Typically when it is my time to write the blog, I like to start by thinking of a topic, question, or conversation that has come up in my work with the Board. I then spend a little time thinking about what it is I want to say and how I might wax poetic when saying it. After all, isn’t that kind of what blogs are for? Waxing poetic with a point? Take the topic of “Transition”. If these were typical blog writing days, I might spend a little time reflecting on what the word “transition” means, how it feels, what it looks like, and then maybe try to toss in a couple of juicy metaphors. I would imagine people reading it while silently nodding along before looking up and away with an unfocused yet thoughtful gaze. “He sure does make a strong yet eloquent point.” the readers would think to themselves. Or even better, they would smile and softly say words like “Whoa. ‘Spring is Transition.’ Dude, that’s really deep…”

The key word however is typically and these are not typical days. It seems like lately everything in my life is “in transition.” Ministerial transition. Political leadership transition. (Sudden) Educational Setting transition. The Return to Little League transition. There is kind of so much transition happening in my life right now that I have pretty much decided that the last thing I need right is a waxing poetic blog or the pondering gazes that go with it. What I kind of need right now is someone to simply look at me and say: 

     “Here is what’s happening. Here is your list of things to do. Get Ready. Do them.” 

And so with that in mind, I have decided to take a slightly different approach to the Board blog for the next couple of months and focus my words more directly on providing basic, straightforward information about the ministerial transition into which we are entering. So aside from this overly worded prologue, it will be my intention over the course of my next few blogs to simply answer the following questions:

  • Question Set 1: What work is happening to find us an interim minister? Who is the Search Committee and what are they doing? Why aren’t we all doing the work together?
  • Question Set 2: What can we expect once we have an interim minister? How will the interim minister experience differ from the called minister? How will we all do the work together?

In other words, it will be with my best intention and completely against my actual nature to answer these (and other) questions for you directly. No poetics. No metaphors. No deep thoughts. 

In other words, just the facts ma’am. Bullet style.

So here we go with Question Set 1.

What work is happening to find us an interim minister? 

The work of preparing for the interim search began (resumed) back in December. Since then, Members of the Board have: 

  • spent time monthly in guided reflections centered on identifying our congregation’s mission, strengths, values, challenges, and future goals. 
  • We have met with transition coordinators from the UUA Transition Office to talk about the nuts and bolts of the transition process. 
  • We started conversations about what kind of structural preparations might be needed for leadership shifts. 
  • We confirmed an Interim Search Committee to lead the search process
  • We created a Farewell Committee to begin the work of saying our goodbyes to our beloved current lead minister, Rev. Mark Ward.

Who is the Search Committee and what are they doing?

The Interim Search Committee consists of Tory Schmitz, Iris Hardin, Charlie Marks, and myself (Ryan Williams). Aside from the Williams fellow, the rest of this crew are incredibly smart, thoughtful, and highly organized! This committee meets every other week and so far, their work has included:

  • Preparing the Interim Search Packet. This packet includes information ranging from membership numbers to financial information to congregational history to programs and purposes. It asks about staff relationships and congregational governance. It asks for examples of how we live our values and what momentum we would like to keep moving forward. The answers to these questions have been gathered through basic records investigations as well as conversations with Rev. Mark, Rev. Claudia, Linda Topp, and Les Downs. (Venny I will talk with you yet!) The packet will be submitted by March 23rd to the UUA Transition Office who will then review it and return with any possible corrective suggestions and we will then officially submit it by the Search Timeline date of April 23rd.
  • Generating and collecting questions from staff and congregants to be used once we receive the list of potential candidates from the UUA Transition Office on May 4th. We are also working to create a set of questions to be used for Reference Checks as well as evaluative criteria for helping us rate candidates using a shared vocabulary and reference point. In addition to the general question topics, we have also been specifically thinking and talking with others about interview questions about how Covid/Post-Covid life might color our congregational life during the interim. If you find yourself with a question you would like us to consider for our final interview set, please feel free to email it to me at board@uuasheville.org. Interviews of candidates and reference checks will take place between May 4th and May 18th with official offers extended on May 20th.

Why aren’t we all doing the work together?

  • This perhaps is one of the biggest questions and concerns that have been expressed to those of us on the Board as well as on the Search Committee. The most basic response would be “because this is how the UUA Transition Office says we should do it and we are following their recommendation” however I know that for many at UUCA, “Because they told us to” is not the most satisfying answer. I realize that there is validity in thinking that entering into transition and bringing in new leadership would be something that would benefit from the work of ALL of us. However, the role of Interim and the search for finding one are different processes. 
  • I will go into the work of the Interim next month but for now, perhaps you can think of it as a facilitator, a guide, a “systems observer.” Though we are obviously going to be looking for someone who we “like”, who can “preach”, and whose central values “align” with our own, the reality is that no matter how much we connect with our future interim minister, they will still only be, well, interim. For this reason, the UUA has streamlined the search process and procedures for finding an interim minister so that there is space when the time comes for the WHOLE congregation to do the work (under the guidance of the interim) of choosing a Called Minister. It will be during the Called Minister Search that EVERYONE will be asked to participate and for all voices to be heard. Don’t worry. I promise, YOU will get your chance to hold the mic repeatedly once that work begins. 🙂

I hope that in this time of both change AND distance, the information in this March blog helps give people some kind of comforting framework for “What is happening prior to the interim?” Rest assured, next month I will sideline the long, poetically-waxed intro so that I can more quickly get to addressing and sharing information related to the Set 2 Questions regarding “What happens once we are in the interim?” Until then, continue to do your best to stay connected in these disconnected times, to appreciate the past and present that we have shared with Mark Ward, and to imagine the next chapter of our UUCA future. 

“Yo dude, that’s deep.”

Ryan Williams, Board of Trustees