Last June you heard from then-Board President Kay Aler-Maida that for the past several years UUCA has been struggling with a couple of important financial problems: We have been running a budget deficit funded from cash reserves, and we have been unable to compensate key exempt staff at levels that they deserve. She told you that part of what we hoped the LOV (Living Our Values) Project would give us is some good guidance on how to adjust our budget to target personnel resources where they are most needed while at the same time operating within our means.

Now that the LOV Project is completed with newly-defined congregational values, mission, and ends we are ready to take the next step and make plans for changes that will make our personnel structure more sustainable while fitting the work of the congregation.

To accomplish that, last Tuesday I recommended and the Board of Trustees approved the following changes: As of July 1, 2018, the position of called Associate Minister will be replaced by a hired Minister of Faith Development, and the position of Director of Lifespan Religious Education (DLRE) will be eliminated. Essentially, this new position will combine the key duties of both Associate Minister and DLRE, with other duties allocated to current staff.

Specifically, I proposed that the Minister of Faith Development supervise and provide vision for the congregational religious education program for children, youth and adults, direct our pastoral care program and supervise small group ministry and other adult programs. The person holding this position also would lead worship once a month.

Membership programs and supervision of Connections Coordinator Venny Zacritz would move to Director of Administration Linda Topp. Leadership of social action and public ministry would be shifted to me as Lead Minister. To reduce the burden this would place on my position, we are exploring adjusting our governance structure so that Linda Topp and I would serve as co-executives. You’ll be hearing more about how that plays out in the future.

I believe that these changes are in keeping with the focus of our new Mission and Ends. Connecting hearts, challenging minds, and nurturing spirits are all accomplished by faith development that transforms us for service in the larger world. One benefit of this change is that it breaks the old “upstairs/downstairs” division that separates the work of faith development in adults, children, and youth. Locating the work of faith development across the generations in one position should naturally promote multigenerational activities.

I expect that one of your first questions will be how this change affects our current Associate Minister Lisa Bovee-Kemper. Lisa and I have talked this over, and she has told me that this position is not the ministry to which she feels called. So, she will look for another position.

I’m sure that many of you will be sad at the prospect of Lisa leaving us next summer. I’m sad, too. She is both a respected colleague and a friend. In the nearly seven years that she’s been with us she has grown to be an awesome minister and will be a gift to any congregation that calls her.

Our work now turns to search to fill this position. It is a little unusual to combine these two roles in one person, but it’s not unheard of. UU congregations in Atlanta, GA, and Oak Ridge, TN, have similar configurations. I hope that we’ll find some good candidates. I’m also considering whether to extend the search to include people with experience with religious education and pastoral care who are not ordained. This would change the position to Director of Faith Development.

Eliminating a senior staff position – Director of Lifespan Religious Education – will relieve the congregation of financial pressures it’s been straining under for years, though the loss of staff hours will require us to be strategic in how we use our people. In religious education, this new person will receive help from our two support staff – Coordinators Kim Collins and Jen Johnson – but across the board, they will need continuing support from all of you to keep our ministries vital and engaged.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister