This month I want to share an update based on questions I’ve been receiving about your interim process.

Interim Ministry vs Ministerial Search: Workshop Feb. 3 at 11:30 a.m. with Transitions Coach

Some people have asked questions about when WUUC will begin the process of searching for your next minister and have expressed concerns that WUUC might be behind schedule with this. The quick answer is that you’re not at all behind schedule.

The search for your next minister is something that is done in parallel with your interim ministry work and is related to the interim ministry work that you do, but it is separate from it. When Rev. Duane Fickeisen, WUUC’s transitions coach, is here on Feb. 3, he will cover this in much more detail. I’ll continue doing your interim work and giving you updates on that, but most of the information about the search process will be coming from the Board and, later this year, the Search Team.

Briefly, though, congregations searching for a new settled minister generally form a search committee for their next minister in the spring on their first interim ministry year (spring 2019). Over the summer a search committee comes together to understand how the search process works and to decide how they will gather input from the congregation. In the fall of your second year of interim ministry, the search committee will gather input from the congregation on what you’re looking for in your next minister. Provided there is clarity, the search committee creates a packet about the congregation. The process with prospective settled ministers takes place from December – April. Over the next few months, the exact process WUUC will use will become much clearer. This process needs to be discerned with your transitions coach.

Interim ministers do not get involved with the search process itself. Rather, we work with the congregation to do its own interim/developmental work. Doing this work is important to gain clarity on the interim focuses I outline below. This work has been found to be critical for the health of congregations. And without doing this work it’s much more difficult to have a successful search for a congregation’s next minister.

Congregational Interim Focuses

The interfaith Interim Ministry Network and the Unitarian Universalist Association have discerned five main focuses for congregations during their interim period. Doing this work is important to gain clarity on who a congregation has been, who it is, where it thinks it’s going, and its congregational culture and relationship to ministry and minsters. Having more clarity on these issues helps a congregation move into the future with zest. What’s more, without more clarity on these issues it’s difficult to engage in a successful search.

The five main focuses of a congregation’s interim work are:

  • Your heritage – coming to terms with history.
  • Your leadership – allowing needed leadership change.
    • Understanding your governance and organizational processes.
  • Your connections – internal and UUA, regional, interfaith, other organizations.
  • Your mission – understanding your identity.
  • Your future – committing to new direction.

Another way of understanding interim ministry is to think about it as a time when a congregation reflects on and discerns its answers to these overarching questions:

  • Who is WUUC?
  • Who is your neighbor?
  • What is WUUC called to do in the world?

Work on these interim issues and questions is iterative, meaning that we typically work on them simultaneously and repeatedly throughout the two years of interim ministry. In September 2018 and throughout the fall, WUUC’s Board of Trustees and I discerned that much of the work I’d do with you this first year would focus on:

  • Your heritage, particularly through storytelling about your past.
    • What kind of relationship has WUUC had with itself? With its ministers?
  • Building internal connections, trust, and communication. This includes working on and deepening your relationship with covenants.
    • What kind of relationship does WUUC want to have with itself? With its minister? How can members of WUUC hold space for difference while maintaining communication?
  • Building connections with the UUA to support search and for General Assembly, which will be in Spokane from June 19-23. Understanding your other connections with the external community.
    • What is the identity of WUUC (inward community vs transformation and outreach)?
  • Understanding your current organizational systems, your desired relationship with ministry and ministers, and then beginning to develop your desired organizational structure and governance.
    • What is WUUC’s governance approach? Do policies and procedures support that?

The Board, Transitions Team, Ministry Council and I have each been working on these issues from different angles over the past few months.

  • We’ve worked on understanding your heritage through multiple gatherings and the collaborative history odyssey project we began on Jan. 27 will help you enter into congregation-wide discussions.
  • The listening circles, community conversations, and work on interim issues and covenant that I’ve begun doing with various committees is part of work on internal connections. You can read more about the Board’s work on these issues in the newsletter column they began writing for the December newsletter.
  • In the Board’s newsletter articles you can also read about some of the work we’ve done on making connections with the UUA. The BSAFF fund, renewal of WUUC’s Racial Justice Task Force, and the work Advocates for Social Justice is doing are examples of ways this congregation is working on understanding your other connections to the external community.
  • And finally, while not everyone finds this as fascinating as I do, the work we’ve been doing on understanding your organizational systems has led to the Board adopting WUUC’s new signage policy and interim hiring policy, as well as the processes we used to hire WUUC’s new Director of Lifelong Learning. The Ministry Council has been working on understanding responsibility, authority, and how programs are developed, which has helped lead to the BSAFF fund and new support for small group ministry.

We’ll be continuing this work throughout the spring. As the congregation engages in this work, we know that there will be anxiety, conflict, and some confusion. These are normal parts of the interim process. It’s uncomfortable and challenging to engage with interim work. And the end result isn’t perfect, finished products. Instead, the journey itself is sacred – this is where our spiritual work happens, as we build the path while we travel it.

To help support clear communication and the congregation’s interim work, please contact me directly if you have concerns, feedback or more detailed questions about things that are happening at WUUC during the interim, or if you’d like to have a more in-depth conversation with me about WUUC. I also encourage you to talk with the members of your Board of Trustees and the Transitions Team.

As we’ve discussed in various venues this fall and winter, helping a congregation do its interim work takes a lot of an interim minister’s time and energy. As such, I’ll continue being less involved in pastoral care and in social justice work than Rev. Lois was. Please keep reaching out to me and the lay pastoral associates for support, though. Jessica Belmont and Dan Ballard have joined the lay pastoral team to help meet the congregation’s pastoral needs.

For regular updates on upcoming interim work stay tuned to this column. In addition, this winter I will begin holding informal conversations with the minister about once a month following worship. At the first conversation on Feb. 10, I’ll invite participants to discuss your collaborative history odyssey project. Other currently-scheduled dates will be March 3, April 7, and June 16.

In faith as we journey together,
Rev. Diana