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,
Thomas