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posted May 1, 2016, 8:33 PM by Greg Ward   [ updated Apr 10, 2017, 6:20 PM ]

My two strongest takeways from the Skype interview between the Interim Minister Search Committee and you involved a question and a statement.

Your question was along the lines “Are you really ready and open to change?” 

Your statement was “Change at the speed of trust.”

“Yes,” we responded to the question, conveying more external confidence than we may have had internally.

A sigh of relief to the statement about the pace and character of change.

What we/I had not fully realized was just how atrophied were our muscles of change, and the density of the roadblocks to building trust.  It was sobering when you held up a mirror so we could see for ourselves.  Actually it was more than sobering, it was uncomfortable, challenging, and, well, embarrassing.   I expected to experience the first two feelings, but not the sense of shame for having incrementally gone along with what had gone before. 

As we were rearranging the deck chairs, you noted that our ship was not on a safe course.  “Okay, then give us the coordinates to set us on the right path,” we asked. Instead you taught us astronomy for us to chart our own path.  I always wanted to hear what you had to say. Because by then, the inspiration to make our vessel stronger and run smoothly outweighed the shame.

A sponge, was what I often called myself in your presence.  You had/have a way of pulling out what we are struggling with, rolling it around to see its full shape and content, and how it fits together with other pieces in our collective puzzle. Your confidence that things can make sense, that we can make sense of things, that the glory of life could come to fruition, inspired me and us to strive higher, faster, and fuller.

With the Transitions Team you drew the congregation into conversations to examine our underlying assumptions, explore other ways of being, and plan how to bring those to life. 

As you settled in, I felt another side of you emerge. A gentler and compassionate presentation of what you saw we could be.  It is a difficult balancing; being separate enough to not think too much about the consequence of what you say, but being connected enough to say things in a way that they can be heard; that they are not rejected because they feel too disconnected but not so connected that they lack clear perspective.  You brought us along to that clearing where we could see what we needed to do while feeling your support underlying our steps.

After I left the Coordinating Team last summer to join the Ministerial Search Committee, I experienced you more as a Sunday morning minister than as an organizational change consultant.  Your sermons are the best I have ever heard: Rich in story, reflection, intellectual connectivity, humor, tenderness, honesty, thoughtfulness, inspiration, justice, motivation, etc.  And informative about what Unitarian Universalism is; I now understand more deeply its contrast with Christianity, the absence of original sin, the focus on our lives here, and more 

In the services I also enjoyed how you engaged with children rather than simply reading to them; that you brought in a blues band to accompany your preaching; and that you got us to be Noah’s animals on the ark.

We may initially not have been as fully ready for change as we said, and the speed at which trust emerged may have felt slow.  And still you led, helped lead, and prompted others to lead us to a place that is healthier than where we started.

I hope that after a good summer respite, you find yourself at a church that will need and learn from your many talents, that you will know that you have made a difference for the better in the lives of UUCB, and that you will be gentle with yourself through your next adventures.

With gratitude