Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Associate Minister’s Annual Report and Vision for Sunday’s Congregational Meeting

Unitarian Universalist Society            May 19, 2013                         Congregational Meeting

Report and Vision by Associate Minister Roger Jones

Time Passes

It was five years ago that I moved here to serve as Family Minister, on a year-to-year contract.   It was just last September that you installed me as a settled Associate Minister, but that grand celebration now seems like ancient history.  So much has happened this year.  A few highlights:  Doug’s announced retirement as Lead Minister, the architectural Master Plan adopted unanimously, the first capital giving campaign in a half-century, and the vote to authorize sale of some UUSS property and move assets toward our building renovation.  Meanwhile, popular activities kept going strong, our staff worked hard to support us, and lay leaders devoted many meetings to deliberation and decision making.  Babies have been born, friends moved away, and beloved members have died.  These are all signs of a vital congregation.  They also can bring on a bit of stress!  Indeed, life here is full.  I feel honored and blessed to be serving in ministry here.

Ministry in Time of Transition

As you may have read (or heard in Budget Discussions) the Board has invited me to serve as Acting Senior Minister for the next year.  While I’m sad at losing Doug, and sobered by the big things ahead, I am honored to be able serve in this role.  I pledge to do my best to make it an enriching year, building on our current momentum, learning as we go.

Of course, I’m disappointed that the proposed budget includes only ¾ of the ministerial positions we now have, with only a half-time assistant minister to be hired for next year.  Yet I am hopeful that this is a temporary reduction during a lean time for UUSS.   You have had two ministry positions for over 10 years, and it has made a difference in the program life and vitality of the Society.  One may ask:  Why have a minister rather than another administrative staffer?  There is always more work to be done, for sure.  More positions could be added or expanded, if the contributions and other funds were there.

The advantage of trained, ordained ministers is that they are familiar with congregational systems and able to navigate church cultures.  Ministers must bring a holistic view of how the various parts link together.  Ministers in congregations cannot hold rigidly to job descriptions.  We are expected to be flexible with “other duties” as things emerge or shift in church life.  We try to choose when a given moment calls for a pastoral response, an administrative one, or one that involves deeper learning and group discernment.  I hope this makes sense, and invite you to let me know if questions remain for you.

Doug and I have worked hard these past years—long hours, but gratifying ones.  Even so, we haven’t covered as many bases as we would like to.  There’s so much going on in UUSS and in our members’ lives.  The idea of putting all of this load on ONE minister is blood-curdling, especially if I would be that one person.   Moreover, after a beloved pastor’s departure, there are some parts of traditional Interim Ministry work that need attention, even if a church is not hiring an interim minister.  For example, many people will seek to express their grief over Doug’s absence and their longing for Doug’s particular gifts and style, and it helps to be able to tell a minister.  It would be more compassionate to all involved to invite them to do such “processing” with a pastoral minister who is a newcomer, not the one who is here in his sixth year of ministry.

My Vision of Ministry in the Coming Fiscal Year

I would be the main preacher and pastoral care minister, manage music and RE staff and supervise the Assistant Minister.  I’d provide primary oversight of most program committees, and I’d be the main link to the Board, Program Council and a few other groups.  The Nominating Committee has sought my ideas and arm-twisting, for example.

The Assistant Minister (working about 25 hours a week) would participate in worship and would preach a few times in the coming year.  The minister would provide pastoral care when invited by Members or Friends, or when I would not be available.

We need a minister with administrative experience and supervisory gifts, as she or he would supervise the administrative staff members (which I do now).  And with such talents, the Assistant Minister would also be the main staff supporter for the Implementation Group in the coming year of construction planning, especially with logistics as we seek alternatives to the Main Hall for worship, office and meeting space. (Doug has been the lead minister to the Master Planning group for five years, and I have not had the time to do more than watch and cheer them on as they sped toward the congregation’s stated goal.)   Activities in adult RE, child/youth RE, ministry groups, social action, etc., would be open for negotiation.  All this would be subject to the half-time limit.  Showing flexibility and engaging in continuous, reflective conversations will be essential to navigate and negotiate a collaborative ministry.

This is a tall order for a half-time minister–so imagine if I were facing all of it alone!  I am a not a “lone ranger” minister, but a ministerial collaborator.  I think it’s better when ministers can bounce ideas and impressions off each other.   Just as I learn from and with talented lay leaders and various church staffers, I learn from ministers, as Doug and I have done these past five years.  Moreover, over the years I have mentored several seminarians and new ministers.  Working with a colleague brings out the best in me.

Child/Youth Religious Education

For three years, Miranda has managed more and more of our RE programs at UUSS.  She supports our RE volunteer leaders, and she now recruits, hires and manages our Room 11 Nursery staff.  I provide ministerial oversight to the program, help with trainings and recruiting volunteers, and make sure it is a visible, integrated part of the whole church.  The proposed budget enlarges her weekly hours from 16 to 20, and it changes her title to RE Coordinator.  Miranda provided the following statistics for this church year in RE:

  • Room 11/Nursery and Storytime Sunday attendance:  average 13, highest 23.  Current staff:  Beka and Annie.  Champions:  Amanda T. & Karen B. (Storytime)
  • Spirit Play (grades 1-5) attendance:  average 12, highest 17.                      Champions:  Carolyn W. & Lee S.
  • Junior High Youth Group attendance:  average 10, highest 14.  (2007-08 avg.: 2) Adult leaders:  Ginny, Bruce, Damon, Denis, Karen W.
  • Senior High Youth Group:  average 6, highest 18.

Adult leaders:  Tami, Yvonne, Dirk, Patricia, Christopher, & ministerial visits.

All our RE volunteers will be recognized in the June 2 service.  UUSS is notable for a high proportion of RE volunteers who don’t have teens or kids in the RE program!

In addition to regular Sunday morning programs, UUSS has offered these programs: 

*Our Whole Lives grades 4-5 and 10-11 (Leaders:  Sally & David and Ron & Julie.)

*UU Chalice Camp (One week in summer.   2012 Director: Mary.   2013 Director:  Matt)

*Parenting Group (started by Jessica & Megan).   *Kids’ Freedom Club (Aliya & Roger)

*Sundays in the UUrthsong Community Garden (Glory, Keith, and several others)

*RE cannot take credit for Monthly Game Nights or the Holiday Party, but they were big successes.  Likewise, the June All-Church Camp is a great cross-generational occasion!

Administrative and Custodial

For over six years, Michele has kept track of pledges, other monetary contributions and other sources income, prepared payroll and other expense payments, and provided monthly financial statements in support of our Treasurer and Finance Committee.  She files employee benefit materials and does numerous other tasks.

For nearly two years, JoLane has facilitated most church communications, managed membership data, and promoted connections among visitors, volunteers, and our many committees and activities.  For nearly two years, Elaine has been the first friendly voice people hear when they call the church; she also helps to link people to whom or what they are seeking.  For over a year, Stanton has managed our church buildings, grounds, duplexes, and the room reservation system.  He tends to the needs of outside renters and in-house users of UUSS rooms.  He supervises four hardworking custodial/maintenance staffers and supports the Property Management Committee—all in 20 hours a week

We’ve had a year and a half of experience with our new structure and new staffers, as proposed by two business consultants.  If you are a volunteer, you know we have a dedicated and hardworking staff of newer and longtime employees.  If you have been attending church for several years, you know the facilities have never been cleaner.

Maintenance and upkeep are better, and this saves us money.  We have better staff coverage for on-site events plus assigned staffers to lock up the buildings and set alarms at night.  If levels of pledging to UUSS could increase enough, we would have the ability to grant raises to recognize exceptional service to the congregation.  Meanwhile, please join me in showing your appreciation to our employees.   With my pending shift to duties of the acting senior minister position in the coming fiscal year, direct supervision of these administrative staff teams would shift to the half-time Assistant Minister.

Membership Committee/Greeters/Newcomers’ Orientations

Our volunteers welcome new visitors every Sunday of the year.  When I came in 2008 we had several ushers, but just one guy making coffee and no more than two actual committee members.  Now we have an enormous hospitality team and a smooth system to help everyone feel welcomed and valued and caffeinated. Our Congregational Support Coordinator and Receptionist now handle the organizing, and volunteers provide the food for our quarterly Newcomers’ Orientations to Membership (average attendance 20).

Adult Enrichment

With the added help of a seminary intern a few years ago, we jump-started this committee and it’s become an amazing part of our church.  We have more activities going on here during the week than even the most energetic person would have time to attend.   Every Sunday in Connection Central, volunteers from the AE Committee spread a banquet of opportunities for enrichment and community building.  It’s a joy to work with them!


I’ve been able to return from my Tuesday day-off in time to meet with the Religious Services Committee a few more times this year than last.  Their commitment to depth in our worship services is gratifying.  I look forward to meeting regularly with them in the coming church year and to having a more frequent preaching rhythm in my new role.  With regard to diversity, I’m pleased to say that I recommended or suggested most of our guest speakers this year, nearly all seminarians or ministers of color or women ministers.  The world around us is amazingly diverse, and UU values appeal to people across differences of culture, ethnicity, and age.  Hence, I hope we will continue having a diversity of styles, voices and faces in our preaching and music life.  This is just one part of raising our awareness of what an inclusive and multi-cultural commitment entails.


I could say more but will close by saying that I love UUSS and I love serving with you.  It’s an amazing congregation, with great accomplishments and great potential.    Thanks!

4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks Roger! Your are to be commended for all the hard work. I don’t believe I could keep up in my best old days. I certainly hope our financial difficulties are more of an oversight and will be corrected before our Congregation Meeting Sunday. To make the type of cuts you and Pres. Janet Lopes have mentioned will have a very big impact on all of us. That especially includes you as I just don’t see how you will find more time than you already spend serving us. I can’t imagine that we would have to make cuts to our music programs!

Comment by brucemmoulton

Roger, you have very nicely presented some important information here, as well as answered questions that have popped up here and there. I hope this will be available as a hand out for those who don’t read this blog.

I so agree with your reasons for needing a part time minister. I totally appreciate lay ministry, but it’s like having student teachers or parent volunteers. As good as they can be, they do not have the insight, education, trust, and privileged information from the congregation like a trained minister. They don’t answer to the congregation in the same way a minister does. It generally isn’t a lay person’s only calling and they are distracted by many other concerns than church life and are not steeped in it like a minister. Assuming a half time minister doesn’t spend the other half of his/her work time tending bar or working in a book store, that is. 🙂

Comment by Lauren Davis-Todd

Thanks, Lauren. I appreciate your perspective as long-term UU volunteers. See you at the meeting!

Comment by Rev. Roger

What a thorough report, Roger. Such good ministry, such a good congregation! Cheers from Berkeley!
Barbara Hamilton-Holway

Comment by Barbara Hamilton-Holway

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