Thank you so much to the roughly 60 people who attended our Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop last Sunday after church! Gil said it was a very good turnout for such a small congregation, and we agree!
For those of who you weren’t able to make it, we’d like to share some of our big takeaways. First, Gil made clear that a successful search can result in a decision of “None of the Above.” We, the Search Team, will be working very hard in the next couple of months to analyze the data from the congregational survey, as well as the October cottage meetings and focus groups. Then, come January, we’ll be working very hard to find a minister that meets Wildflower’s needs and desires. We’ll be looking for the right fit. And it might simply be that nobody feels to us to be the right fit. If that happens, it is not a failure. It takes courage for a Search Team to face this truth if it happens, rather than offering the position to someone who isn’t ideal just so we can hire someone. It will also take courage from the entire congregation to accept that result and not see it as a failure but rather a valid step in the process.
Speaking of hiring — Gil also pointed out that calling a minister is really not like the kind of hiring that we think about in the working world. While there are obviously some contractual aspects to this agreement, matching a congregation with a minister is more like a marriage. We are entering into an arrangement with someone in which we both agree to do our part to make the relationship work. This is why it is so important that the person be the right fit for the church.
And speaking of doing our part — Gil asked us to think about what each of us would be willing to do to ensure a successful ministry. Please give that some thought. It takes all of us to make Wildflower Church what we want it to be; a minister cannot do anything alone. And we want to make sure that we give our minister all the support we can to help them help us.
In terms of biases, Gil asked us to consider ministers with specific racial/ethnic identities, sexual orientation/gender identities, and various disabilities. We wrote down whether we had any personal concerns as well as whether we thought there might exist any concerns in the congregation as a whole (either that we had heard of or might suspect). After a brief review of the answers, Gil said that we were in the range of normal responses that he has received in other workshops.
Our own review of the worksheets showed us that, with regard to race, gender, and sexual orientation, there were very few personal concerns; most concerns pertained to issues we thought might exist in the congregation. As to disabilities, however, our congregation had a number of personal concerns, primarily focused on the minister’s ability to do their job. Just as a reminder, any candidate that we interview will have already been vetted by the UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee and will therefore be, in the opinion of the UUA Committee, physically and mentally capable of being a minister.
Another part of the workshop was that each table had the opportunity to discuss a hypothetical case study and then share their feelings about it with the group. There were some lively discussions during this time, as the case studies presented challenging fact patterns. Ultimately, some concerns were expressed that we, the Search Team, felt may have been based, at least in part, on some of Wildflower’s past ministerial experiences. As a result, we have decided that we will add an additional focus group to our current list — people who have been affected by past ministries. We encourage you to participate in this group if you have any concerns about past mistakes being repeated.
All in all, we thought the workshop went very well, and it revealed to us how many of you have much to share in this process but have not yet had the chance to do so verbally. We are eager to hear you, and we look forward to your participation in our October cottage (small group) meetings to give us additional feedback. Those meetings will be Saturday, October 19, from 9 to 11 a.m.; Sunday, October 20, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, October 22, from 7 to 9 p.m. Please make plans to attend one; childcare will be provided at all three.
Also, each of us will soon be approaching our assigned focus groups, so start thinking about whether you fall into any of the following groups: People 65 and up (Laurie), Youth 5th grade and up (Libby), Parents of children and youth (Michelle), Kids 4th grade and under (Libby), Young adults 18 to 30 (Cathy), People of color (Esmeralda and Michelle), People who identify as LGBTQ (Esmeralda), Past Board members (David), Staff (Tommy), People with disabilities (Michelle), and People affected by past ministries (Cathy). And feel free to contact the Search Team member covering your group if you want to make sure to be included.
As always, thank you for your participation in this process with us. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.