In April 2016, our congregation started the year-long process or hiring a new settled senior minister. Here’s an overview of the process.
Getting Started – April through June 2016
The seven members of the ministerial search committee (MSC) were elected at a meeting of the congregation on April 17. We began meeting in May and went on a retreat to officially launch our work on June 10-11. Going forward we plan to meet weekly as a group, as well as within sub-committees.
Congregational Survey & Searchlight Meetings – Summer-Fall 2016
One of the most important steps in the search process is to understand who the congregation is, who we want to be, and what kind of minister can best help us fulfill our aspirations. There are two main ways that we’ll gather information about this:
- A congregational survey: This will take about 20 minutes to complete and will cover all aspects of your relationship with the congregation and Unitarian Universalism. The higher the rate of participation, the richer the portrait of our congregation for our potential minister. High participation is also a sign of a healthy congregation, something ministers are looking for. Please participate!
- Searchlight meetings (aka cottage meetings): These are like focus groups: meetings of various sizes in which we learn about your wishes and hopes for our new minister. We plan to offer a variety of times and formats so that everyone can participate.
The search committee’s goal is to find a minister who will guide the congregation in the direction we want to go. As search committee members, we will aim to put our own wishes for the new senior minister aside–instead, our focus will be on understanding the congregation’s wishes so that we can act effectively on the congregation’s behalf.
Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop – October 15-16, 2016
Reverend Keith Kron, Director of the UUA Transitions Office, will visit Montclair to present a program called Beyond Categorical Thinking. This program has been designed by the UUA Department of Faith in Action to promote inclusive thinking and to help prevent unfair discrimination in the ministerial search process. It includes a 3-hour Saturday morning workshop that helps participants examine their own ableism, ageism, heterosexism, racism, and sexism, followed up by a Sunday service on the topic the following morning. We hope you’ll be able to participate in this event.
Preparing a Profile of Our Congregation – Summer-Fall 2016
The matching of potential ministers to congregations happens in an area of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website that is kind of like an online dating site. Congregations looking for a new minister create summary profiles of themselves for ministers to review. Ministers interested in moving to a new congregation review the available congregations’ profiles. If they’re interested in a particular congregation, they make their profiles available to the search committee of that congregation. (Congregations cannot browse all available ministers; we only see the ones who have indicated interest in us, and only starting in January.) Once there is mutual interest, we exchange fuller sets of information called Packets.
Our congregational profile and packet will describe the history and life of UUCM; it will include factual information about the congregation such as membership, attendance, pledging, and budgets. More importantly, it will offer candidates a picture of who we are: Why is UUCM important to us? What is its role in our lives? What challenges confront us in the coming years? What problems have we faced and how have we come to terms with them? This is our opportunity to shine, to boast about our strengths, and yet be honest about our challenges. Our profile is made available to candidates by November 31, 2016.
Reviewing Candidates – January 2017
Starting on January 3, 2017, we will learn which ministers have expressed an interest in our congregation. This is where confidentiality for the search committee’s work becomes extremely important. We will review the profiles and packets of every minister who has expressed interest in being considered by the committee, and will interview some of them using Skype or a similar service. By the end of January we will have narrowed the initial list of interested ministers to a shortlist of three or four “pre-candidates.”
Pre-Candidating Weekends – February through March 2017
During February and March, the MSC will check references and biographical data of the pre-candidates, and we will invite each candidate to Montclair for a weekend that includes an extensive interview, a tour of our community and facilities, and a worship service conducted by the pre-candidate in a “neutral pulpit.” Neutral pulpits are congregations in the Tri-State Area that may have similarities to our own but are not in our immediate area. Because confidentiality is a critical part of the ministerial selection process, the members of the search committee will be the only members of our congregation who will interact with the pre-candidates during these visits.
Selecting a Candidate – April through May 2017
After much discussion, evaluation, and analysis, the search committee will select a final ministerial candidate to propose to the congregation. In April or May the candidate will come to UUCM for a 9-day visit. The candidate will preach at both services for two Sundays in a row, attend meetings with key committees and groups, participate in social gatherings and other events, and interact with members in a variety of ways. If the candidate has a partner or children, often his or her family will be present for “candidating week” as well. After the second Sunday Service, our congregation will vote whether to call the new minister. If the congregation votes to approve the minister, and the minister accepts, we will have a new senior minister!
The new minister would likely move to the Montclair area in August, and officially start in Fall 2017.