Deepening Faith. Living Well. Enacting Justice.

President’s Message by Jennifer Skiendzielewski

jenniferI can’t believe it’s November and I’m writing my first president’s message. So much has happened in the first four months of the year that I’ve barely had time to think, much less write those thoughts down! But today I’m taking a breath– and along with it, a look back and a look ahead.

Of course, the biggest thing that’s occupying us this year is the Search process. Many, many thanks to everyone who participated in the Searchlight Gatherings and in the Search Committee’s survey. All of that information, combined with our goals will help them immensely in the months ahead as they evaluate candidates for our new settled minister.

We have also welcomed our new Ministerial Intern, Diana McLean, and revived the tradition of the All-Church Retreat (where a great time was had by all!). We’ve already welcomed new members, had an excellent training on emotional systems (hosted by the Leadership Development Committee), and held a lovely benefit with John Fielder. I know I’m missing other things… What was your favorite?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the honor that we received from the UUA in being named a Breakthrough Congregation. That designation is a testament to the work this congregation has done, not just during the 6+ years of Howell Lind’s Developmental Ministry, but also during the three years before his arrival. In 2005, the congregation accepted the challenge of the Building Beloved Community workshops. That work lead us into the Rev. Becky Gunn’s Interim Ministry with our heads up, looking to the future. Under Becky’s guidance, we developed the Dream Team Report and truly established the foundation that we needed to embark on something as radical as a Developmental Ministry.  

Of course, the Breakthrough Congregation honor was accompanied by an article in the UU World magazine. I know that some people were not happy with the article, both because it included some incorrect numbers and because it did not accurately reflect the timeline of our upward trajectory as a congregation, as I laid out above.

Any incorrect numbers that were reported… Well, they came from us. A group of members were interviewed for the article back in May. It was a fairly informal conversation, held over the course of three hours. People came and went throughout that time. Most of the time was spent in lively conversation, with the writer taking notes as quickly as she could.

As we spoke, we didn’t have church records in front of us– we were speaking from our hearts. When we gave numbers, we were relying on our (all-too-fallible) memories to provide values that corresponded with our experiences as we remembered them. It is easy to look back and say, “We should have…” It is much more difficult to know what we “should” do when we’re in the moment. I’m certain that I speak for all of the participants when I say that no malice was intended in the interview– and any incorrect information provided was unintentional.

As for the incorrect timeline… I truly believe that Elaine (the writer) interpreted her notes the best she could. She did not record the conversation, she took notes by hand. And then she compiled those notes into the most dynamic article that she could. That’s her job. Maybe she took some journalistic license. Maybe she was confused by her notes or maybe we weren’t as clear as we thought we were. We weren’t asked to review a draft of the article (much to my surprise) and I, at least, was never contacted with follow up questions (except to provide a phonetic pronunciation of my name for the individuals who were creating the audio version of the magazine).

In the end, I have to have faith that Elaine meant only the best. That she believed she was telling our story in a way that honored and served us. I can attest to the fact that people outside of our congregation have felt that way. I’ve heard from friends in two other states, who were very excited about the article. The church office has received several emails asking for information about our programs, and Howell has spoken with friends around the country who congratulated us for the things we’ve achieved.

And we have achieved a great deal. We have done the work. We have built a community that speaks to people and that reaches out into the world around us. And we are propelling ourselves into the future, carried by the wave that was started by the Dream Team report. In October, we kicked off our Strategic Planning process– and we’ll be continuing it in November. The goal is to have a draft of a strategic plan ready in January, just in time for the Search Committee to show to our prospective candidates when they come for their interviews in February. Please join in the process if you are at all able!



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