MINISTER’S COLUMN – March 30, 2018
In April of 2017, my life and career broke into chaos. During a few stressful weeks, I decided to become an Interim Minister, I interviewed with several congregations and finally agreed to serve Cedars. All of you, as a congregation, had already gone through a complicated process and decided to hire an Interim Minister. As it turned out, we got along with each other better than we had imagined. Feeling comfortable and happy, even inspired, we have wondered how long this relationship could last.
The first consideration is this; when I agreed to serve you, your President and I signed a contract, saying that I would not seek to be the settled minister of Cedars, at least not for three years. We did not add the clause, “unless we feel differently.” The second consideration is that as a democratic congregation you chose to get an Interim. As a congregation, you have not changed that decision.
So, we are proceeding as planned: you will form a search committee by June 10, decide what kind of minister you want that committee to find, and then trust them to find the best minister possible by April 2019. I am delighted to be your minister until August of that year, while I seek a ministry that will balance my calling, my personality, my career path and the needs of my family.
Of course, contracts are dissolvable, and you are a free congregation, and I am a free agent, and we all could do whatever we want. But in actuality, this is not just about us. We entered into this relationship as part of our UU Settlement System. Thus, all other UU congregations are part of this agreement. Likewise, I am part of the UU Ministers Association in which I have promised to act in consideration of my colleagues who will at some time use this same Settlement system. Besides, I have a particular desire to show respect for the wishes and hard work of Keith Kron, our national Settlement Director. Finally, when I trained to gain certification as an Interim, or “Transitional minister,” I created an expectation by these others that I am here to help you prepare for and go through a formal search for a settled minister that does not include me.
So, in choosing our path forward, we have to be considerate of these relationships and obligations. Here is where the difference between “covenant” and “contract” becomes challenging. UU people especially must ground our moral authority in our character, in how we keep and repair our covenants, and in the integrity of our words and actions.
Rev. Dennis Reynolds is coming on April 8 to help you move forward in your process. Bring your hopes, doubts, desires, and troubles about this process to him. A lot can happen in the year to come. Many possible paths lie before us. May we choose wisely, may we serve one another well, may we strengthen UUism, and in this way may we temper the chaos and uncertainty of life.
Peace to You,
MINISTER’S COLUMN – JANUARY 12, 2018
When people learn I have only been living in the Seattle metro area for a year they often ask, “How are you adjusting to the rain?” I love the rain. If I am not cold and wet to the skin, I am happy: with mist in my face, the steady susurrus sound of raindrops, or watching little streams and creeks joyfully dancing down to the rising sea.
What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to is the heavily secular orientation of the larger culture. Less than a quarter of Washingtonians say they attend weekly religious services. Certainly, there are many and diverse forms of spirituality and personal belief. But organized religion has less public influence here than in states where I lived for 20 years.
You may know that the names “Unitarian” and “Universalist” were first adopted by people who were dissenters from a dominant, and established, religious culture. In Saint Louis, many UUs are ex-Catholic, while in other parts of the country a majority of UU people might have an ex-Baptist, or ex-Mainline or even ex-Jewish orientation.
So, what does it mean to be liberally religious in a secular community? How do I stand against the errors and limits of the “orthodoxy” when it is left leaning, and secular? How do I ask people to participate in a religious community, when it is odd to do so? Are we heretics, leaders or mere outliers? Why do we worship and serve, care and collect, nurture and love together? Together, are we a bog, or a mighty river that flows into the sea?
You who are Cedars, along with the larger UU community, are of vital importance to me. Let me know what this church means to you and why.
Yours in Peace, Thomas
Minister’s Column – End of 2017
AS we come to the end of 2017, we find ourselves in the middle of a transition. Traditional rituals of calendar and culture link us to the past. But, like Solstice, the rituals all contain the seeds of tomorrow. Thus, the old god Janus, who gave his name to January, has a face looking both forward and back.
You may know that Transition Ministry has five stated “tasks.” Simplified, these are “looking back, looking around and looking forward.” The first months of my time here centered on our “History Sunday” in October. Now, we are looking around at how we do things. How do we organize and empower our lay leaders? What is it like having me as a partner in ministry rather than some other minister we remember from the past? What are our resources now and are we stewarding them well? Who are our allies in Kitsap County, on Bainbridge Island, and in the wider UU Association?
Of course, we in leadership miss Tammie Tippie, who has been our very capable Office Assistant for several years. But her leaving, and Sharon Helm’s arrival has allowed us to look at how we do things and perhaps to change. I am pleased with the team that has stepped up to help produce our newsletter, The Beacon. In another area, we have a Finance Task Force that is looking at how to accept gifts and how to manage our reserves. A new team, called the Budget Leadership Team, will re-craft how we develop and manage our budget. An Operations Team will be managing all our physical assets, at the Cedars Center and beyond. And yet another team will help us with a Stewardship Campaign. Meanwhile our continuing teams and committees, like Children’s Religious Education, Social Action, the Justice Network, Pastoral Care, and Worship Associates, as well as the Board, all are looking around at how we get things done. My job includes supporting and encouraging all these groups.
At this time of transition between calendar years, let us look around and see what wonders we can find.
Minister’s Column December 2017:
Diverse human cultures have diverse ideas about sexual ethics. Back in the 1970s, a UU Congregation held its high-school sexuality course on Friday evenings. The best screen for the projection of visual materials was one of the shades pulled down over a window in the meeting hall. While they were leading a discussion about the slide show, two Police officers showed up. They were investigating a complaint of seeing pornography on the windows of the church. That next week, the church had to do a lot of explaining to its neighbors about the nature of a UU religious education program.
American society is now struggling with sexual ethics. People are challenging hurtful behavior that has long been tolerated and justified. Through #metoo posts, public denouncements and personal sharing we are discussing the treatment of women and men in our society. However, the UU approach to ethics is not to be satisfied with lists of approved or disapproved actions. We want to nurture human goodness, balance justice with compassion and help one another “become the best that we can be.”
That is one reason we offer OWL, “Our Whole Lives,” a comprehensive sexuality curriculum to any who are interested. The course goes beyond “telling kids about sex” to promoting sexual health, responsibility, self-worth, mutual respect, justice, and inclusivity. Since 1970 UUs have offered comprehensive sexuality education as part of our religious education. In the 1990s we joined the United Church of Christ to create OWL which expanded and deepened the ethical dimension of our teaching. Today this is one of our most important, regular, programs of religious and spiritual education, which we offer to all.
In this and so many other ways, we promote health and respect in the web of relationships that sustain us all.
Minister’s Column 9-20-17:
It is said that we are all like Scheherazade. That bright young woman, told stories every night in order to distract a vengeful king and stay alive. We all share stories to make sense of our lives, to connect with others, and thereby increase our joy and lighten our difficulties. But it matters how you tell a story. Some storytellers lose their narrative amid too many details, or forget to find any point to their telling. Other people will tell things “slant” and leave out very important facts.
Rev. Thomas Perchlik, our new minister, began his work with Cedars on August 1, 2017. Rev. Perchlik was ordained in early 1991 and has served congregations in Wyoming, Texas, Indiana, Missouri, and has most recently been minister of the Olympia UU Church. He is married to Amy Genova and they are the proud parents of two adult daughters, Emily and Molly.