected Board of Trustees takes responsibility for setting out what it believes the congregation wants to achieve – this is laid out in what are called Ends Statements. They embrace everything that we do. Then, the Board directs the Executive, which, in our case, is me, to hire staff, recruit volunteers and create programs to achieve those Ends. And, to close the circle, I report back to the Board on what we – staff and volunteers – are doing to achieve those Ends and how it’s going.

Some people wonder whether having a second called minister might create confusion under that model. They point out that once a minister is called, she or he is ultimately responsible only to the congregation. Would that diminish or conflict with the power of the Executive, who in this model is designated chief of staff? I have been a part of several conversations about this among ministers in Policy Governance congregations, and I have to tell you that there is no consensus on this point. There are some who believe that there should only be one called clergy to a congregation, and there are others who have a second called minister and are happy with the situation.

Deciding which way to go takes us back to the question of why to call a second minister in the first place. As I said back in September, ministry is an unusual line of work that when done right requires those who undertake it to bring their whole selves to it. It’s never anything like 9 to 5. While it’s possible to create hired ministries, few ministers would undertake them for more than a brief time. As one minister who has been both a hired and a called associate put it to me, “when I was a hired assistant I spent a lot of my time looking for the next position. After I was called, all that went away.”

I believe that this congregation is looking for someone who will give them the level of commitment and trust that a called ministry provides. I agree, though, that if we call Lisa, it will be important for us to negotiate with her a letter of agreement that clearly lays out her role in the congregation and her reporting relationship to me. Other congregations have done this successfully, and I believe we can, too. In the end, I think, this process should be guided by the quality of ministry the congregation hopes to create.