Thing 1 – Our New Board President

If you’ve read Ryan Williams’ blog from November, you already know that he has left the Board of Trustees and that we have a new president filling his vacancy; and you would also know that that new guy is…er…gulp…, me!  While our Bylaws mandate that the Board pick its own officers each year, our Governance Document declares that the vice president automatically assumes the presidency when it is vacated.  And I thought that I would just serve out the last year of my Board term as VP!

I’m a tad nervous about taking on this job, not so much because I don’t have the time or basic skills needed, but more so because, as a more recent member (I joined in late 2017), my knowledge of the people, culture, and history of UU Asheville is not as deep as I believe a good president should have.  Of course, of my four-plus years here, having two of them in “pandemic mode” has not helped that situation at all.  But I will also admit – and please excuse the chest-thumping here – that I have been a UU since age four, was a deeply-committed congregant at my previous church for more than 30 years, and served that congregation as Board president for five years, over two terms.  This means that I’ve already made most of my “rookie mistakes” that a new guy might make, and I hope it indicates to you that I take this job very seriously.

But I need the help of the rest of the Board, the staff, and the congregation in general, to help fill in that missing knowledge about UU Asheville.  So, I’m putting out a general plea for folks to give me a call or write me a note (my contact info is on Realm) and let me know how our Board can be more responsive to the needs and mission of this congregation.  What are we doing right, what are we doing wrong?  During the pandemic, this question takes on an expanded meaning because we are wrestling with how to be the church that folks need in the middle of a crisis that so significantly alters how we are used to being together.  I would appreciate any input you feel like giving.

One last thing about the Board presidency:  I want to publicly thank Ryan Williams for all he has done for the Board and for our church.  He took on a hard job – one that was out of his comfort zone, at least initially – and gave it his all for 2½ years – this while handling the demands of a full-time teaching job during COVID and a young family.  So, thanks, Ryan – enjoy your new life at UU Asheville!

Thing 2:  Finding Our New Lead Minister

I just wanted to give you a heads-up regarding what I believe will be happening, largely from the Board perspective, over the next few months as we begin our search for a new lead minister.

Governance-wise, our Bylaws don’t say too much about how we find a new minister.  In fact, here’s the whole of it: “In the case of a vacancy for Lead Minister the Board of Trustees shall initiate the search for a new minister and may appoint an Interim Minister as needed. The Board may be guided by the comprehensive selection process recommended by the UUA for Called Minister searches.”

So, the details of the selection process are formally left up to the Board.  Thankfully, the UUA does indeed provide not only a time-tested selection process, but help from UUA staff trained in that process.  While the Board does indeed have the freedom to define our own process, I can’t imagine that we won’t follow the UUA process closely.  I believe we would be foolish not to.

We have already accomplished the first major step of that recommended process:  we have concluded the previous ministry well (thank you, Rev. Mark) and we have hired a wonderful Interim Lead Minister to guide us through our transition (thank you, Rev. Cathy).  We’re now ready for the second major step of the process, which in essence is “choose the search committee.”  Again, the Board could just choose some folks on their own, but this is an area where the UUA has lots of experience and associated data on search committee selection processes and final outcomes.

The UUA-recommended process (which I believe we will follow) is a time-intensive one, with the following major steps:

  • The Board and the Leadership Development Committee divide up all the households in the congregation and place a call to every single household, asking them for recommendations for Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) members. (The callers have a list of attributes that make for a good MSC candidate which they share with each household in the discussion.)
  • One Board member, acting as the “data manager” collects and records all of the names suggested in these calls and the number of times each was mentioned. At the end of all the calling, the data manager reports to the entire Board the 12 to 14 names that were mentioned the most.
  • Board members then call everyone on this short list, asking if they are interested in being an MSC candidate, if they agree to give up any other leadership position they hold if chosen for the MSC, and if they are available for all key portions of the rigorous schedule the MSC plans to maintain. The ones that answer in the affirmative to these questions become MSC candidates.
  • At a congregational meeting (most likely our regular May/June annual meeting), we hold a vote to determine the congregation’s rank order of preference of these candidates. (Each candidate will have filled out a bio, written a “reason for running” and submitted a picture, all of which are published/posted in advance of the meeting so the congregation can familiarize themselves with the candidates.)
  • The Board then meets in executive session to count ballots and determine MSC members. For a congregation of our size, seven is the recommended MSC size.  The full seven can come from the seven getting the most votes in the election, but they don’t have to.  The option exists for the Board to take the top n candidates (where n is less than 7) and appoint the remaining 7 – n from the remaining candidates.  The reason for this is to balance and diversify the committee in terms of age, gender, race/ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  The Board would also want to make sure the MSC has people that are tuned in to major aspects of church life, such as RE, worship, music, justice work, governance, etc.
  • Finally, the Board announces the MSC members, never telling anyone – including the selected search committee members themselves – who was elected and who was appointed.

The MSC then gets to work.  The UUA provides a well-defined set of tasks and milestones which will keep them busy right up until they present us with a candidate at the end of April 2023.

Don’t expect to receive a call asking about your suggestions for MSC members for a month or more; but do be thinking about who might represent UU Asheville well to our next minister.  This is a really important step in the process.

Clyde Hardin, President, Board of Trustees