Report of the UUCC Ministerial Search Committee
The beginning – a learning process
Following UUA guidelines as voted by the congregation, the Board proposed a seven-member Ministerial Search Committee. After being charged by the congregation at its May 4th meeting, the committee began its work on June 13th. A two-day retreat was facilitated by our Ministerial Settlement Representative assigned to us by the UUA. The purpose was to familiarize the committee with the schedule and suggested steps involved in a ministerial search and to assign individual responsibilities for various tasks. The Search Committee has met weekly since then.
Information gathering – you tell us
July and August were spent gathering in-depth information. Six “cottage meetings” held in members’ homes provided the initial opportunity to find out what attributes we were looking for in our new minister and how to honestly describe our congregation to potential candidates. Forty-nine members and friends participated. A lengthy and detailed survey specially tailored to our congregation was then distributed by hand and by mail. By the August 31st deadline, fifty-three responses were collected. Forty-one of our sixty members and twelve friends responded. Both of these efforts were essential to provide the foundation for the search.
What if – exploring possibilities
Following UUA guidelines, the Search Committee sponsored a “Beyond Categorical Thinking” weekend August 16th and 17th. A UUA trained facilitator worked with the Search Committee and delivered the Sunday sermon followed by a three-hour workshop attended by twenty-five congregants exploring situations and issues that might arise during a ministerial search.
Launching the search – going live
During September, October and November, the Search Committee focused on compiling and refining the information gathered. The first official kickoff of the search was the launching online of our Congregational Record that announced our search and invited the interest of potential candidates. The UUCC’s search went live on December 1st. The backbone of the CR is made up of the information gathered throughout July and August. In addition to describing Castine and the surrounding area, we were asked to provide an honest description of our congregation and to list the attributes in a minister most valued by us. The other piece of the information that will be made available to potential candidates is the Packet, a password protected interactive website that goes into much more detail about us and includes video, interviews, photos, documents, and local information in an effort to convey a complete and attractive presentation. After the resignation of a committee member in mid-November, the remaining members consulted with the Ministerial Search Representative and then asked for and received the support of the Board to continue the search with six members. The Congregation indicated its support by voting to continue the search at the Annual Meeting in December 2014.
Summary of the Search—March
In early January, the UUA Transitions Office informed the UUCC Search Committee that there were forty-seven congregations and eighty-six ministerial applicants using the on-line settlement system and that each applicant had expressed interest in an average of just under seven congregations.
The Committee received and reviewed six on-line applications and information packets. After this initial review, the field was narrowed to five who had the potential to match the needs and attributes described in the profile of our congregation. Those applicants were invited to participate in a Skype interview (voice and video via the Internet) with the full committee to further focus on those who were the best matches. One of the five declined the invitation having already accepted another position.
On January 31st, interviews were held with the remaining four. Using the desired attributes described by our congregation during our cottage meetings and in our survey responses to assess how well each applicant would be a fit for us, the pool was narrowed to three. Two of the applicants, upon further consideration of the needs of their families, felt they could not make the move at this time and withdrew their names.
Having only one applicant left in our pool, the Committee consulted with the Transitions Office and was encouraged to follow through with the process as scheduled. The planned pre-candidating weekend and meetings with the applicant were held in Castine and at a neutral site.
UUA Transitions Office resource material says that in the event that a search does not produce a candidate, it should not be considered a failure. “The only failure — the only failure — lies in calling a minister who is a poor match for the congregation.”
The Committee’s goal throughout the entire ten month search process was to find a ministerial candidate that it could confidently recommend to the congregation as a good fit. After careful consideration at a March 11th meeting, the Committee reached the conclusion that the UUCC needed to continue its search for a settled minister. The UUA Ministerial Settlement Representative concurred with the decision and assured the Committee that the continuance of a search was not unusual.
Continuing the Quest—April
Five of the Search Committee were willing to remain as members. The UUA recommends against adding new members to an already functioning committee. The five continuing members are Peter Fairbank, Anne Parsons, Anne Price, Emma Sweet and Brooke Tenney. Elaine Gerard Climo regretfully declined to continue citing increased and competing demands on her time. On March 19th, the Board voted to continue the five members as the duly constituted Search Committee and approval from the Congregation followed at a meeting later in April.
Having completed much of its preliminary work in 2014, the Search Committee took a hiatus until the fall. October and November saw the updating of required documents. The search process again went live December 1st following the same UUA guidelines as the previous year. Information about our congregation and our goals and aspirations was made available to ministers seeking a settled ministry.
The successful conclusion
We were told in January by the UUA Transitions Office that there were eighty-seven ministers in search and sixty-five open positions. The UUCC received indications of interest from three ministers and exchanged information with them. The Search Committee narrowed the field to an applicant who appeared to be a good fit for our congregation.
Following UUA guidelines, the Committee scheduled three days in March to meet in Castine with the applicant as well as journeying to a neutral pulpit to hear a sermon. The Committee concluded that it could at this time wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend a candidate to the congregation. A preliminary offer was made during the first week in April and the candidate was invited to spend a week in Castine to get to know us and so we could get to know her. Rev. Margaret Beckman was introduced to the Congregation and conducted the Sunday service on April 24th. During the following week, she met with committees and staff and had informal opportunities to talk with members and friends. Rev. Beckman presented her second sermon on May 1st. Following the service, the Congregation met to vote on calling the candidate to be our full time settled minister. A quorum was present. The vote was by written ballot and the outcome was unanimous. Rev. Beckman will begin her ministry in Castine in mid-August and will be in the pulpit beginning in September. The Ministerial Search Committee has concluded its work.