Before I leave for the General Assembly of our Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and some weeks of vacation and study leave, I take this moment to express to each and every one of you my gratitude for your support of my ministry at the Fellowship. I have been deeply moved by those of you who (leading up to, during and after the May 20th congregational meeting) encouraged me and expressed your desire for me to be your settled minister. It is a tremendous honor to serve this congregation and I treasure the trust and care you have given me over the last couple of years. I look forward to many more years together!
Our spring congregational meeting introduced some new officers among our Board of Trustees. Herb Newton is our Board President, Nicholas Morgan is Vice-President, Jim Progar is Past-President, Cynthia Talbot is Secretary, Rick Hissem is Treasurer and other Board members include Abby Bonard and Rhonda Love. I am delighted to have this strong group of leaders guiding our congregational work this year. Our Committee on Ministry continues to serve the congregation (they are Sunnie Palmer, Bob McWilliams and Mary Curtis). Board members, Committee on Ministry members and I welcome your questions and/or comments.
At our congregational meeting we also announced plans for the addition of a worship service starting August 26th (when we celebrate our annual Water Communion). Our Second Service Task Force (Gerry Veeder, Ilana Morgan, Linda Tucker, John Beckett, Paul Leung and me) came up with plan that took into account the very good response we received from the survey. Beginning Sunday, August 26th we will have a 9:30am service and an 11:30am service each Sunday. Nursery care and religious education classes will be offered for all children at both services (except for the teen class). A coffee hour will follow each service as well. A discussion group for adults will meet during the 8:30am hour.
Starting on Wednesday, August 29th, we will begin offering a series of adult religious education/exploration classes, lectures and discussion groups every Wednesday night from 7:00pm to 8:30pm. The first program offering will be led by our 2012/2013 Perkins School of Theology ministerial intern, Scottie McIntyre Johnson. She will lead a six session class called “We Are UU” which explores the tradition, history and theology of Unitarian Universalism. It will begin August 29th and continue through October 3rd.
In the fall we will have an installation ceremony which is an opportunity to ritualize and celebrate my start as your called/settled minister. An Installation Committee will be formed in the coming weeks and will announce details as plans unfold.
The last couple of years have been a time of growth for our Fellowship. We have more than doubled our average attendance on Sunday mornings and more and more people visit our congregation each week. In the coming year the Board of Trustees and the Committee on Ministry will be preparing for continued growth as we make room for more people with the addition of a second service. Growth inevitably leads to change and people and systems respond to change in different ways. In recent years our congregation was considered a “family-sized congregation” where folks knew one another and there was a limited ministerial presence. We transitioned to a “pastoral-sized congregation” where folks no longer knew everyone in the congregation because there were too many to know and where the minister had an increased ministerial presence. We are now considered a “program-sized congregation” in which the development of program and oversight committees are essential to maintain the connections that we treasure about our experience together and the ministerial presence is shared by increases in other staff positions.
Through this time of transition, I encourage us to care for one another with open hearts and open minds, remembering that growing pains can be both an exciting time of hope and newness and also a loss of what was. This time of transition is an excellent opportunity for us to practice our faith while we learn to communicate among increased numbers, step into new leadership roles, meet new people and engage in the Fellowship in different ways.
People have asked me about my vision for the Fellowship. I remind them that we have a shared vision. It is listed on our website: http://www.dentonuuf.org/joomla/index.php/beliefs/missionandvision.html. The leadership of our Fellowship continues to focus its energy and activities in ways that help us move toward that vision and I look forward to continuing on that journey as your first full-time, settled minister.
With gratitude and love,