Tentative Schedule for Upcoming Worship Services

November 14: Multi-platform (In person and on Zoom)

November 21: Zoom only

November 28: Zoom only

December 5: Multi-platform


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November 14: Multi-platform (In person and on Zoom)

November 21: Zoom only

November 28: Zoom only

December 5: Multi-platform


Hello, I am Esmeralda. It has been an honor and privilege to work with Cathy, Tommy, Michelle, David, Laurie, and Libby. They are stellar. Sarah Skochko is an awesome person. Sarah is a great candidate that would be of outstanding benefit to Wildflower or wherever she may go. Wildflower has been a lovely spiritual home. It is time to move on from the MST, earlier than anticipated, because a truly inclusive culture doesn’t let a few people force the entire congregation or one ministerial candidate into a conversation about race framed by their particular view point.

Wildflower has room to grow in terms of centering the experiences of marginalized identities on certain matters. I have a favor to ask (on the way out, how rude.) When someone posts or references a work you find questionable, please question them publicly. It is important not just for your relationship with the person who posts but also for the Wildflowers on the sidelines. I have been disheartened by the lack of push back at harmful writing.

As a warning, I’m about to say the words white supremacy. Now you can’t tell but I am saying it out loud: WHITE SUPREMACY. I need to be at a church where I can describe my personal experiences of living within white supremacy culture without anyone clutching their pearls. Everyone is in a different place with social justice. I’m in a place where the need to feel safe and supported is paramount. I don’t feel that way at Wildflower.

If you’ve been following the news on our search for a new minister, you’ve been hearing a lot about this mysterious “congregational record.” We wanted to take a moment to describe that to you in more detail.

The congregational record is essentially a profile that tells interested ministerial candidates all about Wildflower. Every church seeking a minister fills one out. It has basic demographic and church information, such as our teams, programs, and surrounding community. But it also includes our detailed answers to substantive questions that are asked of us, such as our desired strengths in a minister, how we live our values, lessons we’ve learned about nurturing ministers, how we handle conflict, our expectations of a minister in different areas, and much, much more.

We have opted not to put our congregational record on our website, because it’s not the kind of information we necessarily want the public to read. It is available to all ministerial candidates through the UUA’s Ministerial Search website, and we are happy to make it available to any member of the congregation who is interested in reading it. But we don’t believe it is appropriate for the general public.

Beginning this Sunday, December 22, you will be able to find a copy of our congregational record in the Search Team book on the wall of the Community Room. If you would like to receive a PDF copy of it, please email us at search@wildflowerchurch.org and let us know. We would ask that you not share it with anyone outside the church.

You may have questions or comments for us after you read it; feel free to direct those to us at search@wildflowerchurch.org. Please know that the Search Team worked extremely hard to draft answers that represented Wildflower based on your answers in the congregational survey, the cottage meetings, and the focus groups. We understand the impossibility of providing a congregational record that perfectly represents every single person at Wildflower; we strove to write something that represents the church as a whole. We very much hope that you will be pleased with the result.

If you missed the Congregational Meeting last Sunday, December 8, then you missed our report, shared by Libby. Here it is:

Hopefully you’ve all been following the work of the Ministerial Search Team through the newsletter, Community Matters announcements, and the blog on our webpage. You should know that we conducted a congregational survey and hosted the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop in September, and that we hosted cottage meetings and focus groups in October. We then spent the month of November consolidating all of that data into cohesive summaries for our congregational record. We submitted that record to our coach on the November 22, and he approved it. In fact, he said he had “never seen one as good,” and he was “particularly impressed” with Wildflower’s “maturity and resilience.” Right now, we’re finishing up our documents packet, which is due to our coach next Sunday. 

The next part of our work will begin in January, when we’ll start getting information about ministerial candidates who are interested in Wildflower. From January to March, we’ll be conducting interviews, both in phone and in person. You may find this phase frustrating, because we won’t be able to share with you the specifics of who we’re interviewing or when those interviews are happening. Confidentiality is a must during this stage of the process. But — generally — we will interview by phone anybody we choose to, and we’ll then select three people to come to Austin for us to meet them in person and watch them give a sermon at a neutral pulpit. Once we’ve evaluated those three individuals, we very much hope to announce a candidate to you in April. 

If that happens, the candidate will then visit Wildflower for Candidating Week at the end of April. That will be a busy 10 days in which the candidate will preach at two Sunday services and meet with various teams, church leaders, and staff throughout the week, as well as having at least one congregation-wide open session with the candidate. At the conclusion of the 10 days, after the second Sunday service, we will have a special congregational meeting to vote on whether the church wants to hire the candidate. As a reminder, a minimum of 90 percent approval is required to move forward, and most candidates prefer an approval vote of 95 percent. 

The Search Team would like to thank all of you for participating in this process with us. We have been gratified by how many of you answered the survey and attended various meetings. We thank you in advance for your patience for the next few months as we go about our work. And remember, if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to let us know at search@wildflowerchurch.org. Also, we will be having an “Ask the MST” forum next Sunday at 1:30 right here, so please feel free to come chat with us then.

One thing we haven’t talked about yet on our blog is the financial impact to Wildflower of hiring a new minister. Since the congregation will be voting on these expenses at our December 8, 2019, congregational meeting, we’d like to take a moment to talk about that now, and explain the three different areas in which we are needing to spend money: the search process itself, the moving costs of a new minister, and the salary for a new minister.

Search Process

The search process itself is not an inexpensive proposition. But so far, we are pleased that our expenses have been right in line with what the UUA expects. The UUA suggests that churches budget about 5 to 7% of their annual budget on the search process. Wildflower’s annual budget for 2019 was $239,000, and the Search Team has set forth a search budget of $14,000, or 5.8%.

The primary expenses for our search are the following:

  • Costs during pre-candidating weekends, when we will be paying for the flight, hotel, rental car, gas, and food, of three ministerial candidates and their partners to come visit with the Search Team on three different weekends: $5,290;
  • Costs during candidating week, when our selected ministerial candidate, along with their partner/family, will be in Austin and visiting with Wildflowers for 10 days, ending in our congregational vote. We will be paying for their flight, hotel, rental car, gas, and food, as well as paying the candidate to preach on two Sundays in a row: $4,457;
  • Coaching/consulting services from the UUA to assist us in our search: $1,750;
  • Cost of our Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop: $500; and
  • Childcare for our BCT workshop, three cottage meetings, and seven focus groups: $780.

We’ve also had other miscellaneous expenses, such as food at our Team retreat, the cost of the survey website, attendance at a search-related workshop at General Assembly, and so on. If you would like more information about our expenses, please let us know at search@wildflowerchurch.org.

While our entire search team budget is $14,000, that is split over two calendar years. The bulk of the expenses — $12,000 — will be in 2020, while $2,000 has been budgeted for 2019. So, at next month’s congregational meeting, you will only be voting on the 2020 expenses — $12,000. You should also know that we have over-budgeted our projected expenses, in an abundance of caution. We are very hopeful that we will spend less than the budgeted amount. (In fact, we have already spent less than anticipated in some areas; for example, most of our focus groups did not require childcare.)

Moving Costs

The UUA recommends that congregations budget $15,000 for moving costs, and our Negotiating Team (Tommy Lukens, Michael Heinich, and Carol Knight) has suggested following that recommendation. This amount will cover things like airfare and moving vans for the new minister and their family. Depending on where they currently live, this cost may be much less than the budgeted amount.


The new minister’s salary is the final expense in this process. For your information, Rev. Ferguson’s annual salary and housing payment for 2019 is $61,350. Added to that are income taxes, pension, insurance (health, dental, and disability), professional expenses, and the minister’s discretionary fund, for a grand total of $87,907.

For our new minister, our Negotiating Team would like to begin our negotiating by offering a salary and housing payment of $65,000. But, given the cost of living in Austin, we are very hopeful that the congregation will approve us ultimately offering a salary and housing amount of $70,000. Adding in all the other miscellanies may bring the total package to around $91,000, depending on the minister’s desired extras. Just for your information, the UUA recommended ministerial salary for churches of our size in our geographic area ranges from $49,900 to $75,000, but this does not take into account that Austin has a 30% higher cost of living than other cities in this area.


As you can see, we’ve got a lot of expenses coming up. But we on the Search Team consider these expenses to be an important investment in the future of Wildflower. We very much hope that you agree! Please plan on attending the December 8 congregational meeting to learn more about these costs and the search process in general, and to ask any questions you may have. We also recommend attending the Board’s Budget Forum this Sunday, November 10, at 1:30 p.m. in the Community Room, when Tommy Lukens will be present to discuss the Search Team portion of the budget. And, of course, you are always welcome to email us at search@wildflowerchurch.org. Thank you so much for your continued involvement in our search process!