Many members of our congregation have only belonged to one church, WUUC, and have only known one minister, Rev. Lois Van Leer. For those members, this must feel like a time of great uncertainty. This situation is further complicated by questions about the circumstances of the departures of both Rev. Lois and our Director of Lifelong Learning, Rev. Jaelynn Scott. What will happen to us without Rev. Lois? How can the church go on without our minister and DLL? We, the co-chairs of your Ministerial Transition Team, would like to provide some historical perspective.
WUUC was founded in 1991, and in the 27 years since then, we have had five ministers: Rev. Barbara (Wells) ten Hove (Founding Minister, 1991-1998); Rev. Sue Turner (Interim Minister, 1998-1999); Rev. Alan Taylor (1999-2003); and Rev. Alex Holt (2003-2008). Then we were lay-led for two years (2008-2010) before Rev. Lois Van Leer (2010-2018). Rev. Lois’s was the longest of these five ministries.
Ministers have left our congregation for many different reasons. They reached the end of a pre-defined interim period; a mutual understanding was reached between congregation and minister that there was no longer a “fit”; the minister no longer felt they could provide what the congregation needed; the minister’s career goals concerning size and type of congregation they wished to serve changed; the minister desired to share a co-ministry; plus many other reasons not so clear. These were not cases of fault or shortcoming of either minister or congregation. No one was “to blame.” When each of these ministers left, the congregation experienced some feelings of loss, grief, lack of understanding, and even abandonment. That is the nature of the ending of a deeply felt relationship, and it is a testament to our commitment that we feel so connected to our ministers.
One thing has remained constant through all of our ministerial changes – our church community has continued. We have not stayed the same, and yet we are still here. We have evolved and grown as a caring spiritual home, learned much about ourselves and how we interact with and serve each other and our world. Many of us have been here to witness all of these ministerial departures and have stayed to be part of an ever-changing and developing spiritual community. We do not intend to leave, but will continue to be part of this amazing, ever-evolving, loving, and resilient spiritual community. Like our late friend, mentor, and founding member, Jim Kimbrough, we are institutionalists and believe in the development and support of institutions like our church. We believe in our church because WUUC can do more good than any individual and, if it is nurtured to remain healthy and true to its missions, will continue to do so long after those who started and supported it—members and ministers alike—are gone. This is the legacy that we intend to be part of and to leave when we are gone – a healthy WUUC working for the greater good. We hope that all of you will join us in this renewed commitment.
Our part of this commitment involves welcoming and supporting our Interim Minister, Rev. Diana Smith. Rev. Diana is eager to serve our congregation and to help us move through our grief and confusion about the departures of Rev. Lois and Rev. Jaelynn as well as the other tasks of her ministry. We are not ready for a new settled minister at this time. Interim ministry is recommended for congregations whose settled minister is leaving and who intend to call a new minister at some point in the future (for us, in two years). Experience has shown that a period of interim ministry dramatically increases the chance of success for the next settled minister.
And now, for what lies in our immediate future with our Interim Minister, we’d like to remind you of the five tasks of Interim Ministry:
- claiming and honoring our past and engaging and acknowledging our grief and conflicts
- recognizing our unique identity and our strengths, needs, and challenges
- understanding the appropriate leadership roles of the minister, church staff, and lay leaders and navigating the shifts in leadership that may accompany times of transition
- making appropriate use of regional, UUA, and other outside resources
- renewing our vision, strengthening our stewardship, preparing for new growth and new professional leadership, ready to embrace the future with anticipation and zest
Rev. Diana’s first day is Aug. 1, and she will be meeting with leaders throughout the church in August and September as well as taking advantage of many social events to meet members and friends. Her first day in the pulpit will be Aug. 12. Please join us in welcoming Rev. Diana and allowing her to help us through this transitional time for our church. We can come through this experience stronger and closer to one another, in community.
The Interim Ministry Transition Team
Co-Chairs: Chick Sweeney & Alaine Davis
Members: Chuck Bean, Leslie Morton, Cora Goss-Grubbs, Robin Heffelman