Next week is an exciting time for Cedars. I am optimistic that in the
In other religious traditions, powerful leaders, like Bishops, decide where ministers serve. In UUism, it is congregations that decide. As background, understand that there are three kinds of relationships between professional ministers and UU congregations: called, contract, and affiliated. I write here about formal relationships; membership with a congregation is a different matter.
A called minister is a person (or persons) who a congregation asks to serve as a minister. This ministerial position is also said to be “settled” because there is no determined end to that ministry. Note that a called minister will sign a letter of agreement with the board which is like a contract, but the board does not hire or fire a minister. The only ways settled ministries end are by the resignation of the Minister (usually when they decide to serve elsewhere) or by a vote of the congregation.
A contract minister, on the other hand, signs a contract with the board of a congregation. They can only be kept or removed from their position by elected church leaders. Also, a contract ministry has set goals and a certain end-date. Of course, the board can renew that contract. On some occasions, a contract minister can become a called minister with the same congregation. Interim ministry is a particular kind of contract ministry. I consider an interim ministry successful if the congregation served by an interim minister calls someone else as a Minister and nurtures that next ministry for many years.
The third kind of ministerial relationship is “affiliated.” These are with ministers whose professional work is primarily outside the congregation. We also refer to these people as “community ministers.” A common example is a Chaplain who is employed by a hospital. A UU congregation will affiliate with such a minister to identify with their work and to make tangible that person’s relationship to the UU movement.
Remember that ministry is any work consciously done, in faith, to fulfill the mission of UU congregations. Some persons frame their ministry within a formal call or contract or affiliation; others serve as volunteers. Each of us is called to help others: to worship, to nurture, to serve and to love.
In my last column, I made jokes about PNW winter, and then we got mid-west style ice, snow and cold. As Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant.” On March 22 the sun will be at the equinox, the light and dark of our daily round balanced. It is the iconic center point of a season of change.
Speaking of change, for years we have lit our chalice with these words: “As we come together to worship, we remind ourselves to treat all people kindly because they are our brothers and sisters…” Now, because we do want to treat all people kindly, we need to adjust this language.
First of all, not everyone fits into the binary of gender, male/female, boys/girls, brothers/sisters. Today, the majority of UU people who call themselves trans are not transitioning but instead are non-binary; not one or the other, or both-and. Any individual who comes into a UU congregation and hears ritual language that excludes them will likely not be inspired to join that congregation. Depending on their expectations of us, they may even feel harmed. We want to include and honor the experience of trans people; we want to include everyone equally, beginning with each person as they are.
Beyond that, we should also be aware that very few people fit easily or simply into the given gender categories. We want to admit that these “two” things are overlapping categories that make up a whole. Finally, the simple gender binary of male/female has been used to marginalize or oppress women and restrict men for centuries.
The Worship Associates, with encouragement from the Board, have proposed that we change the line to read “because they are part of our human family.” Other options are possible. The plan is for us to hold some conversations on the suggested change. The board and Associates will then submit a final proposal to be voted on for approval at our Congregational Meeting in May or in June.
Peace Be Yours,
Ministers Column – February 2019
February is a month to embody love. We need love to get us through the cold gray days. Love is like the sun-filled hours and days that break stretches of cold and damp. February is a month to recall the limits we have placed on love and inclusion as a nation. It is a month to recall the history of all those Americans whose black skin was an excuse for hatred and oppression, and especially to celebrate all those African Americans who resisted such evil and lived lives of love and hope and courage.
In the standard UUA search season, February is a month of pre-candidate interviews. But let’s not talk about that any more until the end of March. Please don’t mention to my wife, Amy about our leaving until it is certain, OK? I am your minister now. I will be your minister until the end of July. So, let’s enjoy that. After the first weekend in April, your search committee and I will have something to say about endings and leaving. For now, let us celebrate what we can do together.
As to discovering what we can do together, there are several open positions for involvement and responsibility in Cedars. We do not have a Membership chair or anyone shepherding those on the Path to being Members or Friends of Cedars. There are a couple of people doing important work with me in this area, but we need a team of people to focus on managing membership.
Under Membership, we also have a position titled “Continuing Connections Coordinator.” This person would work with the Cedars Team Leaders and the Minister to make sure that members and friends of Cedars remain connected as life unfolds and conditions change.
On the other hand, There are a couple of people who help out around the Cedars Center, but we need someone to work with our Office Manager on developing the office budget, ensuring regular cleaning, managing storage, ensuring maintenance of our offices and etcetera.
If you are interested in being part of those who make Cedars a vibrant and helpful community, please let me, or any member of the board, know about your interest. Show your love in February and beyond.
Ministers Column – January 2019
Now we are in the heart of winter. Winter is less snowy and icy here than in other places I have lived. In the mid-west, we spoke of late January and early February as “the dead of winter,” the time when freezing temperatures were daily, and nothing grew. Some claim that our PNW winter spans all of October through March, while others limit the winter to November through early April and some people from Alaska say we never really see any winter here. I like to call late January through mid-February, the heart of winter.
No matter what you call it, the center of January is a busy time.
Winter is especially heart-full this year for me because our grandbaby twins are on the way.
The heart of winter also includes Civil Rights Sunday. The service on January 20 will remind us of our unique relationship to the long struggle for civil rights and prepare us for MLK day. The saying is that “Martin Luther King Day should be a day on, not a day off.” So, think seriously about attending some event, participating in a food drive, or just marching around your neighborhood with a sign proclaiming the vision of a world made fair, with all her people as one. The largest celebration on the 21st is at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds near Bremerton. This year there will also be a celebration on Bainbridge Island, Sunday afternoon at the Bainbridge Museum of Art.
This month is extra busy for your search committee and me. We are in the middle of the phone-interview section of the UU search process. At least ten people showed some interest in becoming your minister. Now your committee is sorting through all the material available on those interested ministers. One way they do that is by scheduling online interviews, often using Zoom or Skype. I also am interviewing in January with search teams from other congregations. Your committee will use their interviews to narrow the field to three Pre-Candidates. They will invite those people to meet secretly with your committee face to face, and arrange to hear them preach nearby. In Mid-March all those pre-candidating weekends will be completed. Your Search Committee, like all other Search Committees in the country, will determine their first, second and third choices. They will share that list with the Transitions Director in the UUA, but no one else. The next couple of months are full and potentially stressful for your team, so please show appreciation to all the work they are doing on your behalf.
Remember to be centered on what matters most when in the heart of winter.
Rev. Thomas Perchlik
MINISTER’S COLUMN October 26, 2018
The season of fall is one of my favorite seasons. I like the crisp cooling air. Change and new possibilities seem to be in the air. I love the rainbow splashes of leaf colors and the sound of dry leaves skittering in the breeze or crackling under my feet. I like how we all begin to wrap ourselves more warmly, creating feelings of being snug or safe. I like how the dark of night comes sooner, bearing mystery and wonder. (In case you are wondering, my other favorite seasons are winter, spring and summer.)
Many autumnal days and rituals, from Rosh Hoshana to Diwali, from Halloween to Solstice, speak endings or transitions like harvests and remembrance. Our holidays at this time of the year feature lights in the deepening dark, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.
One of our regular autumn rituals at Cedars is the Day of the Dead. This is a day to remember and honor our beloved who have died. I am glad to be celebrating this holy day with you. In a congregation like Cedars, which does not have a permanent building, the people and what we do together take on greater significance. Without a church graveyard or a memorial garden, our own memories as they are spoken and shared are what keeps honor alive. In the day of the dead we reweave our connections and affirm the vitality of love despite all endings and loss of the season.
I am glad that my ministry to you will continue for at least nine more months through all the seasons of the year.
MINISTER’S COLUMN October 9, 2018
MINISTER’S COLUMN August 24, 2018
August marks a significant shift in Cedars Sunday worship. Keri Schmit, Christina Doherty and Tyler Weaver are each ending their years as Worship Associates. I enjoyed working with each and will miss them in the pulpit; Christina’s bird calls, Keri’s enthusiasm, Tyler’s warm-hearted spontaneity. I expect them to find other ways to share their gifts and talents with Cedars.
In the months to come, Mike Cox, Emily Mockett, and Jenny Weaver will join with Penny Brewer and Marsha Gladhart and Gregory Cook to lead our worship. The Worship Associates program is one of the most visible and successful instances of co-ministry in this congregation.
Co-ministry is the UU term for a creative partnership between lay and ordained leaders. Often in congregations issues with quality control, ego or simple time management tend to separate the work of the minister from what others do. But when we share responsibilities, balancing creativity with discipline, the result is excellent ministry: open hearts, learning spirits, compassion, justice and love.
Rev. Thomas Perchlik
MINISTER’S COLUMN 7/6/2018
This month it will be difficult to reach me because I am on summer break from July 3 to July 30. I will not read much email and will respond to even less. In an emergency, the President of the Board can reach me by phone, and I might answer urgent phone messages. I will be in Poulsbo and the county for most of these weeks and I look forward to seeing you around. I am very happy to know that Cedars continues to meet every week for inspiration, community, and connection.
It is good to take a break, each day, each week and each year from the regular patterns and demands of any work. Always, people have built holidays and holy days into their lives for health and wholeness. It is essential to meditate, pray, or engage in fun and sacred festivals, but any break is good. Especially if you are a 24-7 worker like a home-maker or care-taker, make sure you have a break from the demands of your life every now and then. But, paid work related vacations were very rare for most of human history, reserved only for the wealthiest people. In the US, according to an online encyclopedia, “only ten percent of wage-earners enjoyed a paid vacation as late as 1930, while 85 percent of white-collar workers” did. Joyfully, because of the rise of unions following the hardship of the Great Depression, the percent of workers with vacation plans increased to ninety-three percent by 1949. That percent has dropped to about seventy-seven in recent years.
I appreciate that I have time to rest, reflect and listen attentively to several episodes of Krista Tippet’s NPR show, On Being.
I hope your month is meaningful and safe.
Yours In Peace,
MINISTER’S COLUMN 5/30/2018
I am inspired by the generosity and enthusiasm of the people of Cedars as shown in our recent stewardship drive.
Earlier this year, as part of our stewardship drive we asked one another, “What is Your Why?” The power of this question is that if you know why you are doing something, then you know better what you are doing and your commitment to that “what” will be stronger. The problem with this question is that you still have to define your “what.”
At the same time as we were running a stewardship drive those of us on the Budget Leadership Team were looking carefully at our finances and developing a budget for next year. They asked many people about what we want to accomplish in the coming year and how much that would cost. What became clear was, to keep things as good as they are for years to come, part of what we needed to do was raise more money.
Because we knew why this congregation is valuable in our lives and North Kitsap and Bainbridge, we responded very well. Despite some lost pledges, the total amount of money pledged has increased, and those who are working on fundraising have come up with new ideas and new energy.
I am pleased that both the what and the why of Cedars are inspiring generosity and enthusiasm.
MINISTER’S COLUMN – May 1, 2018
Dear Cedars People, I have returned from my spring vacation, and I thank you for the adventures I experienced beyond the ocean.
I am very happy to be back here to continue to worship, lead, share the religious life and work for justice with you for another year and three months. Two full years with Cedars is a great gift. But, if all goes well, after July of 2019, I will be serving a congregation other than Cedars, and you will have another minister to serve you and share the free religious life with you.
One key aspect of being UU is that we are religiously free. Likewise, each of our congregations is free and autonomous. Each has joined into an Association, but at the same time each UU church, fellowship, society, or congregation decides what path it will take. This freedom is a source of joy because it allows us to thoughtfully choose what is best and true for our religious community. It is a challenge because it means that we must struggle with hard choices, and bear the burden of responsibility, discernment, and truth seeking. It means we must make choices that are sometimes difficult, conflicted, or controversial. Our faith is that in the struggle to make decisions together we will hear one another, honor one another and make justice, reason, love, and metta, truly active in our lives and present in the world.
Last April I agreed to be your interim minister. I have thought long and hard about what that means, weighing feelings and facts. I have decided that, for the wellbeing of Cedars and of all the UUs to whom we are connected, you should seek and find a great minister who is not me. I hope you also will help me find another congregation as wonderful as yours. To follow this path is what I have strongly recommended to your elected leaders, and they have freely chosen to agree.
I look forward to sharing the adventure of search with you all in the year to come, (as Muslims say, inshallah.)
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.