That’s right, it’s true — we’ve decided!
We spent the last two weeks contemplating, pondering, reading, and watching videos, all as individuals. Then, Tuesday night, we met as a team by Zoom.
In order to make our group decision, we used a circle discussion format. We took turns sharing about anything on our minds regarding any of our three pre-candidates. Some of us had written remarks that we read; others of us just shared what we were feeling in the moment. We sometimes echoed each others’ thoughts and other times questioned others’ comments. If we had nothing to say, we passed. We did this, going around the circle repeatedly, until everyone had passed and had nothing left to say. That took us about an hour and a half.
One thing that was clear to us as we shared was that all three of our pre-candidates fell into the Yes category for us. We loved them all, and putting them in a particular order was going to require some discerning. Imagine, for example, a high school class of 600 students being ranked, and we were deciding upon a scholarship offer to give to either the first, second, or third place students. We weren’t dealing with any students in the bottom half of the class or even the second quarter — our three pre-candidates were the absolute cream of the crop, and each of them would be wonderful for Wildflower in different ways.
Still, a decision had to be made. After we concluded our circle discussion, we voted anonymously. We had an online form that Libby had created, and each of us went into the form and ranked the three pre-candidates in our preferred order. It was important to us that our vote be anonymous.
We knew that our first vote would likely show some discrepancies in our rankings. Our plan, if that was the case, had been to continue to discuss, either Tuesday night or this Friday night, and then vote again. But once we were done voting, Libby showed us her screen, which reflected the results. And it was unanimous! All seven of us unanimously agreed on who our first choice was, who our second choice was, and who our third choice was!
This was not necessarily shocking, given how our discussion had gone, but it was still a tremendous relief to us all and cause for considerable joy! I have to say, we were an emotional bunch at that point, full of praise and gratitude for one another and this process as a whole!
So, we have sent our list to the UUA Transitions Office one week ahead of schedule, and now we have a week to relax while we wait to hear back from them. As a reminder, each of our pre-candidates are also ranking the churches they visited. The Transitions Office then acts as sort of a matchmaking entity. Once they get everyone’s lists, they may reply to us with a comment like, “You will be very happy when you reach out to your first option,” or “It looks like your first option is thinking elsewhere, but your next option is available.” And so on. Their intent is to make the overall process smoother for everyone. And again, even if we end up with our third option, we will be thrilled — all three of them are just wonderful.
Assuming we get a candidate — assuming we have an offer and acceptance, an agreed-upon contract, and a completed background check — the next part of the process, in normal times, would be to start planning Candidating Week, when they will come to Austin to meet everyone and the congregation will vote on hiring them. That is supposed to happen in late April or early May. But now, with the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, it is unclear how or when Candidating Week will happen.
Just please know that we, as a Search Team, are working on this. Regardless of whether Candidating Week gets postponed, or we do the entire thing online, or both, we are not alone as we work through these details. The Transitions Office has sent some suggestions to congregrations already, and may be sending more. Ultimately, the most important thing will be for us to settle upon a mutually satisfactory solution between us and our candidate. But we’ll figure it all out, and we’ll keep you informed every step of the way.
As always, thank you for your support of our work. If you have any questions, comments, or any ideas about Candidating Week, please feel free to email us at email@example.com. We miss seeing you all in church and hope you will consider attending the Zoom service this Sunday if you haven’t attended one yet!