I am one of your Ministerial Search Committee members and I am not going to lie. It has been a lot of work! But it’s very satisfying to be doing something so important and I can really feel your heartfelt gratitude towards all of my colleagues on the committee and appreciation for the way we have been approaching this process. It’s been an honor to get to know my fellow committee members and to work together as a cohesive group. I have so much respect for this team and the work we have accomplished to date.
I felt like I was uniquely qualified to join the ministerial search committee even though I didn’t have much time as a member of UU Asheville and had joined during the Pandemic Times when it was so hard to meet people. I thought I was qualified because I had been a member of 3 different sized congregations including one that regularly had intern ministers fresh out of seminary that would typically stay with us over a full year. It would be fantastic to observe as their confidence in the pulpit grew over time! All this being said, I knew what I liked to see in UU ministers when it came to preaching.
Our first assignment was to prepare for “Beyond Categorical Thinking” workshop and we were asked to fill out a survey asking (1) how we would feel and (2) how would our congregation feel about various scenarios such as the minister candidate having physical or mental disabilities, identify as being LGBTQ+ or a member of the global majority, etc. Truthfully, I knew how I felt about these scenarios I was in a panic when I realized that I couldn’t confidently answer how the congregation would feel. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know the congregation very well and hadn’t considered this angle. Would this be a problem? Was it selfish for me to join the committee to pick a minister I would like?
Thankfully our next task was designing and creating the congregational survey and holding the focus groups and the cottage meetings. I took notes at a good number of the cottage meetings including our first one held during the Mountain Gathering and really enjoyed how everyone participated and brought their whole selves, their love for the community and their dreams for the future. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the verbatim comments from the survey and compiling all the survey answers into categories so we could rank preferences and create charts. Your contributions by answering the survey and participating in our small group cottage meetings helped us create the congregational record and I am so proud of our final product. It was this record that attracted so many ministers to take an interest in us.
My involvement in this process was the best way to get to know my new religious home including meeting so many congregants, the board members, understanding our staffing and our committees, our history, our campus, the financial challenges and so much more. I am so proud to be part of this vibrant community and want to say thanks for giving me this opportunity to know you and represent you through this work. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us and those we haven’t even met yet!
Joanne Fox, Ministerial Search Committee Member