The Unitarian Church of Harrisburg is in the process of preparing a successful transition to a new settled minister and a renewal of congregational life. The Board's most important task this church year is to organize the search for a settled minister. We are hoping that everyone has seen notices that we are looking to elect a search committee, and that we will be seeking input from every member.
Town Hall Meetings were held on December 11 at Clover Lane and December 18 at Market Street. Information on the search process was shared by our Board members (together with Rev. Mike Walker) and questions from those attending were answered. If you wish to view the video from that day, please click here
for part 1
for part 2. Please note this video is over an hour in length.
If you have any questions about the search process, please contact any member of the Board of Trustees.
UCH members nominate members for the Ministerial Search Committee (MSC); also, Board consults with Ministerial Settlement Representative (MSR).
MSC begins meeting; this is earlier than usual, but we felt it was important to give the MSC time to study past issues and to give the process the most chance of success.
MSC consults with Transitions Office, MSR, develops schedule and process, assigns roles to members of MSC.
Conduct and analyze a congregational survey.
MSC sponsors a Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop for the congregation.
Complete congregational record and MSC website, consult with board on compensation package.
Congregational records released to ministers.
Ministerial records released to MSC. Exchange website (packet) materials; interviews.
Pre-candidating weekends; MSC meets ministers.
MSC makes offer to one minister. Candidating Week and the congregational vote to call.
New settled minister begins work.
Town Halls to discuss processes.
Board gathers and compiles materials to share with potential Interim Ministers.
Board submits Application for Interim Ministry.
Board interviews candidates; select one, make an offer. (This part of the process happens in three rounds and the minister hired might be interviewed in any one of them.)
Interim Minister begins work.
Settled / Called Ministers
Minister, Senior Minister or Lead Minister
This is the standard in most churches. After a long and thorough search process, a minister is Called by vote of the congregation to serve them for an indefinite period. This minister may be the only minister of the congregation, or they may be the senior person in a ministry team.
An honor that may be bestowed by vote of the congregation, typically for a retiring minister. This status may or may not include returning on occasion to preach or officiate at a wedding or memorial (depending on the preferences of the Minister Emeritus and the new settled Minister). Also, Emeritus status confers for life the right to vote at denominational, regional and district meetings.
Hired by the Board and Senior Minister, and reports to the Senior Minister. May or may not be called as Associate Minister in the future.
In some cases, after an Assistant Minister has served for some initial period (1-2 years, which should be agreed upon in advance), the congregation may vote to call that minister and their status is upgraded to Associate. If the vote to call fails, the Assistant Minister goes into search.
Minister of Religious Education, Pastoral Care Minister, Social Justice Minister, etc.
Sometimes, a church votes to call a minister to lead in a specific area of congregational life. Also, see below.
Contract ministers are hired by the church board and serve for a specific period; may be full- or part-time.
This is the catch-all category, and is usually a one-year, renewable contract. It also has the loosest requirements; for example, a consulting minister is not required to be in Fellowship (which may mean they are just very new to ministry and haven’t been granted Fellowship yet, or it could mean they were denied Fellowship for some reason.) Churches that choose this category, for the flexibility or the lower salary, will need to do their due diligence in the hiring process.
We have learned that it is wise to have an interim period between settled ministries, to habituate the congregation to a new way of experiencing ministry (which will allow the congregation and the next settled minister a chance to build a new ministry, even though the new minister is not the ‘Beloved Former Minister.’) Interim periods are especially important if there is any sort of healing work to do. An interim ministry usually lasts for 2 years, but can be longer or shorter, depending on the needs of the congregation. Interim Ministers are trained to handle the special needs of a congregation during a transition. Although any minister in Fellowship may serve as an interim, the Accredited Interim Ministers are more experienced.
Developmental Minister, Extension Minister
Developmental ministry is still a relatively new category in the UUA. The intention is to deal with some deeply engrained issue that is preventing a church from reaching its goals. These are 3-5 years. At one time, they were intended to culminate in a vote to call, but we learned that after the intense organizational change work that happens in a developmental period, the church and the minister were usually no longer interested in a call. Now, Dev. Ministers typically leave at the end of their contract, usually to be followed by a Called Minister.
Extension Ministry was a similar program in years past, but was financed by the UUA. Surprisingly, the program was discontinued.
Minister of Religious Education, Pastoral Care Minister, Social Justice Minister, etc.
Sometimes, a church board and senior minister contract with (hire) another minister to lead in a specific area of congregational life.
If a minister had leave a church suddenly, for health or other reasons, the district or regional staff may help a church find a ‘gap minister’ (usually a retired minister) to serve that church for a short period (less than a year) until the next annual interim cycle.
They usually have a (unpaid) relationship with a congregation that grants the minister status as an Affiliated Community Minister, which is required for Fellowship status (see below).
Examples include some District Executives and other UUA, district or regional staff.
Chaplain: Hospital, Military, Prison
Taking the ministry to the person in need, chaplains perform their ministries outside of church walls. There is a wide variety in this category, including ordained and lay ministers, and some who have become Board Certified Chaplains (and some who have not.)
Some ministers serve as Executive Directors or in other roles at social service organizations
(UU Urban Ministry in Boston and A Home Away from Homelessness in San Francisco) or social justice organizations (UU Service Committee in Boston and the Faithful Fools in SF), as well as at UU camps and conference centers and many other non-profit organizations.
Tent-making ministry, Wagon-back ministry, Missionary
Colloquial terms used by some ministers. Tent-making is an allusion to the Apostle Paul (New Testament), and is another catch-all category. Ministers make a living independent of a single church, such as ‘itinerant preachers’ (traveling around and guest speaking at various churches), or find other ways of supporting themselves while also performing some non-traditional ministry. Unitarians and Universalists sponsored missionaries in the distant past, but now the term usually refers to traveling Christian evangelists.
Lay Minister, Lay Community Minister, Lay Chaplain, Commissioned Lay Minister,
Endorsed Officiant, Deacon (or other title designated by a congregation)
A person trained, but not ordained, and authorized by a congregation to provide specific, limited services, oftentimes in an outreach or external (to the church) setting. Commissioning of lay ministers is a relatively new idea in the UU world and is still evolving.
In our denomination, the custom is for the minister to have completed a Master of Divinity degree, a parish and/or community internship and Clinical Pastoral Education, and may then be ordained by a particular church to the Ministry of Unitarian Universalism.
Ministerial Fellowship (Preliminary Fellowship and Final Fellowship)
The ordination of a minister only has value in the church that ordained them, until such time as the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA has granted fellowship (first, preliminary, and later, final.) One might say that fellowship makes the ordination of said minister ‘transferrable’ to other congregations they may serve in the future. The granting of final fellowship to ministers is sometimes compared to the granting of tenure to professors.
A covenantal relationship between a community minister and a congregation; typically, the minister is paid by some other agency, not the congregation. They may preach periodically or provide some other volunteer service as a part of the agreement. Affiliation is required of community ministers while in the preliminary fellowship stage, and recommended always.