Our congregation is in an exciting and unusual time. Following the retirement of Reverend Mark Harris after more than twenty years of ministry at First Parish, we are in a two-year interim period while we prepare to call a new minister.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) provides support and guidance for congregations searching for a new minister. The UUA Transitions page has an overview of the process and links to more resources. The UUA Settlement Handbook details the process in a PDF document and a companion series of videos.
We have been waiting a lot since mid-March 2020… waiting for a vaccine, waiting to see our loved ones, waiting for a hug, waiting for our communities to be open, waiting for a kinder world… At FPW, there is also waiting for the Ministerial Search Process.
Wait. What? The Search Committee can’t say anything about pre-candidating ministers?
No. We cannot. Out of respect for the confidentiality of the candidates and their current communities, we can’t tell you things that would give any idea of who they are.
While your Search Committee is not a group of church officials sequestered day and night waiting to send a signal of a decision, we are a group of church leaders working very hard to be sure we have crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s on good process to determine the candidate to present to you for a vote in the spring.
What a month it has been for the ministerial search process! We have learned a lot about applicants and this process.
Beloved community, Happy New Year from your Ministerial Search Committee!!! Thanks for your interest and patience!!! Here is a bit about where we have been and where we are going: Evaluated and summarized your survey feedback Facilitated 11 cottage meetings and focus groups. (80 attendees) Hosted 43 attendees at Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop. Revised the 2-year-old Congregational Record (CR) with 29 discussion points Wrangled answers and data for 52 questions about ourselves, submitted...
Will the new minister hear me? Will my concerns and needs be met? Will the minister understand what I’m living with? How will the community respond to our minister? In answering these questions, a picture of the “ideal minister” (categorized by age, gender identity, nationality, physical or cognitive ability, race, sexual orientation, etc.) comes to mind. With this picture in place, it can be easy to unintentionally exclude ministers who fall into certain categories. At times, as we get caught...
The members of the Search Committee have been working hard behind the scenes over the summer - receiving training from the UUA, delegating roles, and beginning to gather information. As the church year begins this fall, we are looking forward to hearing from you, the members, friends, and staff of First Parish Watertown, as part of the phase the UUA calls “Building the Structure to Search.” Listening is vitally important in understanding the hopes, visions, and perspectives of the congregation...
Thank you for taking the time to tell us about yourself and your experience of our congregation! We estimate the survey will take 20-40 minutes to complete. This survey will help you, our congregational leadership, our Search Committee, and our future minister understand our congregation better. Responses to these questions will help guide cottage meeting discussions and enrich the narrative about our ministry context that the Search Committee shares with ministerial applicants. The survey...
Judy Kamm, Chair, has found a spiritual home at FPW since 1982. Her roles have included Trustee since 1987; Chair of the Ministry Committee for Rev. Mark Harris for more than a decade; Parish Committee member during our $400,000 heating system replacement project; and founder/coordinator of our annual art show since 2015. Kyle Morton, Co-chair, has been a member of FPW since 2002 or so. Kyle and his wife Kelly have raised two children, Roane (19) and Gates (14), in the church. He served on the...
These phases and deadlines are taken from the UUA’s search calendar for congregations calling a new settled minister in August 2021.
Phase 1: Concluding A Ministry Well
In June 2019, we said goodbye to our longtime minister, Reverend Mark Harris. Mark was minister at First Parish from 1996, when he was settled as part of a co-ministry with his wife, Reverend Andrea Greenwood, until 2019. At the Annual Meeting in April 2019, the congregation voted to give Mark the title of Minister Emeritus.
After consultation with the UUA on the process for congregations in transition, the Parish Committee selected Reverend Wendy Bell as our Interim Minister. She will serve our congregation through this time of transition, from August 2019 to July 2021.
Phase 2: Education and Preparation for the Search
The preparation for the search began in the spring of 2019, with our first consultations with the UUA and a review of our congregation’s by-laws (PDF).
In the spring of 2020, members and friends of First Parish nominated a slate of eleven candidates. Following UUA guidance, the seven-member Search Committee is composed of the top four people elected by the congregation at a Special Congregational Meeting on June 7, 2020, and three more appointed by Parish Committee from the nominated list. The Ministerial Search Committee consists of: Kate Hanson Plass, Ben Jerome, Judy Kamm, Kyle Morton, Silke Plesch, Beth Tappan-deFrees, and Will Twombly. This group is charged with working to represent and serve the whole congregation as they determine the best person to become our church’s 30th minister.
Phase 3: Building the Search Structure
From the time the Search Committee is announced in June through the fall, the members have four key tasks:
- Build the committee’s knowledge of the process and ability to work together through covenanting together, identifying roles and responsibilities, and attending a two-day retreat.
- Survey the congregation about their vision and hopes for a new ministry.
- Complete the Congregational Record, a series of questions about the demographics, character, and history of the congregation
- Create a Document Packet packet of material about the activities, policies, and governance of the congregation.
In addition, a Negotiating Team will recommend a contract and compensation package for the next minister.
The congregation’s role in this phase is to respond to the Search Committee’s survey and participate fully in the activities designed to identify a shared vision for the new ministry.
Phase 4: Opening Up the Search
In November and December 2020 the Search Committee will finalize and submit the Congregational Record and Packet, which then will be available to ministers in search.
Phase 5: Discernment & Mutual Selection
The Search Committee will receive the names of applicants in early January 2021. The Search Committee will conduct a first round of video interviews. Several candidates will be invited for a Precandidate Weekend in February or March, which will include an in-depth interview, tours of the church and area, and a sermon preached at a neutral pulpit (a separate UU church). This weekend is usually held in-person, but this year will be conducted entirely virtually. The Search Committee will make an offer to one candidate on April 1, 2021.
The Search Committee is bound by confidentiality, particularly during this phase of the process. They can be transparent about the progress on the timeline – that our record is live, that we’ve received names – but will not share any information about the candidates.
Phase 6: Finalizing the Offer
The Search Committee finalizes the offer with the candidate by agreeing on the details of a contract and conducting background checks. The Search Committee will announce the candidate in early to mid April.
Phase 7: Entering into a New Ministry
Candidating Week, anticipated to be April 25 – May 2, 2021, is a time for congregational leaders, staff, and members to spend time with the candidate. The candidate will lead two services and spend time meeting with leaders, talking with members, and engaging staff. The week culminates on the final Sunday with a congregational vote on calling the minister.
The new minister will begin their ministry August 1, 2021.